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“That Wasn’t a Squirrel”

One day Mili the Dog was out barking up a storm.  I assumed she was after a squirrel.  Then the barking changed tone- she had something cornered or trapped.  Curious, I look out the window.  She was running from end to end on a ten-foot length of six inch irrigation pipe, barking excitedly.

Ah ha!  She’s got a squirrel in the pipe!

Hunting rodents is her life passion, I’m not opposed to indulging her hunting instincts, especially when the squirrels eat all the fruit and nuts off my trees every year.  I’m also quite fond of deep-fried squirrel nuggets.
So I dash out there and peak into the pipe.  Indeed, a bushy tail twitches on the far end in the dim light.  Silly squirrel, it should’ve gone up a tree, not into a pipe!  I lift one end of the pipe and proceed to walk the pipe upright, Mili waiting eagerly on the other end, braced for the fluffy critter to plop out.

And it did.

A gigantic skunk came tumbling out of the pipe.

I was still processing what I was seeing when Mili pounced on it, not five feet from me, still hoisting the pipe aloft.  She did her signature rib-chomp-and-toss skunk move, but the skunk was too big to take out with a single chomp.  It sprayed her in the mouth, and by extension… me.
Still holding the pipe up and not realizing it, I watch the skunk amble toward me, stamping his feet.

Me:  “Mili!  GET IT! GET IT!  C’MON, GET IT!
Mili:  “I just got sprayed in the mouth, yo.  You get it while I eat dirt and drink the entire irrigation ditch.
The skunk stomps past me threateningly, now sporting a pronounced hobbling limp.  I finally put the pipe down.  I ran inside for the .22 but by the time I came back outside the skunk was long gone and Mili was still raking dirt through her teeth to remove the oils from her palate.
And so he got away.  And I stunk.  And my dog stunk.  And the de-skunking commenced.
But the next day I smell fresh skunk spray next to the house.  I dash outside with the .22, but I see no skunk.  And again this happened several days in a row.  Finally one day I bump into my neighbor.  She complained about this darn skunk that’s holed up under her shed for some reason.  Apparently every time it heard a dog bark it sprayed, right there in the hole under the shed.  Everything in her shed wreaked.
She had attempted to starve it by blocking the exit hole.  It retaliated by tunneling out the other side, but there was asphalt pavement on the front side of the shed, and now the asphalt was crumbling inward into the skunk’s filed escape tunnel.  At her wit’s end, she stuffed moth balls and anything that might be poisonous into the hole and re-sealed it.

The skunk smell slowly faded.  We assumed her success and rejoiced an end to the daily respiratory assaults.
A few weeks later I visit a neighboring goat farm for some idle banter.  We discussed chickens for a bit and she said, “Yeah the egg farm next door has been having a rough go of it.  Apparently they have a big skunk stealing all of their eggs.”
I paused.  “A big skunk?  When did it show up?
Her: “Oh, a couple weeks ago.  I saw it out here just the other day in broad daylight!
Me: “Does walk like this with a funny limp?”  I proceeded to mimic the rhythmic, rolling limp of my giant pipe skunk.
Her: “Yeah.  Why?
Me: “That’s our skunk.  We thought it was dead…”  I proceeded to fill her in on the skunk drama of the previous weeks and wished her the best of luck with the new, stinky neighbor.
A note on skunks:
I have no ill will towards skunks.  Frankly I hate having to kill them and I rarely utilize their carcasses due to their smell, which makes killing them even worse.  Skunks make terrible neighbors.  We can coexist with coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and all manner of predators.  But skunks are impossible.  There will be no end to the skunk spray on the dogs, on the cats, on the cars, in the barn, under the porch, in the chicken coop, in your home, and on your clothes.  It’s miserable.
Skunks have also been the biggest predator of my birds, hands-down.  I have lost hundreds of young birds (who still roost on the ground) to skunks, amounting to thousands of dollars in losses.  It’s awful waking up to find a pile of 10-20 dead birds, each one headless.  They are also chronic egg thieves if they can reach your eggs.
So of all the predators I’ve shared my space with, skunks are the one animal that cause me to instantly reach for the .22.  They are relatively fearless; they will not move along if you try to scare them.  They will come to your front porch or your barnyard and move right in, even if they have to spray you and the dogs every single day to try and claim their new home.  They will confidently browse your barnyard in a way other predators won’t, because other predators have healthy fears of you and your dogs.  A skunk will just walk past you in broad daylight, “Hey, don’t mind me, just gonna go eat some more birds.  Come any closer and I’ll shoot.”
It’s just not worth living with!
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“A Hawk Snatched the Puppy”

I was on the phone when I heard our 5 week old puppy, Neoma, start yelping on the hill behind the house. It was the first time she’d ever ventured that far out.  I listened keenly, assuming she was simply distressed upon realizing how far she was from her mother and siblings. I listened to her come down the hill, around the cabin, and toward the front porch, whining, but not in a way that alarmed me. But when she got to the front porch she exploded in hysterical screaming. I quickly hung up my phone call and ran outside.

She sat on the front step, blood coating one side of her face. I rushed her inside.  Blood was soaking her face and my mind was racing; “What happened? WHAT DO I DO?!

 I couldn’t do anything for her, I couldn’t touch her face. She was a mess; a screaming, hysterical, terrified mess of a tiny dog.

I was genuinely worried her heart would give out from the level of her distress. 5 minutes passed, I paced the house with her, trying desperately to console her. 20 minutes had passed, still she screamed relentlessly at the top of her lungs and the bleeding wasn’t letting up. I couldn’t touch her face without cranking her hysteria up to the next level.

 

And then I had a (reluctant) revelation. How have I sedated dogs in the past? I paid a visit to my precious supply of strictly medicinal (seriously) cannabis oil. I factored what kind of a preciously minute amount would be appropriate for such a tiny dog- not that a large dose could hurt her, because it can’t, but I didn’t need her sleeping for 2 days straight. I rubbed a tiny dab into her gums and paced the house with her for another 10 minutes. Her hysteria turned to exhaustion and her piercing screams turned into sleepy crying. I paced for another 10 minutes until she was asleep.

Using cannabis-infused oils for sedation is safe and effective.  For a long time I used it very conservatively, worried what might happen if I dosed a critter too high (no pun intended).  Then, one day, the mastiff puppy Rowan got up on the kitchen counter and stole a plastic measuring spoon filled with pot butter.  The spoon contained about 1 month’s worth of daily doses for Mili the Dog, who was contending  with severe health complications (that’s another story).   So Rowan ate a month’s worth of sedating doses in 1 sitting.  He could have stolen peanut butter, or bread, or any number of things, but no, he stole the spoonful of oil, ate all the oil, and half the spoon.  ROWAN!!!
Through the next day Rowan hunkered down on a dog bed on the porch and slept fitfully for over 12 hours straight.  He barely responded when addressed, his eyes were unfocused, and everything he did was delayed, almost in ‘slow motion’.  If you cooed at him his tail would wag….  wag…. wag…. wag…. wag…. at a hilariously slow rate.  We kept a sharp eye on his well being- he was otherwise fine.  He never threw up, his bowels were unaffected, his vital functions were stable.  I was stressed beyond belief.  Andy laughed and assured me he’d be fine.
After 48 hours Rowan was starting to feel himself again, albeit very hungry.  And by the next day he was totally back to normal.  
This haphazard learning experience taught me not to fear cannabis overdose in animals.

 

 

At this point I was able to set her down on the bed, clean her up, clear my head, and figure out what the heck was going on. After much fussing and many bloody swabs, I revealed a slice across her scalp, a small puncture in her cheek, and a disconcertingly deep puncture inside of her ear. There was a pin-prick sized hole almost and inch down inside of the cartilage folds of her tiny ear.

Apparently a hawk had tried to snag itself a canine luncheon. Raptors strive to pierce their prey through the ear into the brain for an instant kill. But this bird missed; its talon went harmlessly into the cartilage rather than into her skull.

 

My first task was to trim hair away from the wounds with scissors so I could discern how large they were and keep the fur out so they could heal. My second task was to discern whether there was damage to the ear itself and to keep the blood from pooling or caking inside the ear. Allowing the blood to fill and scab over in the ear may lead to long-term damages or scar tissue build up inside the ear, affecting both balance and hearing.

Using cotton swabs I was able to pinpoint where the hole was and was relieved to find it wasn’t piercing anything but flesh. Her ear was not damaged. I cleaned her up and applied an antiseptic, soothing salve to her cheek and scalp wounds. I kept her ear swabbed with alcohol to keep it sterile.

Her cheek and scalp wounds healed up quickly enough, but her ear continued to bleed for almost 4 days. Not a dangerous amount, but I had to sedate her lightly each day to remove the blood up and clean her ear.

 

Within a week or two she was back to her normal self, though she didn’t wander off alone. She had psychological trauma from the incident that took the first few months of her life to overcome; afraid of her ears being touched, afraid of being ‘snatched up’, etc. Thankfully there is no lasting or residual damage from the event.  She had a funny hairdo for quite awhile though!  I often wonder what she thinks when she looks up at the sky and watches the birds.