Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rabies In Warren, PA? - UPDATED

It started as a gray day, an "off" day.

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

This morning I awoke to the very distinct smell of skunk in the living room. It wasn't the concentrated smell of a skunk spray, more like the lingering odor of something having been in contact with it.  I thought it was odd, but I didn't say anything. By the time I came out of my room in the morning my mom had already left for work.

Normally I let the horses out of the barn around 7:00 A.M., but I was instructed to leave them in this morning as one of the boarders was going to take her horse to a parade in Frewsburg, NY and she didn't want to have to chase it through the pasture. She came to the house around 9:00, and I observed her walking through the yard towards the barn. At around 9:30, I saw her shooing an animal of some kind out of the barn, but I couldn't see what it was. My mom's little cat recently had an injury and wasn't very mobile, so if there was something around that could threaten her inside the barn I wanted to know what it was.  I put on my denim and my mud boots and went out to see what the commotion was.

"there was a skunk, and it had tried to bite her leg"

As I approached the barn our boarder, Lil, informed me that there was a skunk, and that it had tried to bite her leg, though it couldn't get through her boot. As she was informing me of this, the skunk came back around and started moving threateningly towards us. While I was taking this in, my cat (not the injured one) came out of the barn while the skunk was trying to get in.  Upon seeing the cat, the skunk chased him nipping at his flanks but not actually getting in contact. I ran up to try to distract the agitated animal, and told Lil to get away, but she just stood there dumbfounded.  My cat raced up to her, and the skunk came in pursuit. I hustled my cat down to the house while my dad stood on the front porch, asking what was going on. After urging him to get in the house and pushing my cat inside I ran downstairs to get my semi-automatic BB gun and my dad's .22 rifle. While my dad searched (in futility, as it turns out) for his ammunition I went outdoors to see if I could drive it away. I shot the thing from about 10 feet away to drive it off (at that distance, I can guarantee you that I didn't miss), but the BBs didn't seem to make a difference - this animal was in pain and had no fear. 

I ran back to the house to check on my dad's ammo and to reload, thinking to myself that I had to get the injured cat out of her bed in the barn, when I looked out the window and saw the skunk chewing at something tan-colored in the gutter near the barn. It was then I knew that I was too late to save the cat.  I ran outside in a rage, unloaded an entire clip of 15 BBs into the skunk and at least one of them must of hit something the skunk could still feel, because he took off running towards the barn again, squeezing into the gap of the lean-to where my dad's tractor is stored. 

I went around to the barn's main entrance and entered the lean-to from the manure spreader access door, grabbing a pitch fork as I did so.  The stench of the angry creature's debauchery penetrated every inch of the barn, but I was too angry to care.  I peered into the dark, seeing a shadow move quickly against the light that peeked through the barn's wooden planks. The skunk raced around the tractor, at first trying to attack, but upon seeing that I was newly  angry and armed tried to run away. I picked up the pitch fork and ran him through, shouting obscenities at the wounded skunk, and putting the full brunt of my not-inconsiderable weight on the pitchfork, pinning him to the earthen ground.

"snarling, immobile, and dying -- but not dead."

He kept snarling, immobile, and dying -- but not dead. I left the reek of the barn and yelled to my dad to call animal control. I stepped out to get some fresh air, though there wasn't much to be had, and went to examine the remains of one of the cutest and most lovable cats I had ever known. I went back in the barn, bleary-eyed, to find the skunk using its remaining strength to pull the pitchfork out of the ground. I pushed it so hard into him that the metal base of the tines squeezed his middle, making his struggle in vain.  I knew that I couldn't let him out to threaten the other animals on the farm. I picked up my dad's firewood wedge, which is like a pointed sledge hammer, and walloped the animal's neck with it until he stopped moving.

My dad informed me that the game warden was on his way. I went to the garage, grabbed a shovel and went behind the barn, digging a grave for the fallen kitty cat. I cursed the earth, so wet and muddy, but just rocky enough to make hole-digging a chore. I returned to the barn and took some hay from the feeding area, passing by the little hay bed that the cat had slept in. I closed the door that we had kept open to help her during her recovery, and went on my way. I put a nice even coat of the hay at the bottom of the muddy hole. Then I returned to the house.

I went to my room to grab an old sheet that I was going to throw out anyway, and I exchanged some not-kind words with my dad when he yelled at me for wasting it. 

Returning to the yard, I wrapped up the cold corpse of the cat in the sheet. being as loving as I could. It's silly - I knew she was beyond feeling. The gashes in her head were telling enough.  I carried her out to the little grave and laid her down on the hay. then I covered her with more, spread it out, and lit the little pyre. It burned pretty well, but it wasn't going to be enough, so I went to the garage to get an accelerant.  When I did, the game warden arrived. I told him the story and showed him the skunk.  He asked me for a bag and some bailing twine to wrap it up so that he could go to get it tested.  He was very professional given the circumstance and asked us some very basic questions. After tying the skunk to his deer-carrier. He told us that we would know the following Friday what they found out during the testing.

"It was then that I realized just how cold I was."

I carried the fuel up to the smoking hole, losing my boot in some mud along the way. I pulled the footwear out, stumbling with the liner in the mud, and put it on.  It was then that I realized just how cold I was. I poured some of the foul-smelling liquid on the fire, noting that I could still smell the skunk's stench over the smell of burning petroleum. After about half an hour, satisfied that there was little left to do I filled in the hole, making sure to put the rocks tightly on top. And that was the end of Cream, the cat.

I will update this as soon as I know what the results are, if any. All in all, it was a very terrifying experience and one that I hope you, dear reader, will never have to go through. 


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

The game commission called. The skunk (to no one's surprise) tested positive for rabies. I hope that it's the last one we have up there for awhile.  We'll have to keep an eye out for strange-acting animals.

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