A veterinarian on the Dead Runners’ Society occasionally posts about his work. This was a propos of meeting skunks while running:
I’ve dealt with several skunks in my profession. Skunks can make good pets if descented. Their personality is similar to cats: equal parts friendly and aloof.
Just to see if I could do it I agreed to descent a skunk. The owner had called every vet in four states before reaching me. When I said yes she made the long drive from eastern Kansas. As she held the tail down, (tightly!) I injected an anesthetic. When it was out we took it to the barn for the surgery. I planned for the worst by wearing a plastic face shield and a plastic rain poncho with hood.
The scent glands are two bulbs, one on each side of the anus and interposed with the sphincter. In a ferret, the glands are smaller than a pencil eraser. In this skunk, each gland was larger than a golf ball. But the procedure was essentially the same as for a ferret. Working in the barn in summer, the flies got pretty aggressive as I was removing the first gland. It went so well I thought it was safe to go back to the clinic to do the next gland in my surgery. While removing the second gland I nicked the gland and the secretion exploded onto the face shield. The stuff ate into the plastic shield and I had to remove it to be able to see. It also ate into the poncho but nobody would enter the surgery to help me get it off. So with tearing eyes I continued the procedure, blinking furiously and trying not to gag at the odor.
I finished the surgery. The skunk lived. As soon as it was done I took off the poncho, my shirt and jeans and ran to my office. The office has a shower. After running out of hot water I got out and into scrubs. While I was showering the staff gingerly put all my clothing in a garbage sack, sealed it and threw it in the dumpster. Wearing surgical masks to blunt the odor they scrubbed the wall behind where I sat during the procedure. It had been doused as well.
For several weeks I had the skunk odor trapped in my sinuses. Every client entering the building asked. “Skunk?”
The skunk went back to Kansas and we got Xmas cards from the owner, showing the skunk playing with her granddaughter. Occasionally I get a request to descent another skunk. So far nobody has wanted to pay the $1000 fee. The first time someone agrees, I’ll say that’s per side. And if anyone wants to pay $2000 maybe I’ll do it.