Monday, April 23, 2007

Pulling the Plug

This doesn’t end well. You’re warned.

Toward the end of my run on Saturday, something wriggling in the ditch beside the road caught my eye. I stopped to look, and saw what I took to be a juvenile skunk in distress. Its small form was squirming around spasmodically in the leaves at the bottom of the gully, one paw sticking up. I assumed it was either rabid or had been hit by a car.

When it turned a little I could see its muzzle, and suddenly the animal’s proportions didn’t make sense. The face on it looked full grown, but its body looked stunted. The skunk was looking at me, mouth open, panting. I felt terrible, but assumed it was not long for this world and would expire on its own. I ran a few more paces, but curiousity took over; the size and shape of it had been wrong. A glance back told me the rest of the story.

The back half of the skunk was a few feet further up the bank, motionless. The front part – head, one leg, a portion of the body – still lay trembling in the ditch, writhing in what appeared to be agony and which showed no signs of abating as I watched in horrified fascination.

Reluctantly, I concluded that I should finish the grisly job that someone in his car had started. I picked up a log, apologizing to the skunk the entire time, and dropped it as hard as I could on the creature. Its spasms continued. Still apologizing, I picked up another one and dropped it on the first one a couple of times, until the animal lay still.

UPDATE: For the record, I did not feel good about this. Not at all.


Amy Plum said...

Oh Bill that's awful. I saw a cat in a similar state in a Brooklyn gutter (only slightly twitching, though, so almost gone). Although I thought of doing the same as you, I couldn't stomach it. But it haunted me for days. I think you did the Right Thing.

Anonymous said...

I should've heeded your warning but I could not give up on reading your story. Add this to the fact that my 3 year old made me watch an Animal Planet show where the wildebeasts must cross the river full of crocs and banks full of big cats. AGH! I'm a mess. (Clearly, you did the right thing.)

cce said...

Oh God this reminds me of when my mother tried to put an injured rabbit out of its misery by drowning it in our pool. It took so long, the creature fought violently, we all cried. Sometimes it's better to just let mother nature do her thang.

Anonymous said...

Driving to work this a.m. I almost hit a squirrel that had dodged out in front of me. A look in the rearview mirror confirmed that he/she/it had made it across the street safely -- much to my relief, for it got me thinking . . . and I concluded that if I had only injured him/her/it, I probably would've felt compelled to go back and finish the job. And while I certainly didn't relish the thought, it would've felt worse to let the poor animal suffer any further. Hard as it may have been, you did the compassionate thing.

Of course, if Congress hears of this, they may get Bill Frist to offer a medical opinion stating that the skunk was fine and who are you to play God?