I'd been downtown with my friend Gia, who'd gotten cheap Preview tickets to a Lookingglass production. I'd taken the express bus back, and got off at my street at about 11pm. As I walked up the sidewalk, I saw a skunk sitting in the grassy parkway strip between the sidewalk and the street. This is not unusual: we have a lot of urban wildlife: rabbits, raccoons; once, we had a duck hen make a nest by the entrance to one of our building doors. So a skunk wasn't unusual.
I made a little noise so it would see me, move along, and let me by. It looked in my direction, then began crossing the sidewalk. Slowly.
I noticed it wasn't walking with that rolling skunk gait they have, and I edged closer.
It was moving slowly because its hind legs weren't working and it was dragging itself along by its front legs.
"Oh, crap," I whispered.
The skunk made its way under a hedge, and I went inside, put on some jeans and a sweatshirt, and grabbed a plastic storage tub from my basement. Back outside, I discovered the skunk had dragged itself into the parking lot next to our building. It had taken cover under a minivan, but then decided to backtrack to the grass. I walked up to it slowly, and put the tub over it, slipping the lid underneath until I had it securely inside the tub. I put the tub in my basement and started the phone calls. My vet friend didn't answer her phone (it was fairly late), and it was a wild animal, so I started with 911.
"You must be a real animal lover," the operator said, "but I have bad news. This would be Animal Care and Control, and they aren't open until the morning."
I called the nearest Veterinary 911, in Skokie. The conversation with the receptionist went like this:
"Hi, I found a very badly injured skunk. Its hindquarters are paralyzed, and it seems disoriented. I need to find someone who can euthanize it."
I was put on hold, then:
"I'm sorry, but we can't bring a skunk in here, we have other patients waiting..."
"This skunk cannot spray. It can't even move its hind legs - I'm pretty sure its back is broken. Trust me; I stood right over it. All you have to do is put it in a tank, sedate it with gas, and euthanize it."
"Ma'am, we have sick and injured animals to take care of here. Emergencies." Snark Factor of 10.
"So an animal with a broken back isn't considered injured? Or an emergency? All I want you to do is put it down."
Big sigh, back on hold, then:
"Ma'am? I just checked with the vet, and she's allergic to skunks. She's the only doctor on duty and she's allergic to them."
The lie stunk worse than my skunk.
"Well, that's convenient," I said, and asked for any references. They gave me a Chicago Emergency number. I called THAT clinic. They were very nice but told me they could not take it because it was wildlife, but gave me the name of a clinic that handles exotics and operated as an emergency clinic at night. SO I called THEM.
(Mind you, "exotics" usually means rabbits, birds, ferrets, reptiles. But I had to try.)
I called and explained that with the kind of luck I'd been having you'd have thought I was saying, "Hello, I have a concussed Nosferatu in my trunk; I wondered whether I could bring him in for a stake through the heart?"
They said they could euthanize injured wildlife, so I drove over. It was 14 miles. Skokie would have been less than 4. So I drove the poor skunk to the clinic, opening all of my car windows and getting a good headache from the skunky smell, and they took it in the side door so as to not stink up the lobby. They were indeed going to put it in a tank to sedate it, then euthanize it.
The girl came out and told me it looked like it had been hit by a car. "One leg looks badly dislocated." I'd not been able to get a good look in the dark, but I sensed the injury had not just happened. Who knows what the poor thing had gone through, or how hungry it had been. It was heartbreaking.
They refused to take any money. Would not let me give them a dime. Suck on THAT, Skokie.
Tomorrow I shall scrub out the tub with scented soap, and burn incense in my car.