(Photo by Richard Irby)
"I heard the dog barking out front and looked outside and yelled to my husband, 'There's a skunk after the dog,' Dorothy Permenter said.
Roscoe, her five-year-old Dachshund, ran up the steps hoping to get in the front door, and found itself cornered by the skunk who attacked.
"The skunk got him down on the porch and they were going around and around. It was terrible," Dorothy said. Her husband cracked the storm door and started hitting the skunk with a broom.
"I beat on the skunk and he didn't pay me no mind at all," Fred Permenter said. "That tells you, right there, there was something wrong with it."
"That skunk was biting the dog all over and I was scared he (Fred) would get bit or the skunk would get inside the house," Dorothy said. "It was very scary."
The fight stopped when Roscoe quit fighting. As the skunk went down the porch steps, Fred followed it with a gun.
"That skunk must have heard me and it stopped and turned around and jumped toward me, and that's when I shot it," Fred said.
A Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy, who responded to the Permenter's 911 call, told them the skunk's head needed to be removed and sent to the State Health Department in Little Rock to be tested for rabies.
On Monday, Jan. 14, the skunk's head was delivered to the Fulton County Health unit and, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, a call from Dr. Susan Weinstein, the State Public Health Veterinarian, confirmed that testing found the skunk "was 100 percent rabid," according to Dorothy.
Dr. Weinstein said the Permenter's would have to quarantine Roscoe for six to eight weeks, to see if he showed signs of developing rabies, or have it put to sleep.
The Permenter's could see that Roscoe had bites all over his body, and Sunday night and Monday he was "draggy," showing signs of the trauma he had been through. On Tuesday, he began perking up.
"He had been bit so many times, and the vet said that he could get rabies for up to a year. He isn't used to being penned up and we don't have money to pay a vet to quarantine him, so we decided we would have to put him down," Dorothy said sadly.
Dr. Weinstein told The News there had already been four confirmed rabies cases in Arkansas the first three weeks of the year, a sign a rise in rabies cases that began last year has continued into 2013.
"Arkansas usually averages about 47 rabies cases a year but, last year, we had 131 positives," Weinstein said. One of the confirmed rabies cases was in Fulton County, where a man found a dead skunk in his backyard and had it tested by the state.
At the doctor's request, the Permenter's have informed their neighbors about the rabid skunk, and they want others in the area to know that rabid skunks are a threat to people and other animals.
According to Dr. Weinstein, if the skunk in the Permenter's yard was rabid, it is likely other skunks in a three to six mile radius are also rabid and a threat.
"We want people to know that, if they see a skunk during the day, that is not at all normal. That is an indication the skunk may have rabies," Weinstein said.
According to Weinstein, rabid skunks often are wobbly as they walk, and are disoriented. Sick skunks, for some reason, like to get into dog pens, and it is not unusual for them to be very aggressive, and attack other animals or humans.
"There are usually fewer rabies reports in the winter because skunks are less active in cold weather," Weinstein said. "But last winter was extremely mild, so positive cases were up, and that is the case again this winter," Dr. Weinstein said.
"It was a terrible experience," Dorothy Permenter said. "People need to know rabid skunks are out there and try to protect their animals from them."