By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
An 84-year-old man taking his dog for a walk on Queen Victoria Road fell to the ground and was attacked by a skunk in West Windsor last Tuesday afternoon.
Victor McCuaig was taken to the hospital for bites on both his ankles and is being treated for rabies following a confrontation with a skunk, which may have been worse, had a woman on horseback not intervened.
Jennifer Fitch was riding her horse around 4:30 p.m. down the road when she saw McCuaig walking with a cane. His small corgi dog was trotting behind him, playing with a skunk.
“It was literally acting like a pet,” said Fitch of the skunk. “It was bouncing around, playing with the dog. It wasn’t in any position to really attack the dog.”
McCuaig said the skunk had followed him for about 15 minutes prior Fitch’s arrival.
“I was speeding up, just trying to get out in the open,” said McCuaig. “I thought the skunk would go away and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
The skunk seemed so friendly Fitch asked McCuaig if it was his pet. McCuaig turned to look at her and say no. When he turned his head back around, he tripped on a pile of rocks and fell to the ground, Fitch said. McCuaig landed on his stomach. He was lying partially on his side, both of his arms were scraped and he was bleeding.
The skunk ran over to McCuaig, bit his left ankle and wouldn’t let go, Fitch said. “I told him to keep beating (the skunk) over the head with his cane.”
The skunk bit McCuaig hard in his left ankle and once gently in his right ankle. Fitch saw blood coming through McCuaig’s white sock.
McCuaig had the skunk pinned to the ground with his cane and the skunk let go. Fitch leapt from her horse and grabbed the skunk by its tail so it wouldn’t spray.
She threw the skunk over a nearby bank thinking it would get scared and run away — but it didn’t work.
“It kind of ruffled around in the bushes and it walked back up the bank,” Fitch said. “I was beating it a little more while (McCuaig) was trying to roll over and he finally got into a position where he could get on his hands and knees and could get up.”
Fitch, who is a nurse from West Windsor said McCuaig was shaking and worked up after the incident.
“He fell into me and I got blood all over me,” Fitch said. “I had him grab hold of my saddle and take a couple steps at a time. He used that as a brace…and he just walked out of the woods like that slowly.”
The two walked about a half-mile out of the woods where they could get enough cell phone service to call for help.
The skunk came toward them again but then wandered off in the woods.
McCuaig’s wife drove him to Mount Ascutney Hospital where he was treated for rabies. He is getting shots every third day to cure the disease.
The dog was cleaned and bathed when it got home and no bite marks were found.
Ashley Pakenham, whose property abuts Queen Victoria Road said she sees McCuaig walking his dog on the path 2-3 times a week.
“It’s a heavily used trail for walking and horseback riding and doing exactly what this man was doing, which is walking his dog,” Pakenham said.
Pakenham said she called the game warden and alerted the West Windsor Selectmen.
“If it hadn’t been for Jennifer who knows what would have happened,” Pakenham said. “He would have had to just lie there.”
Pakenham said a group of people went to search the area for the skunk after the incident. It was never found.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Game Warden Stephen Majeski who usually covers the area, said he typically finds about 6-12 animals with rabies annually. Attacks are “pretty rare,” he said.
The last attack he remembered was about three years ago, when a rabid fox attacked a person in Chester.
McCuaig said the wound on his left leg is about the size of three silver dollars. He said he doesn’t plan on walking along the Queen Victoria Road again.