Friday, April 8, 2011

Graduation and the Ninja Porcupine

Another group of books that I grew up reading were all the stories by Jim Kjelgaard. They are mainly dog stories--Big Red is one of his books--dogs that are wise, cunning, and a part of nature. His dogs meet porcupines and suffer the inevitable results, but they NEVER go close to one again. This pleasant fictional kingdom did little to prepare me for the real world.

In the real world dogs are stupid. Very stupid.

"There is that slow moving earth pig again. THIS time I shall prevail!

Surely, THIS time!

The earth pig is slow. And stupid. There is no way I can't catch it if I try again.

OK, that didn't work for some reason. Maybe THIS time!"

Graduation party day, zero hour: I dashed out to the house to drop something off before I went in to my parents' house for my graduation party. (We waited for my dad to get back from California, so we were just having it) Anika had spent the afternoon outside since the weather was so mild and once she came inside I saw she had a few quills around her lips.

Oh, well, better than last time. She must be learning.

But she kept pawing at her mouth, so I grabbed her jaws (carefully!) for a closer look. I didn't see much, but enough to know that her latest strategy must have been to bite the porcupine, and now her tongue was poked full of quills. They were stabbing the top of her mouth when she moved or scratched frantically, and bloody saliva dripped from her jaws.

I grabbed Anika and headed into town while my mom called to find out about vet options. Turns out they weren't good. The local vet was busy and the Williston vet was after-hours and it would have cost $300-$500 to get her repaired. When I got there, my mom and I took a closer look so we could decide what to do.

The quills weren't as extensive as I'd first thought, but still a thoroughly daunting prospect. There was no way we'd be able to do it with out some kind of sedation for Anika. I facetiously asked if we had any ether, and my dad pointed out that a common household product contained it. It wasn't medical grade, so no guarantee it wouldn't kill her, but unable to afford such a vet bill, I gave the go-ahead.

What followed was probably the most horrible thing I've ever had to do. My mom was so impressed I wasn't squeamish about the blood, but the quill removal part didn't bother me at all. The awful part was holding Anika down, forcing her to breathe in the ether while she fought us. Not knowing if the cure would kill her and that if she died she'd die scared and wondering why her people were doing this to her. THAT was hard.

As soon as her struggles quieted enough for me to work, I got busy with the needle-nosed pliers. Every so often we'd have to reapply the cloth and dull her down again, but we kept at it. At one point I pulled a quill out that had pierced a blood vessel and Anika's mouth filled with blood and she started drowning in it. I didn't even notice, but my mom and dad did and turned her so it would drain out. My hands were both covered in blood by this point, but no time to bother with it. The sooner the quills were out, the sooner Anika could get some untainted oxygen.

Finally I pulled the last quill I could see. It's entirely possible she has some that went in so deep they couldn't be seen, since she spent hours pawing at her mouth before I got home and found her, but nothing I can do about that except keep checking. Two of the quills I pulled had gone all the way through her lips and I pulled them out the other side.

The quill total for this encounter was 14, so one more than the other 2 times. By the time I've given Anika enough soft, easily chewed, tasty treats to assuage my conscience I will have been able to afford the vet bill! Finley is thinking seriously about finding his own porky to attack so he can regain his status as favorite dog and Anika is wondering why she didn't do this years ago.

The word on the street is that most dogs never learn about porcupines and the common technique is to call a hit on the innocent quilled rodent. Since another set of books I cut my teeth on were all of Sam Campbell's books on happy co-existence with nature friends (think "Inky, the porcupine pet, Salt and Pepper, the porcupine twin pets, etc."), I can't bring myself to wish this prickly wild creature harm. Can a porcupine round-up be far behind? Only time will tell.....


  1. Tina, I'm so proud of you! Now, if it had been me... well, let's just say the dog wouldn't have been the only one in need of sedation.

    Congratulations on your graduation! Way to go!!

  2. Ouch! Poor Anika. I'm glad we don't have porcupines here at the Big White, although we do have a lot of prickly characters.