After a run-in with a porcupine, a beloved pet receives help and comfort. And a toy.
Posted in , Dec 6, 2021
“What’s she barking at?” Julee said. “She’s really riled up.”
I looked out the window into the gloaming, the time of day so many critters emerge for their nocturnal prowls. Evidently Gracie had treed one.
“Hey, Gracie, come!” I shouted out the door and whistled. She was having none of it. This was between her and whatever she was keeping at bay. I could just butt out, thank you.
“Go get her,” Julee said. “She’ll drive the neighbors crazy.”
I threw on a coat and jogged down to the apple tree where my golden had her quarry trapped. She was all proud and puffed up, tail aloft, glancing at me then staring at the upper branches of the tree. Apparently. she’d apprehended someone eating her apples which was strictly verboten. Usually, a family of deer were the culprits and were dutifully chased and chastised but this time it was a small, dark creature, probably a black squirrel curled way up towards the treetop. There were no other trees near enough to serve as an escape route, so it was stuck waiting her out.
“C’mon, Cujo, you made your point.”
Gracie followed me up the hill through the fading light back to the house, a bit of a prance to her stride, casting an occasional glance and a woof over her shoulder for good measure. Dogs. Always have to have the last word. Especially Gracie.
After such exertions she deserved a treat, which she snatched greedily. She was too jazzed up to be corrected for that indelicacy, so I let it go. Then she curled up for a nap while I worked a little and Julee dozed off watching a movie. When it was time for bed Gracie came over to me. She was limping slightly.
She sat and showed me her paw. I took out a flashlight. There were thin silvery quills mixed in with her golden fur, barely perceptible. That was a porcupine she treed but not before getting quilled in her left foreleg. Gracie probably took a swat at it. No wonder she was so mad.
“Poor thing!” Julee said. “It’s too late to drive her up to Albany to the animal ER. We’ll have to wait till our vet opens.”
“First thing,” I said, warning myself that I’d be a fool to try removing them on my own, though I’d seen it done before. It’s just that I couldn’t bear to think of Gracie in pain. There is nothing sadder than a dog who hurts.
I dug out some pain pills she had been prescribed when she strained her back chasing a tree-trimming truck up the driveway a couple years ago—don’t worry, I checked the expiration date—and gave her one. I wanted her to sleep deeply enough that she wouldn’t lick or chew the quills and have one end up lodged in her throat. That happens, and I said a fervent prayer that it wouldn’t.
Do dogs know when we pray for them? Is it some acute level of concern that they sense? I moved her bed as close to ours as possible and tried not to cry. I’m actually not much of a crier—except when it comes to certain pieces of music—but with Gracie I’m a bit of a marshmallow.
The prayers and the pill worked. She slept easy while Julee and I took turns keeping an eye on her. In the morning she was barely hobbling and was her usual hungry self—though I didn’t feed her for fear that the vet might have to sedate her and that earned me an aggrieved and puzzled look.
I called ahead to our vet’s office, and they were ready for us when we arrived—10 minutes before they opened. Once before, I’m sorry to report, Gracie caught just a few quills in her muzzle chasing through the brush at Monument Mountain and didn’t seem to mind them at all. I had the ER vet mildly sedate her to remove them, and I think feeling so woozy afterwards upset her far more than the quilling. Dr. Phillips said she would try to remove them without sedation but would have to put her under if the pain got too bad. She’d found a lot more quills than I’d originally thought. Small quills. Probably a young porcupine.
My whole body tensed as they led her to the treatment room. I stood there holding her leash and begging God to please, please, please not let it hurt.
It seemed like hours before they brought her back—it was less than an hour, actually—and she came bounding over to me. She had some kind of red fuzzy toy in her mouth with bug eyes and half a tail.
“We let her pick out a toy,” Dr. Phillips said.
“How is she?”
“Amazing. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t wince, she didn’t even yelp, not even a little bit. I’ve never seen such a smart dog. She just stayed very still, which was very important. We must have pulled out 30 quills. More, probably.”
She showed me the quills floating in a surgical dish. They looked like tiny little sharks. My knees went weak. “Did you sedate her?”
“Didn’t need to. She was perfect. It was amazing.”
They sent her home with antibiotics and a few pain pills I insisted on though Dr. Phillips was just as insistent she wouldn’t need them, and she was right. Some dog I have.
Did God keep Gracie in His arms while they took out the quills? I like to keep that image aglow in my imagination and in my heart to remind me that I have a brave dog and a kind God, and I am very blessed. I just hope that porcupine learned his lesson.