Portrait of a Passing Porcupine

Our story left off with Jeannette, the wildlife rehabilitator, whisking our suddenly struggling porcupine down the hill for emergency veterinary care. Once in the compassionate care of Joyce, a vet technician in Guilderland, the ticks (a sign of a compromised immune system) were carefully removed from our girl’s face. She also received fluids, antibiotics and pain medication. With no concrete determinations that night, Jeanette wrote, “Joyce and I will do absolutely anything for her if the vet feels she has any chance of recovery.”

I waited all night and the following day for word. The following evening, the phone rang. The news ripped through my heart like a freight train. A spinal injury, likely caused by a car, paralyzed our porcupine’s limbs. Extensive abdominal bleeding pointed toward a week old injury. There was no saving her. And so she was laid to rest.

That which we are is absolute. There is no adding to it, no superseding this accomplished self. It is final and universal. All that remains is thoroughly to explore it.

– D.H. Lawrence from the essay “The Crown,”
Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (1925)

I’ve since searched through hours of footage and many photographs looking for signs of injury. I say with certainty that our porcupine was functioning well as she rambled through the woods and shook melted snow from her quills like a dog. At first sighting, I thought maybe she had a limp but, researching videos of the typical porcupine gait, hers was no different.

At the same time, I often pondered her inability to see, her lack of desire to climb the apple tree for safety at night. Without prior access to porcupines in the wild, there was no way for me to know, to compare, to question. Whatever her physical issues, our porcupine was perfect in that moment I knew her – and beyond.

 We are creatures of time and space. And we are at once creatures of pure transcendence, absolved from time and space, perfected in the realm of the absolute, the other-world of bliss.

– D.H. Lawrence from the essay “Love,”
Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (1925)

Freed from that which ailed her, our porcupine visitor became both finite and perpetual. And I will never forget her perfection as she blessed my life with the tremendous gift of her presence.

Porcupine Portraits

This is my final piece in this series. If you missed the stories and footage of our delightful porcupine when she first arrived, please visit:


  1. So sorry to hear this – we were so hoping for news that she was able to recover. Still, we are glad to know she is now at rest, and we feel blessed that we got to meet her through you. Thank you for sharing her story.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear the outcome, although I’m glad you told her story, and your kindness likely made her last days much more comfortable.

    • I’m so grateful for the rehabilitators, AJ. Thankfully, they allowed our porcupine to drift off to sleep rather than sit prey to a coyote. And I can’t help but think she struck the apple mother lode, at the very least.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear such a sad ending. She was very lucky to have made such an impression on you, because of you she received the care she needed to pass peacefully and without pain. Thanks for sharing the story with us and for helping such a sweet little creature!

  4. Amy@GoPetFriendly says:

    I hope she was not in pain and I’m so grateful that she shared this time in your yard. But for that we would never have fallen in love with this sweet, if prickly, soul. Rest peacefully sweet girl.

    • The pain is what I think about too. I just don’t know what she felt. If appetite signals anything, I’d say she felt somewhat normal until that last day. I think that’s what makes her loss so jarring.

  5. Awwwww, sweet porcupine. I am so sorry. For a short time, I felt like I knew her and I definitely fell in love with her prickly little soul. Rest sweet porcupine.

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