We now enter a less pleasant chapter in the revelry of my budding porcupine friendship, as chronicled in An Unlikely Encounter with a Porcupine, Return of the Porcupine, an Apple Fest and Porcupine, Fawns and Turkeys – A Winter Woodland Celebration.
After my woodland birthday celebration on that snowy Thursday in October, our resident porcupine made herself scarce. Then, as Tim woke to let the dogs out on Saturday, he saw her nestled against the chain link fence with her quills pointed through into the dog yard. With the dogs crossing their legs in need of morning relief, an hour ticked slowly by before the porcupine finally wandered off again.
That night, the dogs nearly climbed the 6 foot fence, frothy white saliva flying this way and that, as they barked themselves into a frenzy. In the glow of the house floodlights, we saw our little porcupine curled up in a half-igloo just 3 feet from the fenced yard. As Tim and I dragged the dogs inside, the Newf nearly went through the sun room window in pursuit, leaving swipes of muddy footprints smeared across the glass. It took great effort, but we wrangled both dogs into the main house and slammed the door shut.
We were perplexed. The dogs were in danger with the porcupine so near. It was also dangerous for a porcupine to sleep in the open where coyotes are known to traverse.
Encouraging the porcupine to move on, Tim nudged her gently with a broom until she rambled through the powdery snow and over the rock wall 2 acres away. When she entered the forest with her oddly swift and rolling gate, we hoped she’d climb a tree for the night. It would mean safety for all involved.
At daybreak, the porcupine was back once more. Hunched near the cubby she built the night prior, her body rocked forward. Her hands rested on the ground. Tim gently caressed her back with the broom, bristle to bristle. No response but a downtrodden shiver. Our hearts ached not to be able to touch her directly, to comfort her. One would think our presence would incite fear, but this little porcupine seemed to seek us out.
I dialed friends and left messages with every nearby wildlife rehabilitator. Finding somebody home on a Sunday morning was proving impossible. I spoke mainly with answering machines.
The best we could offer our sweet girl were apples in hopes that she’d eat and hydrate. We provided the cover of a clear plastic tub tipped upside down. Tim propped one end for air flow and checked often that it didn’t get too warm in the sun. Mostly, we hovered a ways back to avoid adding stress.
The phone buzzed in my pocket. Finally, a call back. The woman’s name was Jeannette and she said she’d transport our girl. Terrific. But could she find a vet to treat her through all those quills? She’d get back to us.
The wait grew long. We watched the porcupine slump further until she was fully on her side, her front foot pawing at the air, her breathing labored, and a shiver running the length of her body time and again.
I called Jeanette back. She found a vet for Tuesday.
“That’s too long. She won’t last another few hours.” I hung up and cried.
Jeanette made the hour-long trek and tiptoed through the side yard snow with open-toe sandals, a pair of leather garden gloves in hand. “You got a lot more snow up here than we did,” she said as she donned her gloves.
We discussed the best plan for transport and Jeanette reached for our ailing visitor. “Sweet girl,” she said in a soft, motherly voice.
Quills made contact with Jeannette’s uncovered wrists without effect. Tim and I watched helplessly yet in awe of how easily the porcupine was moved. She lay calm and still without any sign of resistance, even from her one capable paw. I now believed , in full, that she trusted us to help.
We gave up our bin for transport and sent Jeanette with $100 toward vet care, although she said it wasn’t necessary. Ice cold tears spilled down my cheek as we watched the car roll back down the mountain. Our porcupine was in the best hands possible, but with her quick decline we held little hope.
Come back soon for the rest of the story.