I had seen 15 sticking out from Buddy's nose, lips, cheeks and chin; the rest were inside his mouth and down his throat.
'Tis the season.
I alerted our neighbor via text message that porcupines are apparently on the move again, moving away from their mothers to find territories of their own.
Back came his reply.
"OK, thanks. Watch for skunks. Cubby got sprayed."
I told my wife while we were sitting side-by-side at our computers near the front-door screen. A half-hour later, we both sniffed, looked at each other, and chimed "SKOONKK!" I quickly verified that the dogs were in their beds, not patrolling for varmints.
Ah, the joys of dog ownership.
As to the quills protruding from Buddy, Thursday morning, Ralph was romping as usual, but Buddy wasn't around. Since Buddy has an affinity for futilely chasing cats inside the barn, I wasn't overly concerned. I put out their food, in spaced-apart bowls. When we first brought Buddy home from the Gateway Humane Society, the two dogs fought over food. The vet also says it's a good idea to feed them separately, so that if one dog needs a diet that is different from the other dog's, that can be done.
Ralph is an 85-pound long-haired lab/Aussie mix, and Buddy is a 64-pound beagle-collie mix. Both are about as pear-shaped as I am, which is to say, our waists ... umm ... protrude, mine vertically and theirs horizontally.
Anyhow, I put out the food and went back to the house. An hour later, Ralph's dish was empty, but Buddy's was still untouched.
That's when I got concerned and started looking around.
Buddy was in the barn, all right, but not the old wagon shed part, where the chicken condo is (Hey, the chicken house I built is inside, so it's a condo, not a coop), and where the cats and dogs hang out.
Instead, he was in the dimly lit lower center part, where loose hay provides comfortable nesting/lounging quarters for dogs and cats alike (at different times, of course).
Buddy wasn't making a sound, but he resisted opening his jaws. I persuaded him, took one look, and called the vet.
I have removed quills from dogs before, with some success. But those were instances where only three or four quills were visible, and they were clearly outside. I know one trick: Cut the free end, which exposes the hollow center and, in a sense, deflates the quill, making extraction easier.
De-quilling a 64-pound or 85-pound dog is not a one-person job except when no other choice exists. My wife had left for work, so off we went to the vet. It took some anesthesia and a half-day stay there. Oh. Cost? $144. I gladly paid it, but muttered, not at the dog or the vet, but at the perambulating porcupine.
Buddy wasn't the only victim. When I went to the veterinarian's office to pick up Buddy on Thursday, I chatted with a woman whose bumper stickers proudly proclaim "I love my dogs." Her 90-pound Doberman was having quills removed as we spoke. She had been walking in the woods with the dog and he got nosey, in more than one sense of the word.
Buddy moped for a day, but by noon Friday was back to his usual waddle-around self. We hope that, as was the case with Ralph a few years ago, one porcupine encounter will impart a lasting lesson.
After receiving Chris's "Skunk!" message that evening, I retrieved my de-skunking cheat sheet:
1 quart hydrogen peroxide
cup baking soda
1 tsp dish detergent
Mix up just before using. Wet the dog down with water, then wash with this mixture. Leave it on for five-10 minutes, then rinse off. The chemical reaction in this will neutralize the skunk odor. (Might add vinegar, too).
It has worked tolerably well in the past, a bit better than the tomato-juice bath I used some decades ago. But nothing will instantly and totally dissipate skunk odor except time; in the interval, quarantines are necessary to protect things like couches and car seats.
Today, it is illegal to hunt porcupines - but as of Saturday, they become legal game for licensed hunters (three a day is the bag limit), according to the Game Commission's Web page. I don't like to kill porcupines. They are slow and harmless. As a Boy Scout back when Neanderthals roamed the world, I was taught not to kill them because, in a stranded-person situation, they could be killed with a club and provide emergency food.
But their quills keep on working unless removed. Some break off. Dogs and other animals have died from their effects.
On our 20 acres across the road, porcupines can roam in peace, as far as I'm concerned; the dogs don't go there, or at least they aren't supposed to go there. But around the house or barn, a seen porcupine will become a deceased porcupine.
Oh. Skunks? Along with opossum and weasels, the Game Commission's page says they are fair game anytime except Sundays. Since all are egg or chicken eaters, I applaud that decision. I dread the risks of being skunk-sprayed that are associated with live-trapping or shooting them.
So I'll hope that their urge to wander to new territories takes them far from us, and from our dogs.
Sniff. Sniff, sniff.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.