Jim Callison, Silverthorne

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October 18, 2012
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Callison: Thanks to Dr. Ed

Thought we'd share a recent experience, in case it's helpful. Returning at dark, I let our dogs out of the car, assuming they'd run to our door, as always. While grabbing the backpack, though, our coonhound Lottie disappeared. Searching with flashlights, we heard her yelping and finally found her. Not a pretty sight, with dozens of large white needles (only way to describe them) stuck in her face, mouth, paw, all over. We'd never seen anything like it before, but knew immediately she'd encountered a porcupine.Trying to keep her calm, I attempted to remove some quills, but it was no use. Nature designed them with a fish-scale pattern, allowing them to penetrate the skin and embed themselves. Making matters worse, they can keep penetrating - and sometimes pierce the lungs or heart and kill their victim.Luckily, veterinarians here have a rotating, after-hours schedule; so the Vet on-call, Dr. Ed Hastain at Breckenridge Animal Clinic, agreed to meet us at his office. Tamara kept Lottie still & calm while I drove us there. She remained surprisingly cooperative in spite of the pain. Dr. Ed told us dogs have strong endorphins, allowing them to temporarily block out pain after injury.He also said dog-porcupine encounters are common here and many dogs are injured (some multiple times). He even had a name we'd never heard before, for her injuries: she'd been "quilled". After injecting a fast tranquilizer, partially sedating her, he skillfully removed sharp quills (over 100), firmly stuck in her snout, nose, mouth, gums and paw. Two had pierced her floppy ear and one was frighteningly close to her eye. Blood soaked the table & his hands. We both held her down; I held her collar firmly so she couldn't reflexively bite him.After 40 harrowing minutes, Dr. Ed had removed all quills. I commented porcupine-encounter injuries must be unbearable for wild animals, since they can't possibly remove them. He replied those injuries are usually fatal - after excruciating days accompanied by infection. Consequently, predators have accumulated wisdom (taught by their mamas) to steer clear of porcupines. We commented we didn't think we'd ever even seen a porcupine; he replied they're well camouflaged, typically stay in the woods and remain still. He said Lottie MIGHT have unwittingly passed one, causing it to fling its tail into her, injecting quills, with her biting in reaction (btw, they also do that to people, so look carefully when walking in woods). But Lottie's hound nose probably got her in trouble, with her instinctively smelling, hunting and biting the porcupine. Here's the useful part for dog owners. When I asked Dr. Ed if there's any way to prevent this painful encounter (and the expense of it), he offered this advice: if you see a dead porcupine beside the road or in the woods, take your dog (under control) up to it. Let the dog smell it and even prick itself with the quills - they aren't as dangerous if the porcupine is dead. The prickly pain might teach the lesson, but you might also have to scold the dog as it sniffs the carcass - playing the role of protective mama, coaching the dog this critter is dangerous & MUST be avoided.So thanks to Dr. Ed for his gentle, competent help. The good news is, after a bath and lots of rest, Lottie seems fine. But the moral of the story is: watch out for those damn porcupines in the woods - they're real pricks!Jim Callison, Silverthorne


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 18, 2012 10:19PM Published Oct 18, 2012 10:18PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.