Country Living Series

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Watch out for those zombies

Monday morning at precisely 4:38 a.m. -- I know this because I looked at the clock -- I was awakened by the sound of a gunshot on the road by our pasture. Then a second shot. Then a third.

This is about the time every morning our neighbor D. leaves for work. "I'll bet D. got a porcupine," I mumbled sleepily to Don.

Porcupines are a menace to pets and livestock, as everyone knows, and D. -- an expert hunter with over 40 years of experience -- has little tolerance for them. He will routinely dispatch them whenever he comes across one.

Later that afternoon, D. called for another reason, and mentioned in passing we should keep our dog Lydia out of our pasture until we searched it for a dead porcupine. "It was dark when I shot it," he told Don, "but I'm pretty sure it went under your pasture fence."

So for our evening walk with Lydia, rather than letting her loose in the enclosed pasture as we normally do, we leashed her up and walked along the road instead.

I was vigilant the porcupine might not be in the pasture -- it's pretty tightly fenced -- but instead might be on the side of the road, and I didn't want Lydia tangling with it. She certainly knew something was up, as she sniffed intently along portions of the road. But nothing happened until we were heading back to the house.

Suddenly she lunged toward the roadside so hard and so fast that I started skidding on the gravel, unable to stop her. "Hold me hold me HOLD ME HOLD ME!" I shrieked to Don as I flailed on the gravel. He grabbed my hand, then grabbed the leash and started reeling Lydia in.

It was a moment too late. She had spotted the animal, invisible in the tall grass. Our dog came away with a snootful of quills from the porcupine -- which was still alive.

"Take her back to the house," Don told me. "I'll take care of the porcupine."

Poor Lydia was whining and trying to swipe the quills off her face. I pulled her along as a shot rang out behind me, then a second, then a third.

In the house I stripped off my coat and told Younger Daughter, "Lydia found the porcupine." We gathered scissors and pliers as Don came in.

We tried pulling the quills. We tried cutting the tips of the quills off, then pulling them. We tried and tried and tried ... and failed.

I can't blame Lydia for being so agitated, but the fact remained simply couldn't keep her still long enough to yank them out of her face. So, without a better option (since, of course, our county's vet office was closed since it was late evening), we bundled her into the car (with Younger Daughter in back to keep her calm) and I made a mad dash into Post Falls to the emergency vet clinic.

I've been to this clinic once before when our old dog Gypsy got a face-full of quills when a porcupine got in our yard. Poor Gypsy was far worse off than Lydia -- Gypsy looked like she was sporting a full mustache and beard and had a mouthful of hay after her encounter. By contrast, Lydia only had about 20 or 30 quills, versus the hundreds Gypsy had.

Normally the drive to Post Falls takes me an hour and a quarter. I was there in 45 minutes. I'm thankful I wasn't pulled over for speeding.

Like Gypsy the time we ran her to the vet, Lydia was actually quite calm in the car. It's like she knew we were getting her help. However as we pulled up in front of the vet's office, I told Younger Daughter, "Put her leash on and hold onto it while I open the back hatch."

It's a good thing she did, because the moment the hatch opened, Lydia leaped out and would have bolted into the night.

The vet clinic is wonderfully sympathetic and professional. Their services cost a premium, but believe me, when your beloved dog is in pain, you don't care. They whisked Lydia in back, anesthetized her, and pulled all the quills out. Here are just a few of the quills the vet collected:

Then they gave her a shot of anti-sedative to bring her out of her sleep. Poor Lydia came stumbling out of the back room of the clinic, eyes sunken, looking dazed and confused. But she was quill-free. I lifted her into the car and started driving home. She immediately sacked out. Younger Daughter snapped a pic.

When we got home around 10 p.m., Lydia stumbled into the house and stood, swaying. Slowly she sank down, first her hind quarters, then her front paws, then her nose, and slept where she was.

Yesterday Don and I went for our usual daily walk. We looked for the porcupine, since we wanted to later dispose of it so no other neighborhood dog got tangled with it.

The porcupine wasn't there. We carefully picked our way around the immediate vicinity -- and I found it. Still alive.

Don told me to step away, which I did. I was physically nauseous at the thought of the porcupine still being alive more than 24 hours after it was shot -- six times. I don't like any animal to suffer.

Don aimed and shot the porcupine, once. Twice. Three times. Four times.

"Those things are tanks," he said after he confirmed the beast was finally dead. "It's like killing zombies."

We still haven't collected the carcass, but we plan to today.

Meanwhile, I picked up a magnetized business card from the emergency vet clinic. It will stay on our refrigerator. Clearly we never know when we'll need it.


  1. So glad you were able to get Lydia to a vet to get the quills removed. Last year our Aussie tangled with a porcupine and ended up with so many quills we called our mobile vet at 12:30am to come remove quills. He is a great guy and came right over. His bill was $200 vs the estimate from the emergency vet over an hour away which was a whopping $1200.00!!! Never got that porcupine... but we just had another visit a week ago and called the dogs off and my hubby shot it... only ended up with a handful of quills in our younger golden doodle this time. We were able to pull those out on our own thankfully. Hopefully we won't be getting anymore late night visits. Glad Don was able to dispatch your Zombie!
    Janae @ Creekside Farmstead

  2. I'm very thankful that we don't have them around here; skunks are bad enough!

  3. have you conciderd googling quill removal. Ive seen it done on tv

  4. I can relate, I had shoot a big male raccoon my dogs were tangling with 6 times with a .44 mag, before the dude would die.

    Carl in the UP

  5. Our dog Shotgun gives Lydia 'Get Well Wishes' arf-arf.
    Montana Guy

  6. Must be a plague or that time of the year or something. Our son's gelding tangled with one - about 10 of the short quills in his nose last week. Hubby thought oh-oh, this is going to take a vet, but managed to cover his eyes, grip them with the pliers and the horse yanked his head back a millisecond later. One at a time the horse removed them. Didn't even go off his feed (I was concerned - he is a skinny enough working cowboy horse.) Next the rancher who we cowboy for had a cow get a snoot full (she is 2-4 miles NE of us). Took two tries on different days to get her tranquilized enough to get them out. Two nights ago coming home after 11:00 pm from the hospital after a family member's surgery, there was a porky - waddling across the driveway. Son followed it with a flashlight while I got a .22. It wouldn't move away from a building so I "toasted" it with 3 shots at about 3 feet. Ours stayed put (yea!). Revenge for the horse... :-)

    I paid $10/quill + anesthesia 10 years ago for our current dog (15 quills). Our first pup I put in coveralls, tied the sleeves together and sat on her and pulled them out(didn't have as many or as deep). Whoever had that done for $200 in todays dollars has a vet I would like!

    I hope Lydia recovers as fast as the horse! Natokadn

  7. My dad always use a 12 gage shotgun with bird shot on varmints that bothered things on the farm. I do not remember it taking two shots to stop anything. I am sure glad that we don't have 'Porkys" around here!
    Love your site!

  8. So glad I've never had one here. I know they're in the area, I see them dead on the roadside occasionally, but I've never seen one on the property, even on the trail cameras.

  9. Our dog, Chaser, killed a porky. He was a mess of quills. Visited the vet three times. The quills went in to his front leg and caused a nasty infection. Chaser had to have his leg removed. He is still going.

  10. thank God we have a vet emergency close. hope we don't need it soon as we are cashed out, but it is there.

  11. Poor Lydia! My wife and I love dogs, especially big dogs, and especially black Labs. Although we've never owned a dog as big as Lydia, we've had a few Labs that were well over 100 pounds. When we got our first Lab some 45 years ago, the pup's daddy was a very ferocious and mean dog, and the pup was somewhat feral as well. So we asked the vet for some help and he gave us an excellent bog on dog-training. Not long after that we bought a few more books by dog trainers who really knew and understood dogs. With their help we realized ALL dogs MUST be trained to mind their masters! If a dog runs out in the street to chase a ball or whatever, it could be run over in a second. Over the years, we have trained all ten of our dogs to come when called IMMEDIATELY! When they begin doing something they shouldn't, the first thing we say to them is "No!" We taught them all to stay, come, fetch, lie down, sit, etc., etc., as well as many other commands. Even hand commands. It's not difficult to do, if you follow what the experts say. Cesar Milan is very wise with dogs, as is a man named Paul Loeb. By following their advice, we have always had our dogs obey us at all times, no matter how delectable a critter might appear to them! --Fred & Deb in AZ

  12. When our dog, Houston, got into a porky, I took him to our vet 70 miles up north. They put him out, handed me the pliers and said "Go ahead and start pulling". :) You get a discount.