Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dog Meets Porcupine

Timmy was our German Sheppard. Although I have mentioned him in previous blog posts, it is time I shared more about our beloved family pet. Timmy came into our lives shortly after my family had made the move from Springfield, MA to Georgetown, MA. It was a move that no one in the family wanted to make but circumstances required. We arrived with our beagle, Lady, whom we all loved dearly. But tragedy struck when shortly after arriving in Georgetown Lady was run over by a car. We were all devastated. I was 8 years old, living in a new house that to me looked like it was falling apart. I had no friends, a yard full of mosquitos and now no dog. But then, quite unexpectedly, Timmy came into our lives.

Timmy had been trained as a police dog to work with a nearby narcotics unit in a midsize city. However, just at the end of his training he was involved with a drug bust that went terribly wrong. Timmy developed post traumatic stress disorder and had to be retired from the police force. He needed a home and we needed a dog, so Timmy became part of our family.
Timmy was an incredibly smart dog with one exception. Timmy was neutered, but Timmy didn’t know he was neutered so quite often he would take off to run in the woods in search of anything with a tail. Timmy loved to run in the woods. When we first arrived at our land in the wilderness of NovaScotia after 17 hours in the car, Timmy was desperate for a run in the woods. As soon as we all piled out of the car to explore this new land, Timmy disappeared and was gone for hours.

Long after the sun had set and the incredibly unfamiliar darkness of the wilderness had set in, Timmy came creeping and whimpering back to our make shift campsite. As he got close enough to be seen in the glow of the lantern we could barely see his face for all the porcupine quills embedded in his mouth, face, ears, throat and chest. His mouth was so full of quills he couldn’t close it. His jaw was permanently fixed open in the position of trying to eat that porcupine. Porcupines are not edible. Unfortunately, Timmy had lost the hunt and learned that lesson the hard way.
My dad tried to pull a quill out but it wouldn’t budge and Timmy just whimpered and cried louder.  My mom recalled passing an animal hospital some miles back from our location so we all loaded up the car and headed out in search of a vet. Timmy laid in the way back of the station wagon with Beth and me. We tried to comfort him, but were crying too hard ourselves to be much help.

When we finally found the animal hospital it was simply a small ramshackle house with a crooked front porch. We pulled into the drive way and my mom got out of the car and knocked on the front door.  The woman who answered the door did not look happy to see us. As my mother began to describe our situation and pointed at Timmy in the back of the car, the woman held up her hand and said, “My husband is far worse off than that dumb dog of yours and he’s not seeing any patients tonight. All you have to do is snip the end of the quills and then yank ‘em out. That dawg’ll be fine.” She then slammed the door in mom’s face after murmuring under her breath, “damn city folk”.

We traveled back to our campsite and by the light of flashlights and the lantern we began the pains-taking process of removing all those quills one at a time. Snip, pull, snip, pull. The moon rose. Snip, pull, snip, pull. The night symphony began. Snip, pull. The moon set; the symphony quieted. The sun rose. Snip, pull . . . all night long. When dad pulled out the last quill, we all crawled into the tent to sleep. I laid awake wondering about this place called Nova Scotia.
I’d like to say that Timmy got smarter as our summers in Nova Scotia continued, but I cannot. I believe the best that can be said is that he got faster and each summer we had fewer quills to remove. We never bothered that vet again, and his wife was right. Timmy was just fine. He was our faithful companion in the woods, in the canoe, in our lap on long car rides. He was family.

It is amazing what time in the wilderness will teach you. Life can be prickly sometimes, but we will all be just fine.
Everyone has a story to tell . . .
Resources for the curious minds:   News from Georgetown, MA  Plan a trip to Springfield, MA  Be prepared for whatever your pet gets into.