I caught a reality television show the other night where the homesteading Alaska family was faced with a rash of porcupine quills in first a dog then a horse and a calf. Boy that brought back memories.
I’ve had the odd dog now and then stuck with a few quills, but one night when we lived in Colorado both dogs came to the front porch with their faces looking like grandma’s pin cushion. They were hurting and I had to do something.
I got pliers and sat down in the kitchen floor and with my wife attempting to hold a dog I began jerking quills. The barbs on those little spears make removing them a bloody process. By the time I was through the kitchen looked like the Manson murders had taken place there and I was worn out physically and emotionally.
Keeping pets and wildlife separated always seemed like a losing proposition when you lived in the country, or if they went camping, hunting or fishing with you.
Skunks were the worst. One night while sleeping in a hammock, my faithful Brittany spaniel chased a polecat through camp and right under my bed, where he stopped to let us both have a dose of that special cologne.
The same set of dogs that got into the porcupine one time chased a yearling bear through our yard. I thought they were chasing another dog until the bear swam the river and once on the other side stood on its hind legs to turn and look back at us.
Our current dogs live a much more citified existence but still had to learn the hard way that the local toads taste really bad. They’re actually toxic to the dogs and if a dog grabs one in its mouth he’ll start foaming at the mouth like Ole Yeller with the hydrophobia.
Fetching up the local wildlife can also be interesting for pets. I thought my half Labrador retriever was going to drown one day trying to retrieve a goose that suddenly showed a lot more life when he arrived.
We once had a cat that delighted in bringing the local kangaroo rats inside with her. Problem is she could hide one in her mouth without killing it. That really makes things interesting.
Once while releasing a bird trapped in the chimney of our woodstove I caused a regular free-for-all worthy of an animated cartoon. That was one lucky bird.
A lot more serious was the night when I had already gone to bed when I heard a pack of coyotes howling and barking and getting closer to the house. By the time I got to the back door my shepherd mix dog had already began to clash with the pack leader. I yelled and the rest stayed back while good ole Comet whipped that prairie wolf.
My most fateful encounter was the time I let a yowling 14-year-old Siamese out the front door of our mountain home. She never came back and I never found any bones or collar but from the plentiful sign near the house odds are good she became an appetizer for the local mountain lion.
My wife still hasn’t forgiven me for that one, but she is very careful to make sure all her pets are safely indoors each night.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org