Friday, May 15, 2015


During the weekend of April 25, I experienced two acts of kindness that I feel deserve recognition…and my heartfelt thanks.

First of all, George Merrill, an 86-year-old from Hooksett, contacted me that weekend and said he’d read an earlier column of mine where I’d described my nearly impossible task of trying to shop for a warm jacket in late winter when all of the stores already had their shorts and bikinis on the racks.

George said to me, “I have a present for you – a nice warm winter jacket. I don’t want you to be cold any more.”

His kindness really touched me. And the jacket turned out to be beautiful – water-resistant, down-filled, hooded.  It definitely will keep me toasty warm for many winters. Many thanks, George.

The very next night – well, actually it was about 2:30 in the morning – I, the diehard night owl, was in my pajamas and watching TV, when one of my dogs, Willow, wanted to go out. I have a four-foot-high chain-link fence surrounding my entire yard, so I always just open the door and let out my dogs when they have to “go.”

A few minutes later, I went to call Willow back inside, and the sight that greeted me on the back porch sent me into an instant panic mode. The poor dog’s face wasn’t even visible beneath all of the porcupine quills covering it. Even worse, her mouth was so stuffed with quills, she was gasping for breath because they were obstructing her airway.

Willow and her quills!
I ran to get dressed, knowing I had to rush her to the nearest emergency animal hospital, which is in Concord. I’m pretty sure I put on my sweater inside out, and I couldn’t even remember if I’d hooked my bra or not, but in record time, I was ready to head to the animal hospital.

Just as we were about to leave, however, something happened that stopped me dead in my tracks. All of a sudden, my right eye felt as if it had exploded. I saw flashing lights, a shower of black spots and what looked like cobwebs covering my entire field of vision. At that point, with only one good eye, I realized I couldn’t drive, especially at night, when it’s more difficult to see anyway. I also knew, because I once worked for an optometrist, that my symptoms might mean I had a torn or detached retina, which is pretty much a medical emergency.

Not knowing where else to turn at that hour of the morning, I grabbed the phone and called 911.  I’m not even certain what I said to the woman who answered, but I’m pretty sure I must have sounded like someone who’d been nipping the cooking sherry, as I rambled on about porcupine quills, my gasping dog, and fireworks in my eyeball.  But she was calm and reassuring, telling me someone would be sent to help me.

And sure enough, help soon arrived in the form of Patrolman Brian Warburton from the Allenstown police department.  Before I knew it, he’d calmed Willow, put a leash on her and led her out to his police vehicle, where he helped her into the back. Then he asked me if I wanted him to call an ambulance for me. I said no, that I really wanted to go to the vet’s with Willow, and then I’d go to the emergency room from there, probably by cab.

He said, “No, I’ll drive both of you. We’ll take Willow to the animal hospital first, then I’ll take you over to the emergency room, okay?”

“But what if there’s a murder here in town while you’re doing that?” I asked. I had visions of myself, a.k.a. old “Squinty Eye,” and quill-faced Willow riding shotgun while he chased after criminals.

He chuckled. “Don’t worry. Someone else will handle it.”

I felt like hugging him.

All the way to the animal hospital, Patrolman Warburton carried on a friendly conversation, which helped take my mind off how upset and scared I was. And when we arrived at the vet’s, he was the one who led Willow inside. I didn’t have to do a thing. I happened to glance into the back of his vehicle when I got out, and it was covered with quills and blood. I cringed.

Everyone gasped when they saw poor Willow enter the waiting room. A vet told us Willow would have to be intubated immediately and given pain medication. Then, she said Willow would be anesthetized so all of the quills could be removed, which probably would take hours.

“Well, that gives us plenty of time to get you taken care of,” Patrolman Warburton said to me. And off we went to Concord Hospital.

He dropped me off right at the emergency-room door and told me he hoped everything would turn out okay for both Willow and me. I said, “Thanks to you, everything probably will. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you tonight!”

He just smiled and said he was glad he could help.

I couldn’t believe it, but I was the only person in the emergency room. In a way, I was pleased, but in another way, I wasn’t.  I mean, I could tell, because of all of my stress over Willow, that my blood pressure probably was high enough to blow up the meter.  I had figured I’d have plenty of time to compose myself and relax a bit before being seen by a doctor or having my vitals taken, and by then my blood pressure and heart rate would be close to normal again. But because I was the only patient there, I knew I’d be called in right away…and they’d probably send me straight to the ICU, thinking I was about to suffer a heart attack.

As it turned out, I was led directly into an examining room where an ultrasound immediately was done on my eye. That was followed by a slit-lamp exam. By the time my vitals were taken, I’d managed to calm down a little. My pulse rate, however, which usually is in the 60s, was 98.

The doctor told me there was no sign of a torn or detached retina, which was good news. But she said I really needed to get my eyes dilated so the backs of them could be examined, so she wanted me to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible…like within hours. I also was advised not to do anything strenuous, and if I had to cough or sneeze, to do both with my mouth wide open. I prayed I wouldn’t have to do either one in public.

My eyes were dilated and examined twice during the next two days. The diagnosis was a vitreous detachment with opaque floaters. Basically that means my eyesight’s not in any danger but I’ll have to learn to live with seeing dozens of black cobwebby spots floating across my field of vision for a while. It also means I’m old.

Willow, high on painkillers, came home looking like a pincushion, minus the pins. The vet said the smaller, finer quills would continue to work their way out of her skin for up to as long as six months. So patting Willow has become a game of chance. I never know when I’m going to get stabbed.

One of the first things I did when I got home was look for any gaps in the fence or holes underneath it. I found both, so I patched them with chicken wire, big rocks and plastic fencing.  My yard never will make the cover of Home and Garden magazine now, but I’m hoping it at least will keep out any other critters that might be thinking about trespassing.

The night after all of the excitement, Patrolman Warburton called to ask how Willow and I were doing, which really impressed me.  I told him we both were going to survive, but if it hadn’t been for him, Willow probably wouldn’t even be alive.

So it definitely was a crazy weekend, but everything, thank goodness, turned out okay.

Except that darned porcupine owes me $900 for veterinary bills.

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