You would think a five-foot tall chain-link fence would keep out most wildlife, other than birds, that is, and tiny critters like mice and chipmunks that can squeeze through the links.
But last week, I found out the hard way that porcupines can and will climb chain-link fences.
The question is why?
My fenced-in yard has only two things – crabgrass and about 50 holes my dogs have dug. There are no plants, bushes, flowers, gardens…nothing but crappy-looking grass and holes. In fact, the ground looks exactly like a giant slice of moldy Swiss cheese.
Anyway, it was about 3:00 AM when my dogs went to the door and whined to go out. Foolishly, I thought they wanted to go out because they had to “go,” but it turned out they knew something was lurking out there in the wee hours.
I opened the door, and the dogs bolted outside. Almost immediately, I heard a ruckus in the yard – in the form of growling and barking followed by yelps of pain. The barking and growling were pretty normal, but the yelps of pain weren’t. I rushed to the door and both dogs came racing into the house as if they were being chased by Satan himself.
That’s when I saw the quills – everywhere – up the dogs’ noses, sticking out of their eyes, all over their faces and even in their mouths.
Well, I’m scheduled for cataract surgery, which means I can’t see much of anything at night, because cataracts are like wearing sunglasses 24/7. So I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive the poor dogs to the emergency animal-hospital until the sun came up.
Not knowing what else to do at that hour, I called 911 and explained the situation, asking if anyone could help me get them medical attention. By then, my rottweiler, Wynter, was gasping for breath because the quills in her throat were causing it to swell.
The 911 dispatcher asked me if any humans were injured by the porcupine. When I said no, she connected me to someone who said he was with the sheriff’s department. I explained the situation to him and again asked if anyone could help me. He connected me to a female police officer. By then, I was panicking, thinking Wynter was going to die.
Yet again, I explained what had happened. Her response, sounding a bit snippy, was, “Don’t you have any friends?”
Not at 3:00 in the morning I don’t.
When I said the porcupine still was out in my yard, she gave me the number of a wildlife officer she said was on emergency call. I called the number and received a recording that said there was no one available until 8:00 AM, and if this was an emergency, to call 911.
So after all that, I was right back at square one.
I did the only thing I could do, without endangering the lives of innocent people, including my own – I sat there and waited for the sun to come up so I could see well enough to drive my dogs to the hospital. Believe me, it was the longest night of my life. Wynter’s breathing didn’t get any worse, to my relief, but both dogs, frightened and whining, kept clinging to me. I ended up with more holes in my legs than a colander.
Finally, I managed to get them into the car and head to the vet’s. Wynter insisted
upon looking over the front seat during the entire ride and stabbing me in the
back of the head. And every time she stabbed me, the quills pushed deeper into
her and she yelped. I never was so happy to see an animal hospital in my life.
IN THE CAR
The vet’s first words were, “Oh, my God! You two certainly have gotten yourselves into trouble!”
Yeah, but it was the nosy, trespassing porcupine that started it all.
Both dogs underwent four hours of surgery. Wynter was much worse off than Eden because she had so many quills in her throat, and not all of them could be removed. That’s the trouble with rotties – you tick one off and it’s ready for battle, even with an animal that has thousands of darning needles sticking out of its body. War is war.
The dogs returned home looking like the walking wounded. They were woozy, limping and whining. But my wallet received the biggest wound of all. I had to pay for the surgery with the money I’d saved up for this upcoming winter’s fuel bills. So it’s going to be a very cold winter…all because of some big rodent.
Speaking of which, the offender still was somewhere out in
my yard. I took a broom and went out there, intending to open the gate and shoo
the offender back into the woods where it belonged. As it turned out, no
shooing was necessary. The porcupine was lying motionless in the middle of my
yard. I figured Wynter had ripped out its jugular, but there wasn’t a spot of
blood anywhere – only a mass of quills all over the ground.
So I traded the broom for a shovel, lifted the body and took it out into the woods. I’d read that fishers are one of the few animals that love gourmet porcupine meat, and there are plenty of fishers around, so I left the body in the woods to appease the fisher gods.
Since that night, my neighbors have reported seeing as many as five porcupines in their yards at one time. One neighbor said four of them even had managed to climb into his dogs’ outdoor pen.
So the War of the Porcupines officially has begun. Now, before I let my dogs outside, I go out there first and stomp around and make loud growling and squealing sounds to scare away anything that might be in the area…including a few neighbors who probably think I’m performing some kind of satanic-ritual dance.
My dogs are healing slowly but steadily and I’d like things to continue that way. So, desperate to prevent another disaster, I Googled, “how to keep porcupines off your property.”
The results said to put up a non-wooden fence, spray the area with fox urine, or get a dog because porcupines fear dogs and will avoid yards that smell like them.
Once I stop laughing, I think I’ll send my dogs’ vet bill to the expert who wrote that article.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org