Sunday, May 10, 2009

Porky mouth

What's mother's day without a little drama?

My girls and I were almost two hours into a gorgeous hike on the woodsy trails at Mohonk Preserve, and were about twenty minutes from the parking lot when Wolfie, hundreds of feet ahead of us, let out a big yelp. "Wolfie! WOlfie!" No answer. I saw a ledge up ahead and a man who was hiking on his own called to me: "your dog is in a lot of pain - you need to get him to a vet." I expected the worst.

Wolfie came running up, shaking his head left and right and yelping, with an entire mouth and snout full of porcupine needles. His teeth were bared and I could see that his tongue and roof of his mouth were covered with quills. My dog is a hunter. He is a half German Shepard/half Husky and loves to pick on small rodents. He is fine with other dogs and people, but show him a mouse and he'll envision dinner. He leaves frequent gifts of small, dead animals for us on the front step to show that he accomplished something during the day. He probably chased the porcupine to his hole, and then reached his snout in for a big bite.

I wondered and worried whether my docile dog could become a vicious, aggressive animal when in pain. My girls were screaming and crying, and my first concern was to protect them. The thought of leaving Wolfie while I got them safely to the car crossed my mind. I couldn't take care of both the girls and the dog together with his unpredictable, slightly crazed behavior.

Fortunately, this hiker - Steve - was the greatest guy in the world. He offered to walk my girls back to the car while I dealt with the dog, got him on a leash and figured out what to do. They stayed about 50 yards ahead of me, and I could hear him explaining to them about porcupines and what happened to Wolfie, and telling them he would be fine. He really was a savior. I got Wolfie on the leash and walked with him slowly back to the car, trying to tell him in a soothing voice that he was going to be okay. His mouth was bleeding and he was not soothed in the least. I know that my words were effectively calming myself more than him. He looked like he wanted to eat me if that would solve his problems.

Finally got to the car, and he is literally salivating all over the place and barking. We nudged him into the hatch area of my tiny Honda Fit, and he immediately climbed over the backseats. He had to be tied to the inside of the car with his leash to prevent him from leaping over the seats again.

A rule of thumb that I learned from my mother is not to panic or express fear in front of your children. You must remain calm and keep emotions in check because your fear will just worsen their's. You do not raise your voice unless absolutely necessary. So, in a calm slightly happy voice I told the girls that they get to sit in the front seat today, and isn't that lucky? They looked pretty shaken but immediately ran to the front door and jumped in, squooshed in together on the front seat. I am pretty certain there is an "emergency" exception to the car seat rule and up front was way safer than in the back, notwithstanding the risk of airbag ignition.

After calling park rangers over and getting access to the locked phone box since there was no cell phone signal, while Steve sat with the girls, I reached the vet's emergency line. The office was closed but she was apparently tranquilizing several hundred cows at a nearby dairy farm and offered to tranquilize Wolfie at the barn and extract the quills.

The barn was full of 50-60 young calves and a couple chickens, who were exceedingly curious by the triage on their barnyard floor. Wolfie was a little shocked to be stared at by all those cows. He was so disoriented, and had to be sedated three times to relax him long enough to finish the quill extraction.

It took 2 hours to get the quills. This was a real participatory surgery. Three of us (including me) were armed with surgical tweezers, yanking at quills embedded in his tongue, gums, lips, and between teeth.

The Vet told me that porcupine quills migrate in the body and if they are not taken out immediately, they become embedded deeper in the skin. Eventually they enter the body completely and, if the dog is fortunate, they will disintegrate and be expelled from the body. But they could puncture organs and skin if the dog is not lucky.

Poor guy. We carried my tranquilized husky to the car and at home my neighbor and I carried him in.
I told Emily, who is 6 year old going on 40: "I hope Wolfie learned his lesson." Her answer: "I hope you learned your lesson mommy. You really need to keep him on a leash." Ok, lesson learned.

So.. happy mother's day.

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