Learning to Love a Porcupine.

porcupine3My dislike for porcupines began shortly after my wife, Linda and I were married. We had traveled from southern Michigan, where we lived at the time, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known as “The U.P.”    We were on a duck hunting trip.  Rather, I was duck hunting and Linda went along because she loved the U.P. After a four hundred and thirty mile drive we arrived at our destination. We would be camping at Swan lake in the Hiawatha National Forest. It was late when we arrived, so we set up camp and went to bed.

We were miles from anyone, so I didn’t bother to put my two Labrador retrievers, Sport and Buddy,  on their leases. I had owned and hunted these dogs for some time. They were well trained. I knew they would stay stay close by.

We awoke the next morning to a nippy fall day. I was looking forward to a great day of duck hunting. Except, for one simple detail, I was missing my hunting dogs. We called and called, to no avail. We scouted around, called some more and waited, but no sign of the retrievers.

black labsFinally we started driving the roads and trails looking for them. Eventually we found the older dog. He was almost unrecognizable. His head was covered in porcupine quills. His mouth was so full of quills, he couldn’t move his jaws. His mouth was almost a solid mass of quills, they extended far back into his mouth, many through his tongue. He was in bad shape.

The closest veterinarian was seventy-five miles away in Marquette. We drove the two hours to the vet’s office. He put the dog to sleep, then handed my wife and I needle nose pliers and said “if you help pull quills, we will get done a lot sooner.” We all started on what seemed an insurmountable task. The vet then said something that I still remember over forty years later. He said “when you’re pulling quills it seems like you will never get done, but if you just keep at it, You will eventually come to the point where you run out of quills to pull.” Since the,  when I have had a huge job to do and it seems like I will never get done, I just think to myself, it is like pulling quills.  Just keep at and eventually you will run out of quills to pull. The job will be done.

After the vet finished with Sport, we loaded him up and headed back to look for the younger dog, Buddy. The veterinarian cautioned us that if the other dog had as many quills in him as Sport had, he would probably be dead within another day. Thankfully we found Buddy the next morning and made the trip back to Marquette for another vet visit. I would continue to find quills working their way out of the dog’s chest, legs and face for the next two weeks.

After we moved to the U.P. I had other dogs that had porcupine encounters, but nothing too serious. That was until I got an English Pointer. This dog hated porcupines. He would literally hunt for them and kill every porcupine he came across. This dog wasn’t satisfied with just killing them. He would actually tear them into pieces, and not stop until he could no longer move his mouth. The results were not unlike those of my Labradors. After the fourth porcupine encounter and hundreds of dollars in vet bills, It was time to part with the pointer.

When you consider all the money I spent on vet bills, plus the injury to my hunting dogs, my reason for not liking porcupines seemed quite valid to me. I wondered why God would create such an animal.    I didn’t have to wonder for long.  My attitude toward porcupines changed a few years  later.  I was driving on a dirt road when I came upon a small porcupine crossing the road. This porky was different. To begin with it was a juvenile, but the really amazing thing was that it was an albino. I had never see or even heard of an albino porcupine before.

One of the Marquette city parks, Presque Isle Park, is an island attached to the mainland. At that time there was a small zoo within the park, made up of local animals. There was a pen with deer, one of which was an albino. There was also a pen with porcupines.   My first thought as I watched the porky cross the road, was that it would make an excellent addition to the Presque Isle Park zoo. My second thought was, how am I going to catch it without get stuck with quills? I did manage to guide it into an empty feed sack which I happened to have in the truck. At home I placed it in an empty rabbit cage, then called the park. They were excited when I told them I had an albino porcupine. They definitely wanted it.  It would be about three weeks before they would pick it up.

I was not prepared for how quickly this porcupine would become tame. His favorite thing was carrots. He had this chatter he would do when he wanted one. With the carrot in his front paws, he would set back on his tail with it bent at the right height, to serve as a chair.

albino porkyA porcupine’s quills normally lay flat. When they are frightened the quills stick straight for protection. At first when I was near him, his quills would stand up, but after only a couple days, he quit raising his quills and I was able to handle him. Very carefully of course. This little porky turned out to be a very interesting and friendly creature. I was sorry to see him go.

Since then, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for porcupines. It was not their fault that my dogs attacked them. They are a slow moving animal, and the quills are their only protection. I guess if God had not given them quills for protection. They would probably be extinct by now.

Many times we dislike people that are different from us, without actually knowing anything about them. We judge them unfairly. God ask us to love people not judge them. The Bible tells that if we can fathom all the mysteries and have all the knowledge of this world, but if we do not have love, we are nothing. Only through Christ came we have the ability to love those who are different from us.  It’s not an easy thing to do, nor is it an easy thing to accept if we’ve had to raise our own quills to defend ourselves.  God has His purpose for each of us, and we many not always be what we first appear to be.Outdoor Tales (2)

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