It turns out fate was kind to two huskies that had an unfortunate encounter with a porcupine in Emporium, Penn. The dogs were severely injured with more than 150 quills embedded in them when animal lovers Fred and JoAnn Miska and their daughter and son-in-law, Joy and Sean Tahaney, and grandson, Bill, came across them.
The Tahaneys have a vacation home along the river in Emporium, and the night they all arrived after a 7½-hour drive from Michigan, they spotted the two ailing pooches on the property. The dogs had collars, but no identification tags. At first they thought the dogs might belong to one of the neighbors, but when that wasn’t the case, Fred knew they had to do something for the suffering animals — and quickly.
It was 10:00 at night and everything in the area was closed. Fred turned to OnStar for help.
“We were up in the mountains with little or no cell phone service,” he says. “OnStar was our only source for communication and information.” So Fred pushed the blue OnStar button and asked the OnStar Advisor to check with the Pennsylvania State Police to see if anyone had reported the dogs missing (no one had). Then Fred stayed on the line with the OnStar Advisor and the State Police operator as they searched for an animal hospital that was open at that hour. They found one in State College, 70 miles away.
Fred, with grandson Bill’s help, put both dogs in his 2011 GMC Canyon and drove — after getting directions from OnStar — nearly two hours over mountain roads on a rainy and foggy night to the animal hospital.
“I can’t say enough about the hospital,” says Fred. “They were extremely professional and caring and really took good care of the dogs. They had to put them under anesthetic before they removed the quills, and then gave them antibiotics.” The doctor told Fred it was lucky for the dogs that the two families arrived when they did as the wounds weren’t badly infected yet from the porcupine’s quills, which have barbed hooks.
The whole procedure took about 3½ hours. At 3:30 a.m., Fred paid the $700 bill and he and Bill put the dogs back in the Canyon and headed home. They made beds for the dogs in the garage and finally everyone got to sleep about dawn.
The dogs’ owner — who had recently moved to the area — called the state police later that day to report them missing. The same dispatcher who had taken Fred’s call the night before was on duty and knew exactly where the huskies were. The dogs were soon reunited with their owner.
“The owner could not afford to pay the $700 medical bill,” says Fred. “So we told him not to worry about it. We’re dog lovers, and these animals needed help. JoAnn and I have two rescue dogs of our own and Joy and Sean have a dog and two cats. I would absolutely do the same thing over again. But I couldn’t have done it without OnStar. They were definitely a big help, contacting the state police, finding the animal hospital and giving us directions. They helped save those dogs.”
Porcupine Facts & Myths
Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby specializes in small animals and has practiced on both the East and West Coasts. She is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association. She shares some facts and myths about porcupine quills and what to do if your dog gets quilled:
• Quills have very tiny one-way barbs along the shaft of the quill. This is what makes it easy for quills to keep moving inward. They may get infected and work themselves out, but most often, they continue to work inward.
• Quills may pierce through skin and muscle to enter body cavities, puncturing organs.
• Quills inside the body also cause infection and abscesses.
• Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine cannot “throw” the quills, but they are easily “let go of” by the porcupine and embedded in animals that tangle with it.
• If your dog gets quilled, minimize movement. Quills embedded in the chest and legs may migrate in further.
• Call your veterinarian. Most often quills are removed in-office under anesthesia and the dog is home the same day. For severe cases, x-rays, ultrasound and surgery may be required to find internally embedded quills.
• Pulling quills out is risky. Quills break off easily, and “tenting” of the skin while pulling out quills may bury nearby quills, making them almost impossible to remove.
Pet First Aid Kit
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you always take a first aid kit along when you travel with your pets. You can buy a first aid kit for people and add items to it or purchase a kit from a pet store. Your pet first aid kit include the following basic supplies:
• Absorbent gauze pads
• Adhesive tape
• Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
• Blanket (foil emergency blanket)
• Cotton balls or swabs
• Gauze rolls
• Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting when directed by a veterinarian or poison control)
• Ice pack
• Non-latex disposable gloves
• Rectal thermometer (your pet’s temperature should not rise above 103°F or fall below 100°F)
• Petroleum jelly (to lubricate thermometer)
• Scissors (with blunt ends)
• Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
• Sterile saline solution (sold at pharmacies)
• A pillowcase to confine your cat for treatment
• A pet carrier
Also be sure to pack emergency veterinarian numbers, proof of rabies status, copies of any important medical records and a photo of your pet in case he gets lost.
The Humane Society of the United States offers more tips on first aid kit supplies for your pet.
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