Another glorious day for hiking/snowshoeing yesterday. Clear blue skies, crisp cold air. I’m awed by the silence of winter. Is it that the snow absorbs the sounds? We’d stop walking and there would be absolute silence. We’d just stand there and breathe in the quiet. It felt so good. Like quieting my rushing mind in meditation. Is nature meditating in winter? On days like that it certainly feels like it. As though nature is quieting and turning within herself. Perhaps gathering her energy for the birth of spring. Or maybe not. But these are the kinds of things I wonder about.
My friend Susan loves winter too. We see more of each other in February, it seems, than all the rest of the year combined. We meet up with our dogs and hike up into the forest behind her house. “The Chair Overlook today, or Cathedral Pines?” she’ll ask. And we take off in one direction or another. We have good conversation, talking about things like nature meditating, and backpacking in Greece. Our dogs, Weston and Eli, romp and run and play together. They’re good friends too. So we were having a wonderful day. Until Weston ran up to us with a face full of porcupine quills.
His snout looked like a pin cushion. So did his chest, front legs, and paws. And his mouth was full of quills. He was pawing and scratching at them miserably. Shocked, we started pulling them. But without the right tools they just break off, which makes them harder to pull later. “We just need to get him home,” I said, “and I’ll call the Vet.” That’s the thing about porcupine quills, especially when they’re in the poor animal’s mouth. You’ve got to get them all. It usually entails some sort of sedative because it’s probably at least as unpleasant having them pulled as it is getting stuck with them. But we had close to an hour’s hike just to get back to Susan’s place. She led the way, and I talked to Weston, urging him on, trying to soothe him with my voice. He was a trooper. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for him. Some of the quills were surely in his feet.
Our veterinary clinic is, understandably, closed on Sundays. So were the other local clinics I tried. So Delaney, my 12 year old daughter, and I set up camp on the kitchen floor with a stainless steel bowl, plenty of towels, and a few sets of pliers. She sat with Weston, talking to him gently, stroking his back, while I began pulling the quills. One at a time. We began with his feet. Some were sticking out of his pads. How did he ever walk all the way home? He sat patiently, letting me hold his legs and yank. He whimpered with each quill, but let me work my way up each leg and over his chest. Such a good boy. We praised him with each pull. But working on his snout was more challenging. And much more unpleasant for him. He let us know he’d had enough. I’d return to the task every 15 minutes or so and managed to remove everything around his nose, those on his outer lips, and some on his inner lips. But it was the inside of his mouth that worried me. I knew we needed help, and the clinic wouldn’t open for another 15 hours. It was going to be a long night for poor Weston.
Then the phone rang at 6pm. The Veterinarian. I won’t name him/her as I don’t yet have his/her permission. But I could have sung the Hallelujah Chorus when s/he said, “I’ll meet you at the clinic in 10 minutes.” S/he was an angel to us right then. Amazing. Help was on the way.
Now, one of the many things that I love about being a massage therapist is that I can help people with their health without the experience of blood or needles. But I know there’s a time and a place for everything, and that this was going to be one of those times for both blood and needles. The good news was that Weston felt no more pain within minutes of walking through the clinic doors. Marleigh, Delaney, and I stayed with him during the icky procedure. Well, Marleigh and Delaney came and went, but I stayed for the duration. I had to giggle though, because a couple of times I started to feel a bit woozy. The vet, without even having to look up, each time said,”You doing ok, Mandy?” “Need to go sit down, Mandy?” It cracked me up. How did s/he know? That 6th sense. Anyway, we made it through. I didn’t pass out, and within an hour of receiving the call from the Vet, we were home with a slightly dopey, quill-free Weston.
Weston’s a little subdued today, but he’s healthy and will be back to his exuberant self in no time, I’m sure. Sitting here right now I’m awed by and tremendously grateful for the generosity of time, skill, expertise, and kindness offered by our Vet. We needed help, and it was there for us. I’m seriously awed and deeply, truly grateful. I don’t want to try to make anything more out of this story that isn’t there. It doesn’t have anything to do with massage therapy. I trust I was able to handle the situation calmly all the way through thanks to my meditation practice, so I guess it has something to do with meditation. But really I guess it’s just about friendship, and dogs, and kindness, and receiving, and life. We were all having a really nice day when something unfortunate struck, unexpectedly. Life keeps happening: the good, the not so great, the amazing, the challenging, the heartbreak, and everything in between. Flowing with it, even gracefully sometimes, is a lifestyle I’m developing, little by little. And not without a little, and sometimes a whole lot, of help from my friends. We’re going to keep doing the things we love. And hopefully, if the opportunity ever arises again, Weston will remember that porcupine does not make a good pie.