Post Quill Ergo Propter Quill

We are so grateful and overwhelmed by the kind response from so many folks who follow the kennel. Thank you. Here’s a brief classically not brief update about how everyone is doing.

Ophelia, Rebel, Sundance, Marnie, Belle, Aurora, Rogue, and Annie all definitely got quilled. Per my last post you know that the first five went to the ER vet that night. Today we brought those five in to our regular vet, North Pole Veterinary Hospital, and they were given another thorough evaluation. All of them had remaining quills– They probably even still have more.

This was expected, and we’re told to keep looking out for emerging quills over the next few months. Ophelia, Rebel, and Sundance were all again sedated to remove what was found. Rebel and Ophelia had to undergo surgery (incisions) to remove theirs, and both have staples and cones now. They are not super pleased about the cones, but are managing them well. These dogs have all been sleeping inside as they can manage. Sundance especially has been pretty antsy inside and is trying to deconstruct the Dog House. She also encouraged her bunkmate Belle to do the same. I tried to give Sundance a nice stick to chew and she promptly made mulch. I shall hereby call her the wood chipper. She even showed R2 up!

We would never have been able to afford today’s comprehensive exams without the outpouring of support from everyone. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Two things make me choke up: my dogs (either cuz they are so good or, in the worst moments, if they are hurt) and people who follow and support our endeavor, who love the dogs as much as we do, and who have made donations even when they themselves don’t have much and when things in this wide world seem overwhelming as it is. Really, thank you. I just can’t express how I feel about the compassion and generosity we’ve been shown through this whole summer. Thank you.

Tomorrow, also thanks to all of this kindness, we’re taking the rest of the dogs in to receive exams as well. We know Annie, Rogue, and Aurora had quills. Aurora definitely still has at least one if not more in her lips. We want to ensure that every single dog who was on the run is looked over by a vet. We have looked each and every one over repeatedly. The only real way to look is to feel. In a way, it’s a bonding thing, a way I can apologize to the dogs that this happened, that the fixing of it hurts them so much. It’s an embrace, a loving of them.

So many people have expressed a lot of emotion about the whole situation. Love and tears and hope and fear and pain for the dogs. Weirdly, I haven’t been able to access, yet, any of that for the team. I am overwhelmed, mostly, by a kind of mama-bear-esque drive to protect them. Whatever it takes. To make it happen. I joked on social media that I’d sell a kidney to make sure they’re all right. I wasn’t really joking. Thankfully at this point I don’t have to.

The vets have advised us to take the next ten days off training. After that, if we have limpers, they are probably done for the season, if not longer. This really scares me. To have any of these dogs’ careers end so young is a horrible idea to me. It’s like someone being robbed of doing the one thing they love– and far too young.

But I have great news on that front. I was really worrying about this especially with Sundance, because the ER vets told us there was at least one quill in Sundance’s wrist. Quills + joints = end of career. So this is the thing, aside from the quills that can migrate into chest cavities, that I’ve been looking for most. Today the vet who looked them over assured me no one had quills in joints. I can’t describe the relief I felt. Even if a dog might be out for the season, they might still have a career ahead of them. I try to imagine running Iditarod without Ophelia. That seems inconceivable to me. How can I go if she’s not with me?

All of these dogs are precious to me, more than I even really understand right now. They are on my mind all of them time. They are– not a part of me, but more like, I am a part of them. We are of a unit. We are a team.

My friend Padee pointed something out to me that meant a lot. She said, the fact that those dogs came together with you– that they didn’t fight with each other– that the dogs who free ran stuck with you– that the team went when you said you had to go– that all shows that they are a team and that they are strong, and that you’ve done good work with them.

I hadn’t thought of it like that. What I’d thought of was that Ophelia amazed me, that Annie was a rock as always. That all of the dogs, even in pain, were incredible. What they did that night, to complete the run even with quills sticking out of them every which way– it awed me. I felt only honored to witness their stamina and power and beauty in what they could do. It never occurred to me to take any credit for that. But it meant a lot to hear that maybe, weak human that I am, I could be some small glue to bind that unit together. To guide us and to tell the dogs, “Just a little further now: you are doing so well. We are going to get home and we’re going to take care of you. You are doing so well. I am so proud of you.”

I talked to Ophelia especially the whole way home. Good girl, good girl– You’re doing so good.

They all did so good.

Now it’s up to me, and to us, to do good for them too.

There’s work to do. Onward.


(Some folks have asked if they can pitch in. You can– This is our paypal link: We thank you so much, just for following and reading and caring alone. Mono Onion.)

5 Responses

  1. Melissa A Galvin
    | Reply

    You’re doing so good. I’m in tears from inspiration and hope. Love to you and the pups!

  2. John Breiby
    | Reply

    Will, we are so sorry to hear of you and your team’s porky accident! We read your last post but didn’t have time to answer because our car was hit yet again, in almost the same place, this time by a teenager backing out of a parking place and not seeing us (on her phone?). At any rate we’ve been busy dealing with repair issues. Oh, porcupines, poor, slow inoffensive, creatures that cause such grief, all without meaning to. There are tales of their quills even penetrating tires and causing flats, but they do NOT actually throw them. Here are a couple of my experiences with these peaceful little creatures. They are good to eat. Years ago, when I went up the Nushagak R., my mother-in-law told me that if I could find one, would I please bring it home, dead, I assumed, which I did, having absolutely no experience in skinning it–painful experience is an understatement, crouched in the bottom of the skiff, kneeling in quills, pulling quills out of my hands while I tried to get its hide off. Later, I learned that the technique was to skin the belly, then fold the skin over on itself so the quills are enclosed. Live and learn. But it was a memorable meal, one of he best dinners I can remember. She parboiled it in vinegar water, then roasted it in the oven on low heat until the meat was falling off the bone with delicious gravy in the bottom, served over rice. I sympathize with you and your pups’ pain, though. Once, driving back from Outside in the fall, I let my dog, Chenik, out for her morning walk, around 6 AM, somewhere along the Tok cutoff; we’d camped out for the night. Of course, she found a porky, and was covered in quills, her mouth, nose, face, and paws. Luckily, though, not in her eyes. She had a guilty “I’m so sorry” look on her face. I tried to pull out one or two, but she howled and squirmed so hard that I gave it up so we got back in the truck, sped off down the road and stopped at the nearest gas station, where I asked about a vet. The fellow told me there was a doctor in Gakona, so we headed there, probably half an hour away. Eventually, I found where he lived, knocked on his door and a really sleepy fellow flung open the door. “Where’s the patient!” he yelled at me. In the truck, I told him. When he saw Chenik, he said “You woke me up for a dog? Do you know what time it is? I’m not a vet, I’m a doctor!” By this time my watch said 7:00. “You’re nuts; it’s 6:00!” In 1964 there was still a time difference between Alaska and the Yukon that I’d forgotten about. He barked at me to wait there. He came back with a syringe and pair of pliers, jabbed Chenik and handed me the pliers. He waited until he was sure she was out, showed me how to pull the quills so they wouldn’t break off, then stomped off back to bed. As he was leaving I asked how much it would cost and he said “No charge, just keep her away from porkies in the future and let me get the hell back to bed!” Years later, Anecia and I were up in Hatcher pass, skiing up Mint Glacier trail. At a spot where the trail dropped steeply off to the side, we spotted a porcupine in a willow, about ten feet up the tree but only about five feet from where we stood. We talked to it and it rolled its eyes worriedly at us, poking its tongue in and out nervously while we stood there, so we bid it a good afternoon and skied off.

    • Will Troshynski
      | Reply

      As usual John you are full of the best stories!!! This might be one of my favorites. When are you writing your book??? (Maybe after the boat is done??)

  3. TX Book Mama
    | Reply

    “They are– not a part of me, but more like, I am a part of them. We are of a unit. We are a team.” You are PACK!

  4. John Breiby
    | Reply

    Thanks for the compliment, Will, though I should ask the same of you! Anecia keeps asking me the same thing. Maybe best before my old brain turns to mush? 😉

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