Monday Mischief 19: Moses Meets a Porcupine

After recounting a traumatizing tale at Nose Hill Park for you last week, I thought maybe Moses and I should revisit the scene of the crime. It is a super huge, nice park with a great off-leash area and lots of trails to follow, after all.

A photo of Calgary Commander Hadfield took when in command of the International Space Station (ISS). So cool. That massive dark spot in the NW is Nose Hill Park.

A photo of Calgary Commander Hadfield took when in command of the International Space Station (ISS). So cool. That massive dark spot in the NW is Nose Hill Park.

So off we went.

Moses at Nose Hill

Moses at Nose Hill

I really do like Nose Hill Park. It’s multi-use, which can be a recipe for conflict when you have runners, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, families, and dog owners all sharing the same space. But the off-leash areas are well-marked (both for when you’re entering and leaving them), and there are several paths that guarantee running into others is a rarity.


The thing about having 11km² of parkland in the city (1129 hectares; 4.2 mi²) is that it’s also a great place for wildlife. We’ve seen lots of birds, deer, and heard coyotes howling, and have heard tonnes of stories of porcupine encounters at the park.


Until recently, however, neither Moses nor Alma had met a porcupine.

Now, before I go any further, there’s an acknowledgement and disclosure I must make as a fallible dog owner: I did not re-leash Moses the second I knew there was a porcupine in the area. I most certainly should have, and had even had the opportunity to, but the fact that I did not, I suppose, shows that my natural cynicism does give way to optimism from time to time.

But I did not, and thus mischief ensued.

Just a crappy iPhone pano shot, but it really displays the Chinook arches we're so fond of seeing in Calgary during the winter.

Just a crappy iPhone pano shot, but it really displays the Chinook arches we’re so fond of seeing in Calgary during the winter.

We were starting to turn back towards the parking lot when Moses and I came across another dog walker and her two dogs on the path. One of her dogs had noticed a porcupine in a small tree nearby, but the dogs were all busy greeting one another and the porcupine remained still and out of reach. Moses was oblivious.

Oblivious… right up until he wasn’t.

Unbeknownst to me, while we were socializing, the porcupine decided to abandon his perch and sought a new, higher one in a thick clump of trees nearby.

I did not notice this development, but Moses did.

So Moses immediately galloped off to make a new friend.

To the porcupine’s credit, he was fast and did not let the interest of a giant canine in pursuit distress him. He had a destination, and he just kept on truckin’.

And to the porcupine’s good fortune, the snow was incredibly deep.

I know this because as soon as Moses took off, I shouted profanities took off after him, and soon found myself wading through snow higher than my knees. Luckily, having half as many legs to navigate through the snow as Mo does means I was able to gain on him, even despite stumbling; snow down the back of my jeans was the least of my worries.

The trees were very thick and the porcupine had some good cover as the frantic parade approached.

By the time I caught up, Moses was struggling in the trees and deep slow to greet the fleeing porcupine.  The chance of dozens of quills in Mo’s muzzle seemed a near guarantee. Where Moses ended and porcupine began, I couldn’t immediately determine.

I could see the porcupine had a deficit of quills in its tail and backside (the result of another curious canine, perhaps?), and I could hear Moses sniffing and see him straining to keep up the retreating animal, who just stayed his course, refusing to acknowledge the chaos behind him.

Moses was persistent, so in order to prevent any further escalation of the situation, I grabbed the best handle I could find: poor Mo’s tail. Moses yelp-barked (yarked?) in protest and looked back at me, giving me the opportunity to grab his collar and guide him back through the deep snow, leaving the porcupine in peace to find safety in a new tree.

The porcupine on his perch

The porcupine on his perch

I leashed Moses back up and rejoined the amused spectator on the path with her two dogs, where my examination of Moses confirmed the porcupine kept all his quills on his own body.

Our audience’s laughter was constant in the background during the whole ordeal, and rightfully so. I’m sure the whole thing looked ridiculous. I relayed the story to the Husband who said it was a shame there was no video of it – we could put it in black and white, speed it up, and put it to circus music,  à la Charlie Chaplin.


I always had a dangerous curiosity about what Moses might do in a situation like that, so at least now that has been sated. As expected (remind me to tell you a mouse story in the future), Moses just wants to meet the other animal. Be friends. Even if the animal doesn’t want to be friends; Moses just has an inquisitive and harmless nature.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t actively prevent any future Moses/porcupine greetings in the future. I got lucky this time.

Moses, pretty content with himself and his mischief at the park

Moses, pretty content with himself and his mischief at the park

When it comes to dog/porcupine interactions, I’m generally going to be more concerned about the porcupine. A few quills may have resulted in discomfort for Mo and a veterinary bill for me, but the consequences for the porcupine are greater.

And had things gone differently, I would’ve been making sure two animals got care: Moses to the vet, and the porcupine to the wildlife centre (related: see this quarter’s Blog the Change post on local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation).

So that’s what I’m going to leave you with: I know in the moment your own dog will be your concern, but don’t forget about the porcupine. They’re docile, adorable animals and it’s not their fault our dumb dogs are off-leash. If the porcupine is injured, keep an eye on it and call the local wildlife centre so they can get a volunteer out to help.

This post is part of the Mischief Monday blog hop – to see what everyone else has been up to, click herehere, or here.


About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

25 Responses to Monday Mischief 19: Moses Meets a Porcupine

  1. Awww, poor Moses! He just wanted to be friends but some guys have such prickly personalities! I’m glad neither of them were injured and for your sake, not videos. Great story!

  2. We have little wildlife in the city, just cats. Glad the porcupine got away 🙂 I do miss my iPhone… for the panorama function. That’s some cool sky action you have there.

  3. Tegan says:

    A lucky encounter! Our local park has bunnies, and I often worry about losing my dogs down a bunny hole. So far I’ve managed to distract my dogs whenever I’ve noticed rabbits about.

    Glad your porcupine encounter didn’t end nastily!

  4. It’s lucky that everyone (including the porcupine) is OK! I worry about Mr. N and wildlife. He wants to chase everything!

  5. Great story with a happy ending!

    Hope you don’t mind if I borrow the word “yarked.” I know exactly what that sounds like!

    –Woofs (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.

  6. slimdoggy says:

    Great story – reminds me of my Tino who had countless wildlife encounters. Having lived feral for months as a young pup, he treated them all as food though – not as the friendly playmate like Moses. Unfortunately, he caught a few in his day too.

  7. Oh! I cringed when I read this title! I’m so glad that both Moses and the porcupine were fine. Leroy is the same way about meeting new creatures, he just wants to be friends, Sherman however, wants to eat them. I could just imagine you trudging through the snow after at him, I so wish there was video 😉

    • ThatJenK says:

      Wow – something Moses and Sherman actually don’t have in common! lol. Not sure what Alma would do – not sure she would know what to do herself if she actually caught something. Given there’s a chance she might think of woodland creatures as a snack, I’m not inclined to find out.

  8. Thank goodness everyone made out OK. That would not have ended well for anyone.

  9. You are so lucky to have such open space in the middle of your city. I sure wish we had that around here. We have to drive a bit to get to open space.

    So glad that both made it out okay! Could have been bad!

  10. FleaByte says:

    Omigoodness. I read this just SURE that Moses was quilled. Phew!

  11. Jessica says:

    I was so anxious until I knew everyone was fine! I’m glad it turned out for the best.

    The nice thing about multi-purpose off-leash parks is that they aren’t so flat and boring. You can do more with your dog than just stand around and let them play. Back before I realized how terrible of an idea it was to let Silas off leash anywhere, we really preferred the multi-purpose park.

    • ThatJenK says:

      That’s a good point – the multi-use parks are often bigger, and more like ‘urban hiking’, so I do like them for that reason. Smaller multi-use ones, we just avoid though. But I also avoid small off-leash ones, too, where people just cluster around and dogs run amok. Not a fan.

  12. 2browndawgs says:

    I am glad that all turned out well. I always worry about porcupines up at our cabin. We leash the dogs at dusk/dawn/dark. Since it all turned out well, I wish there was video too…lol. The Chinook arch is cool.

  13. Karen says:

    Poor Moses! A friend of mine encountered a porky with her two dogs at Nose Hill several years ago but the outcome was not nearly as benign as yours. One of her dogs really went after the poor prickly thing and ended up with hundreds of quills, one of which struck an artery. She was quite a way from the parking lot and by the time she got to her car and raced to Calgary North the dog had lost a considerable amount of blood. Believe it or not it was touch & go for a while whether he would survive.

    Last week someone posted on Facebook that a cougar had been spotted in Nose Hill, no location was given. About 2 years ago I met a guy there who told me he had recently seen a cougar in the park and at the time I sort of poo-pooed it. Late last winter there was a deer kill site very close to the paved pathway up the hill from the Brisbois parking lot, which I walked up to & investigated. It was either killed by coyotes or a cougar, or perhaps died before it was eaten by predators. Regardless, later I thought how stupid it was of me to approach it, in case the hungry “owner” of the carcass was still lurking about in the trees. Won’t do that again!

    • ThatJenK says:

      Yikes! I’ve heard those worst-case-scenarios with quills, but never heard of it actually happening to someone! I hope the dog pulled through!
      I always worry when I see people with their tiny dogs off leash or on long flexis at Nose Hill in the evening – the coyote factor concerns me, and I’ve heard horror stories. A cougar though? That would prompt me to keep even Moses and Alma close! I wonder if the city has a policy on removing or relocating carcasses like that – especially when they’re close to busy areas of the park.

  14. harrispen says:

    Glad that story had a happy ending for Moses and the porky. Too bad the observers didn’t roll the video camera for us.


  15. Oh, I’m so glad everyone came out of that okay! Including the porcupine! Love that satellite shot of the park! Very cool! We have a similar huge off-leash dog park here. Had to go back and read your “treats at the park” post. (I could write an epistle on this but will try to not be TOO wordy!) First of all, what an idiot that woman was! It used to make me nuts when women would come to the park dressed up and then get angry if a dog jumped on them. Same for the idiots who would bring picnics – to an off leash dog park!

    I did used to carry treats there (to keep Rita from eating the dead gophers – which I blogged about long ago). But I used to carry them in a pouch on her leash, and then tie the leash around my body so the pouch was up by my shoulder. I’m 5’11” so only the most discerning of dog noses (combined w/ tall dogs) would notice.

    Another woman there used to hand out treats to dogs willy-nilly. Once she accidentally handed a dog an ibuprofen from her pocket on accident! Luckily the dog didn’t die! But it did have to spend the night in the ER. (Also luckily the owners knew one another on sight, so when he saw her next time she offered to – and did – pay all his vet bills.)

    Anyway, we don’t go there anymore after I got hit with a stick by a strange man. Yeah… so, there’s that. (Not because I’m worried about myself, but if anyone hit Rita with a stick, it would be a massive setback for her and would break my heart!)

  16. snoopys@snoopysdogblog says:

    Hey Moses

    That would have been me too buddy, I’d have been straight after him, though I have no idea how I’d make it through the snow as I’ve never even seen any!

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  17. Novroz says:

    I love the story…it’s so detail as if we really see Moses chasing on the porcupine.
    I am glad both are safe.

  18. There are no such things as cheating my friend! Also, there is such a thing called NOSE HILL? That is too funny.

  19. Jodi says:

    Gee I was a little nervous thinking perhaps the dog had been (what do they call it?) quilled? My sister has 11 acres in New Hampshire and two of her dogs got into it with a porcupine and had to go to the vet to have the quills removed. Really sad. I’m glad you were able to catch up to him.

  20. Pingback: Monday Mischief 23: The Porcupine Strikes Back | Back Alley Soapbox

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