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.
So off we went.
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.
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
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
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 here, here, or here.