Fred and Jo Miska were making the 400-mile trip from their home just south of Flint, Mich., to their daughter Joy Tahaney’s vacation camp near Emporium, Pa., as they do several times each year. With just an hour left of the drive, Joy called Fred to tell him there was trouble at their mountain retreat. When she, her husband and sons had arrived, they found two Siberian Huskies whose faces and necks were covered in porcupine quills.

Unfortunately, the “very spotty” cell service meant the Miskas wouldn’t know more until they arrived, Fred Miska says. The couple continued through the “rather inclement weather” with rain and heavy cloud cover, not knowing what they would find when they arrived.

Porcupine quills in a dog’s skin can’t be ignored. Removal by a veterinarian with the use of anesthesia is recommended. Photo © Can Stock Photo.

Because cell service in the area hadn’t improved, nothing had changed by the time the Miskas and Tahaneys were united at about 10 p.m. The dogs were still at the house, “pretty well-quilled,” Miska says. The male dog even had quills in his mouth, with some as long as 4 inches.

Although he and his wife live in the country and have dogs themselves, Miska says, “I have not had that experience before.” His two rescues, mixed breed Skoba and Scottie Skye, are confined to a 100-by-150-foot run at home or leashed when on walks. Despite living amongst “various varmints,” they generally stay “on the other side of the fence,” Miska says.

But Miska grew up on a ranch in western Nebraska, where “there was something happening with an animal frequently,” and he could tell that the Huskies “were definitely in pain. They were looking for help. I guess they sensed that we could give them some help. You could imagine that the dogs were saying, ‘help me please.’”

Each of the Siberian Huskies had about 80 quills in the muzzle and neck area. Photo courtesy of Sean Tahaney.

Remembering that the Miskas’ car had OnStar service, Fred and Joy climbed in to try to find a veterinarian nearby.

OnStar representative Jesse Nault got the call for help. Although she’d been with the company for about 18 months, she’d only moved to the Emergency Team three months prior to the call. But as Fred described the situation, Nault wasn’t surprised. She’d found 24-hour veterinary clinics a couple of times in the past for other subscribers. “There have definitely been a few other odd and even odder calls, but this one I’ve never forgotten about,” Nault says. As a dog owner herself, she could just imagine her own Shih Tzu, 16-year-old Tazzy and 4-year-old Jack, covered in porcupine quills.

Nault ended up putting Miska in touch with the Pennsylvania State Police in Emporium, whose dispatcher finally was able to find an open veterinary clinic. Soon enough, the dogs were loaded into the backseat of Miska’s son-in-law’s four-door pickup truck. “We just threw some blankets down, and they were willing and ready to crawl in,” Miska says.

He and his grandson, Bill, a medical student, started the drive to State College, Pa. “It was 70 miles over winding mountain roads in darkness and rain except when it was lightning,” Miska recalls, and it took about an hour and a half to get to the Metzger Animal Hospital.

There, two veterinarians, Sean Jennett, D.V.M., and Shelly Mannino, V.M.D., worked on the dogs, anaesthetizing them and removing about 80 quills from each dog.

“It was a really, really good animal clinic,” Miska says, “just outstanding, well-equipped. They were able to handle anything.”

Although porcupines tend to be nocturnal, they are seen during daylight hours too. Photo © Stock Can Photo.

As if Miska hadn’t done enough for the dogs, when the owner was located the next day and couldn’t pay the emergency vet bill, Miska settled the $700 charge himself. Now that’s a good – and generous – Samaritan.

Nault says she went home after her shift and told her boyfriend about the call. “I was proud to have been the one to help these amazing people,” she says. “They truly went above and beyond for these dogs.”