Corgis, Porcupine and
by Charlie MacInnes, Canada
It was a beautiful sunny June day, a busy Saturday at Finnshavn, over twenty years ago. I had two elkhound families visiting, one to meet the breed, the other wanting some training tips. We were sitting on the side lawn talking. One of the corgi bitches, Trouble, disappeared into the long grass behind the drive shed. There came one meaningful, questioning WOOF?? Two other corgi bitches trotted off to investigate. Out from the long grass, around the shed, came the three, Trouble behind, the other two on either side of... A PORCUPINE! They herded it right up onto the lawn among the people, where Tundra the elkhound charged in for the kill, and - Whack! - acquired a face full of porcupine quills, which we spent the next half hour pulling out. The corgi girls, on the other hand, didn't have a quill among the three. Most of my elkhounds have had one face full of quills in their youth, but after that they chase the porkies up trees from a safe distance.
Tundra was an exception, she swore revenge on the species and never got it through her head that she had lost every encounter. I always thought it remarkable that the three corgis exerted their authority and brought the porky right out into the open, and away from any escape tree. Then a more interesting thought occurred to me. I have never, in 40 years, had a corgi get quills, and as I ask around, I have yet found only a single example of a corgi who got too close. I asked long-time member Genie Bishop about this. She owns a camp in Vermont - one that has been in her family for a hundred years - and she spends most summers there. None of her corgis has ever needed quills pulled, but one show dachshund got a porcupine right under the camp. If you know of a corgi who got quilled, please let me know. The one "quilled" Cardigan around here was Emily Ann, belonging to Sherry Saunders. She came back from a walk with three quills very lightly stuck in her face. Maybe it's significant that the GSP she was in the woods with came back with a real face full, so I suspect she was just helping her friend. One of my early show Cardigans rolled in a very dead porcupine, mostly rancid fat full of quills, less than two hours before he was due in the ring. All he needed was a quick bath - none of the quills stuck. So, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan - "What never??? Well, hardly ever!"
That got me thinking. Only once have corgis of mine ever been skunked. The elkhounds, labradors and GSPs (German Short-haired Pointers) have been skunked right here on the property. They've got more than one porky, too.
The one time corgis got skunked was on a late night walk in late November, involving elkhounds, labradors and corgis. A frightful fracas broke out off in the trees, the smell wafted down the hill, and I bathed seven dogs, including three corgis. I am sure the corgis were followers, not leaders of the attack - and, by the way, the skunk was killed, because Dwyn the corgi brought it home, frozen solid, a couple of weeks later.
As I ask around, it seems that corgis know about skunks, too. Dai Morgan, my first Cardigan, was actually on sniffing terms with the local skunk where we lived in London ON. One evening we were coming home from a walk, two off-leash dogs and I. As we came up the concrete walk to the white front door, I thought it was our shadow on the door, until that shadow erected a characteristic bushy tail and growled, from maybe six feet away. I told the two dogs to heel, and we all backed up. The skunk, as skunks do, walked along the building sniffing, no hurry at all.
About two weeks later we were down on the flood plain of the Thames River walking, in daylight, on the hiking trail, with the dogs exploring ahead, off leash. As I came around a bend, I saw a skunk heading towards us. Dai walked up to it and sniffed noses, then each of them sniffed under the other's tail. Finn the elkhound watched from no more than six feet away. It was so casual that the skunk and dogs obviously knew each other. You could almost hear the conversation - "How are you today, Skunk?" "Good, thanks, Corgi, how's by you and your pal?" When the skunk saw me it left the trail and disappeared into the long grass, but no hurry!!
So what do you do if you have the exception, the corgi that attacks a porcupine? With elkhounds, this tends to happen on camping or hunting trips when the nearest vet is hours away, so I have learned to get the quills out myself. The important instrument is a pair of Vise-Grip pliers. Every back pack I have has a pair of the small 4'' Vise-Grips in it. You set the Vise-Grips so that they close firmly when you snap them shut. Be careful, because you can set them too tight, and they will cut the quill, which is bad. If you use normal pliers, you reach for a quill, the dog jumps, you jump, and you let go of the quill. With Vise-Grips you snap them onto the quill, the dog jumps, and pulls the quill out because the Vise-Grips don't let go. If your vet will let you have them, a couple of Atravet pills can also be part of the emergency kit. These are tranquilizers that make it easier to handle a very upset dog.
For skunk, there are many remedies, the least and worst of which, in my opinion, is tomato juice. There are now a couple of products on the market which contain enzymes that break down the mercaptans which give skunk musk its smell. The general deodorizer NOK-OUT claims to be effective. Failing that, my standard home treatment is to soak the whole skunked area with cooking oil. Work the oil in thoroughly, then wash it out with a mild dish detergent or a good dog shampoo.
For your emergency kit, there is actually a product called Filthy Animal 32:1 shampoo, made by Kelco. It is an all-natural product which does clean a dirty dog up well without drying out the skin. It is diluted 32:1 before use, so it is compact to carry. Other home remedies for skunk include Pepsodent toothpaste or Massengill's douche.
While corgis may be good at avoiding porcupines or skunks, they are very good at acquiring bush perfume. Dead snake is irresistible to roll in, followed closely by dead fish, the stinkier the better! Then, have you ever watched a puppy come up to a pile of mink, or racoon, or whatever, poop, sniff carefully, and wrinkle its brow with thought "Now, is this fresh enough to eat, or shall I merely roll in it!"? When young calves go out on the first green grass of summer, they drop very runny, highly smelly calf pats. These are prime rolling stuff. So your travelling kit needs to be equipped to remove grime and smell. Filthy Animal 32:1 fills the bill.
CCCC Newsletter Volume 26, Number 1 March 2005
Charlie MacInnes lives in Stouffville, Ontario,
and breeds Cardigan Corgis and Norwegian Elkhounds
with the prefix Finnshavn.