Since love multiplies instead of divides, I take on a new lovey love at Daktari, even though, it is clearly unclear as to whether or not she feels the same way about me as I do about her.
I prefer to think it’s mutual, this fondness that grows between the two of us, for she sandpaper licks me with her cat-like tongue and lifts her stumpy forearms for me to reach way under her belly and really dig in there between her quills.
It’s adoration at first sight, for when I first set eyes on Spikey, I am in total amazement of her; from her super soft ear holes to her fluffy feet to her black and white spikes, I think she’s pretty nifty.
Spikey, you must know, is an African porcupine. Daktari hand reared her years ago, and ever since, she comes for her nightly treat of avocado, carrot, apple, you name it. She never brings her offspring, however, preferring to keep them separate from us.
Curious, and oh-so-brilliant.
The first time I see Spikey shuffle through camp, the dogs go amuck, for Spikey swaggers through the lapa as if she owns the place, marching right up to the kitchen ladies for a bite, and, apple in paws, chows down next to us while we play cards, splayed froggy style. Her white mohawk falls to one side of her face, all the rage and totally in. Every night, we leash the Daktari dogs to their respective chairs, making it so that they have to stay put while pseudo-dog-with-spikes lollygags along.
Unleashed, they’d end up with a mouthful of porcupine quills, their instinct driving them to the most idiotic of curiosities–porcupine butt–à la Duncan and Bear in the Holy Cross Wilderness area, where the two foolish fiends came back looking like Hell Raiser after an impromptu raid on a campsite trespasser.
Spikey lets me palm her face, pressing her weight into my hand as my fingers stroke and separate her bristly quills, unidirectional, of course. She stinks like high heaven, a rough mixture of wild and animal, and her scent marks my skin like a sunburn, lingering an ever faint whiff of Spikeyness, even post hand wash.
For the most part, Spikey is a docile visitor, happy for the attention. Once or twice, though, she manages to break into the pantry, and then, it’s on–quills up, body fluffed, and eyes fierce, this little lady guards the food goods as if she’d purchased them with her own coin. She’s a handful to manage in the tiny pantry, for all it takes is one swift reverse into your tibias, and you are roasted, toasted, and skewered. Lucky for us, Spikey never manages to intentionally harm us, as most of her threats are just hot air.
Whenever Spikey takes in a quick exhalation or gets huffy, her quills pop open like one of those retractable hair brushes from the 80s. Quieted, she’s sleek and streamlined again, quills falling flat with the sound of stacked chopsticks.
And, all is right in the world again.
Once or twice, I accidentally brush up too close, too abrupt, and doggone it, those quills are sharp as daggers. She and her fellow porcupines lose her quills like we lose strands of hair, and up close and personal, they look like a cross between a massive hair cuticle and a writing utensil from antiquity, as thick as my pinky, malleable, and beautifully decorated in dark brown and off white markings. I take Hillary’s remaining stash, using one or two to mend an itch and secure my hair.
My favorite part of Spikey time, I must say, is when she comes in close for a body rub, aligning herself so that I can really get in to her belly region while she thanks me with a tickling tongue on my forearm. On our last night together, I whisper sweet nothings behind her super soft ears, and she comes to shake her shimmy grove at the bonfire.
Spikey sweetheart, if I could snatch you up and put you in my suitcase and not get arrested for smuggling an exotic animal, I totally would.