Notes From Hairenik
Late yesterday morning while taking Areg for a stroll down Yerevan's Sayat Nova Street we saw a few women standing near a tree looking down at something and commenting to one another. I didn't know what to think so I kept pushing the stroller forward, not the least bit interested in whatever they were fussing about. But Anush being curious by nature took a gander and saw a porcupine sitting on the soil of a flower garden, breathing heavily. 

The animal seemed dead at a distance but the closer we approached the more obvious it was that it was still alive. One of the gawking women there worked at the khachaburi stand that was perched a few feet away and another operated the neighboring flower shop. Apparently they witnessed this poor animal fall from a second floor balcony, and not only did he not end up on the sidewalk, he landed at the bottom of a staircase  leading to a basement-level retail space directly below that happens to be empty. That distance added another seven feet at least to the drop. He was evidently placed in a cardboard box, which he tipped over probably in an attempt to escape, and he must have been disoriented when he finally freed himself, thereby taking the wrong step forward.

Some of the bristles on his back seemed pressed in, which I supposed marked the spot that made contact with the tiled steps in the fall. Anush was busy discussing with the women about what should be done, and they sounded a bit clueless. The animal was lifting his head up and sort of sniffing his environs, which was a very good sign we thought, although he couldn't move from his position on his own.  She called Chi Chi's veterinarian, Natasha, who works in a combination animal clinic and pet store on Pushkin Street. After a few tries reaching her she finally picked up the phone and told her that we should take the little guy to the exotic animal vivarium on Mashdots Street as they had professionals on staff that could properly treat the animal. We hastily decided that the best way of transporting him there was in a small box that we would place in the stroller's undercarriage storage basket. The khachaburi lady found a box that was too shallow and large for the stroller to handle. Then the flower lady scoured her shelves and found one that was the perfect size -- see the photos below. Even the security guard at the VivaCell store was on hand to help, who carefully lifted the porcupine into the box. Just as we were about to roll on our way Areg started acting up, which meant that Anush would have to carry him part of the way. The khachaburi seller insisted that she would be able to care for the animal after he received proper treatment, but somehow I didn't think that would have been a very good idea.

Areg enjoys being transported around town in a jogging stroller, which is essentially the SUV of baby carriages. This thing must have been specifically engineered by the manufacturer to withstand Yerevan's bumpy, uneven sidewalks. It utilizes three small bicycle tires that can seemingly handle any road condition, so the porcupine was certainly going to be secure, given that he was immobile in his state of agony. From our position it took us about 20 minutes or so to get to the vivarium, and although we had never been there we found it rather easily, situated in the rear of a modern art museum on the corner of Zakyan and Mashdots streets. As we approached a woman was walking up the stairs to the entrance and Anush asked if she worked there. She said she did and sent someone out to talk to us. A man stood on the landing at the top of the stairs and waved us off, adamant that the porcupine didn't have a chance, but we should find the vet on Pushkin Street anyway to see what could be done. He was dismayed when we told him that Natasha was the one who sent us there. 

Anush thought it best that we take the animal to Levon's place were he could look after him until the following morning when the animal clinic opened, but I would have none of that. I went inside and spoke to that same guy myself, asking why they didn't want to care for a vulnerable animal using the proper conditions and their know-how at their disposal. After all, they obviously understood how to take care of the "exotic" animals and reptiles they kept. Then he put a camera around his neck and walked away. When I reminded him that I was talking to him directly, he pointed in the direction of someone wearing some kind of uniform talking on the phone, who was evidently the go-to guy all along. Meanwhile, a middle aged woman sitting behind him was indifferently munching on an ice cream cone, a response that up until a year ago I would have taken for surreal given the circumstances, but I have learned to accept that type of odd behavior as being somewhat normal in Armenia. After he hung up the phone he listened to what I had to say, apparently uninformed about the porcupine. He followed me downstairs to examine the animal. When he lifted the porcupine off the box a puddle of reddish fluid was evident, and he was pessimistic that it would survive, thus reluctant to admit the animal. I was insistent that he was far more qualified in caring for him, and then he mentioned something about payment needed for treatment. After a minute or two we managed to convince him to take the porcupine under his care, and anticipated that the staff would treat him with dignity in his final moments. 

Anush exchanged contact information and we were off, satisfied that we had done the right thing and accomplished our goal. Quite honestly, I was not optimistic after seeing the bloody liquid that had been dripping from under the porcupine, and I simply put my trust in that man hoping that he was indeed persuaded to do whatever he could.

This morning we were shocked by the good news. Only a half hour ago Anush called the vivarium to inquire about the animal's health, and she was pleased to learn that he had survived! She was convinced the entire time that he would make it, and I really believe that her stream of optimism was his lifeline. He (or perhaps she, we haven't yet found out) pulled through largely thanks to Anush.

We're trying to figure out what to do for him in the long run. They told Levon how to treat him at home, where he'll recover for the time being until we determine the next steps. I am against taking him back to his "owners" since they were so careless with his welfare to begin with. There's some discussion about taking the animal to Levon's dacha in Dzorakhpur, which has a lovely fruit tree orchard for him to scurry around. Seems that from now on, things can only get better for this prickly fella. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Strange story. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Blogger Ara said...
Would you consider the Yerevan Zoo or better yet, find out where it could best survive in the wild and set it free when it has recovered?

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
The Yerevan Zoo is an abomination, it should actually be closed down. The porcupine is still recovering at my father-in-law's apartment, he's feeding it what the manager at the vivarium suggested--raw meat and some cottage cheese. He's hiding in a cool, dark place in the bathroom apparently. Porcupines do in fact live in the wild up in Dzorakhpur so he should be OK once we set him free there.