Several days later, Linda was sitting on the front porch with a worried look on her face. She rested her chin in her hands and stared into the horizon.
Walter came running over the field and bounded up onto her porch.
“Hey, Linda!” he called a greeting. “How is Quillbur?” Then he saw Linda’s worried face. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
Linda held up a single quill in her hands, showing it to Walter. “Quillbur is losing his quills,” she said, sadly.
Walter took the quill from Linda and examined it carefully. Then he handed it back to her. “Wait here,” he instructed. With a single leap, he jumped off the porch. Then he ran back across the fields toward his own house.
A few minutes later, Walter returned, panting and out of breath. He carried a small toy doctor’s kit with him.
“When I grow up,” Walter said, huffing and puffing. “I am going to be a doctor. I don’t know if I will be an animal doctor or a people doctor yet. Maybe I will be both. But I am happy to look at Quillbur if you want.”
Linda took Walter inside, and then she coaxed Quillbur from his shoe box. Walter gulped when he saw Quillbur. Quillbur’s quill did look a little thin, and there were more loose quills laying around the shoebox. It looked serious.
Walter opened his doctor kit. He tried to hold his toy stethoscope against Quillbur’s heart, but Quillbur rolled himself into a ball. Walter waited and waited. Finally Quillbur unrolled, and Walter listened to his heartbeat. Then Walter looked into Quillbur’s eyes and ears.
Linda waited while Walter examined her pet. She hoped there was nothing wrong with Quillbur.
At last, Walter cleared his throat. “I’m going to go home and look in my books,” Walter said. “I don’t have many patients who are hedgehogs…so I need to consult with my colleagues.”
Linda opened her eyes wide. “What’s a colleague?” she asked.
Walter wasn’t sure so he said, “a colleague is something a doctor consults.”
“Oh, I see,” Linda said. She lay down on her stomach so she could see Quillbur’s face better. “What do you THINK is wrong with Quillbur?”
“It could be a number of things, but I hope it isn’t phinaly pharpis,” Walter said, gravely.
“Phinaly pharpis!” exclaimed Linda. Whatever-that-was sounded awful. “What is phinaly pharpis?”
Walter lowered his voice to a whisper. “Phinaly pharpis is a terrible disease,” he told Linda. “Several animals can get it – even dolphins.”
“Dolphins!” Linda exclaimed.
“I will have to do some research,” Walter decided. “May I take one of his quills with me?”
Linda nodded. She handed Walter a quill and watched him walk to the door.
Then Linda carefully picked up her beloved Quillbur. “Please get better soon,” she whispered.