A rescued dog is fighting for its life after a violent encounter with a porcupine that left a quill stuck inside its heart.

Hershey was out for a walk with her owner and some canine pals when she crossed paths with the prickly rodent. The feisty miniature pinscher, or “minpin,” sprang into action to protect her friends.

“(Hershey) got out of the collar, ran for the porcupine, and got in a tussle with the porcupine where they were actually somersaulting. They were rolling over on top of each other,” Hershey’s owner Karla Irwin told CTV Ottawa.

The result was devastating for the tiny dog. Animal Emergency Ottawa spent three hours removing hundreds of quills. Hershey needed three surgeries, including the removal of a kidney, to get rid of the quills that migrated into her body. Then, a medical scan revealed a devastating discovery -- a quill piercing Hershey's heart.

The local animal hospital could not perform the delicate surgery. Without the operation, Hershey will die.

“She's my little miracle. I think she deserves that shot,” said Irwin.

She reached out to the only surgical team in North America capable of open heart operations on animals, nearly 3,000 kilometres away at Colorado State University. Dr. Chris Orton believes he can save Hershey’s life, but the surgery will be complex and expensive.

“There is a question mark regarding the way the quill has entered the heart, because that will determine the possibility of removing it from one sport or another,” said Dr. Jacques Sottiaux, an animal cardiologist who examined Hershey at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Gloucester, Ont.

Hershey’s life was far from easy before the brush with the porcupine. She was rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio where she spent five years locked in a crate. Her owners abandoned her after she was no longer useful for breeding. She eventually ended up in Ottawa where she was adopted and returned several times because for not being house broken.

Irwin had planned on giving Hershey to her daughter in Toronto, but her connection with the dog was too strong.

“When I went to the minpinnery, there were 12 other dogs there. She knew I was there for her,” said Irwin.

Her family is already concerned about the thousands of dollars she’s already spent on Hershey. A GoFundMe campaign has brought in over $4,000 to pay for the operation, which could cost up to $10,000 on top of the $5,000 Irwin has spent so far.

“I hear so many people say your pets are like your kids,” said Irwin. “But when it comes to something like this, they all have a limit as to how much money they’re willing to spend. I can’t put a dollar limit on her life because it’s valuable.”

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Matt Skube