Well, sans attack animations, I now have a good system in. Basically, the creature has a walk animation, and a stop animation. And the stop animation only requires a very minimal amount of work to program in. Beyond that, I only need the attack animation, and that is per body_layout (the rest shouldn't need to have a custom animation).
So that means, really, there is only one main type of animation, and another special case for body attack. Can't get much less work than that! Reminds me of the days of SNES rpgs where you had one little frame of the guy holding his arm up, and it was used for sharing a potion, casting a spell (with a spell effect around it), and like, maybe holding up a sword (with the sword animating). At any rate, I think it is minimal enough that it will work.
I wonder what I will do for this one, I am thinking maybe he thrusts his rump in the air and shoulders-down, shaking. That would work! When he does that he is throwing spines from his back.
Another thing, he could arch his back way up like a cat, I don't know!