If you had told me two years ago that I’d have four hedgehogs living in my home today, I’d have assumed that you had been talking to my unreasonably animal-crazed middle daughter Anna, or that you were the Devil. I’ve tried to put it behind me, but let me exhume the ridiculous memory of where it all began.
At some point in the distant past, Anna declared that she’d like to have a hedgehog for a pet. While any normal person with any normal child might have been stunned by such a request, for us, this was vintage Anna. It ranked right up there with her desire to live in a trampoline room, sleep on a bed of craft pom-poms, and become a professional coin-operated claw machine competitor. I just dismissed the request because I was certain that it was impossible, if not illegal, to own a hedgehog, not to mention that they were poisonous-and only existed in children’s books.
A few months later, I had entered my yearly Christmas shopping frenzy (the day after Labor Day), and I came across a FaceBook post about a lady in Mineola, Texas, breeding and selling hedgehogs. “Ludicrous!” I thought. This had to be one of those humorously ironic Facebook hoaxes, like the one about Donald Trump actually being a Muppet. Sucker that I am, though, I investigated further and discovered that Mineola is an actual place, and not a character from Hee-Haw, and yes, a hedgehog lady lives there.
To make a long story slightly longer, I called the hedgehog lady, did some research, talked it over with Santa, and for about the price of a small private jet, I purchased my first hedgehog.
But, of course, it wasn’t that simple. The hedgehog lady needed to unload the hedgehog by Thanksgiving to make room for more hedgehogs (apparently female hedgehogs actually give birth to more hedgehogs-ouchie!) I was also instructed by the hedgehog lady that the creature would need to be “handled” twice a day for thirty minutes at a time in order to tame it. She could have asked me to eat it alive and I would have been no less shocked. I didn’t think you could actually touch them without causing an explosion, or something.
To make a long story even longer, in order to help Santa keep this fiasco a secret, for a solid month, I spent thirty minutes every morning before my shower and thirty minutes every night before bed in my closet caressing the offspring of a small possum that had mated with a box of toothpicks. It only took one session with the hedgehog to determine that underwear alone is not appropriate hedgehog-handling attire. I am happy to say that the reconstructive surgery was relatively successful.
Christmas morning finally came, and, once again, Santa got all the credit. But what mattered the most was that Anna was in heaven over the new addition to the Graves Exotic Zoo. (We welcome visitors for $1000 per pound.)
Since that time, I have failed as a parent with three more visits to the hedgehog lady, who is now undoubtedly drawing up plans for the Jason L. Graves Memorial Hedgehog Center with her earnings from my family alone.
And the unpleasant little creatures have actually grown on me. They are surly animals that will tolerate humans, but prefer to be left alone-kindred spirits, basically. They are also relatively quiet and don’t stink (ok, so we aren’t exactly the same-but they do poop a lot). The bottom line is that they make my daughters happy-and give me something to do on Sunday afternoons when we get out the backhoe to clean out cages.
There is actually more to this story that I may relate later, but right now I have a meeting with Santa about a marmoset.