I came home from a camping trip in middle school in the ‘90s to my mother in tears – Hokey Pokey died while I was away.
My mother was rather beside herself having watched him slowly die while not knowing what to do for him. It was the ‘90s and we were just getting the internet. We didn’t know of blogs and websites about hedgehog care. There was nothing to Google. Exotic vets that see hedgehogs were few and far between.
I, being the strong, independent, grown up middle schooler I was, hardly shed a tear. But for almost 20 years I have kept a few of his quills tucked away in my desk. A photo of him in a hedgehog frame has been solidified, like a painting that cannot be erased.
I also somehow felt I was to blame for Hokey Pokey’s death and that kept me from properly grieving. As I became a middle schooler, I remembered I had been spending less time with my pokey friend as my attention shifted to teenage girl things. Hokey Pokey was my childhood dream and I was growing into new interests. I felt I must not have been taking good enough care of him and that is why he got sick.
It was only years later I realized that Hokey Pokey was about four years old when he died and that is the expected life span of domesticated hedgehogs.
The short life span of hedgehogs, plus the fact that they are susceptible to difficult diseases such as cancer and wobbly hedgehog syndrome, can cause much grief to the hedgehog community.
As I peruse across Instagram adoring cute hedgehogs, I invariably come across a RIP account or a current friend who recently lost a beloved spiky pal.
In these moments, I think about my new, dear hedgehog Ginger and how quickly she may pass.
Ginger brought healing to my heart after nearly 20 years of silently blaming myself for Hokey Pokey’s death. It was through becoming part of the ‘2010s hedgehog community that I realized a hedgehog owner cannot prevent their hedgehog from dying when it is their time to go, but they have the privilege to give them a loving life for three to four years.
In death and in life, the power of love is what reminds us there is still hope. If you loved a hedgehog, cry. If you love a hedgehog, cry. For, we cannot prevent their deaths and make them live for more years than they have been given. We can prolong their days, but we cannot prolong their lives. How I wish hedgehogs lived longer than four years.
Crying is a gift God has given us to face the grief that is part of this broken world. Someday, there will be no more crying or pain, and no more dying hedgehogs. Just cute, healthy ones scurrying about forever beneath the fruit trees next to the river of life that flows from God’s throne in the new heaven and new earth.
Grieving your hedgehog’s death is healthy. Grief is good in that it helps you face the reality of your love and loss. Others may not understand how you could be so distraught over a small creature, but please, cry. It will bring healing to your soul.
If your hedgehog has died, consider taking another one into your life when you are ready. Ginger certainly was a gift from God to me to remind me how new life can comfort and heal what has been lost, even years later.
Not long after I got married, I began longing for a hedgehog. I started buying all sorts of hedgehog decorations: salt and pepper shakers, mugs, linens, Christmas ornaments, etc. etc.
I was remembering with happiness my childhood hedgehog days but unsure whether the investment of time and money was worth having another hedgehog. But I was finally ready to face my lost longing with new life. I started praying for a blonde girl. I contacted a breeder.
Ginger was born on my birthday.
Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.