No Photoshop: Capturing a hedgehog’s authentic self for photo-illustrated children’s book

In her new children’s book, The Spike Cream Woods, Ginger looks pretty manicured as she explores the fanciful forest where ice cream grows beneath the flowers, hedges and trees.

No hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this book. She wasn’t drugged. I didn’t teach her how to do tricks — hedgehogs don’t respond to humans like dogs. Also, the photos weren’t manipulated or edited (except for minor things like brightness).

The secret to these fanciful ice cream forest photos was capturing normal hedgehog behavior. Hedgehogs cannot see well. They primarily sense the world through sound and smell. They are naturally shy.

When I set Ginger down in a new environment, she typically freezes for 30 to 60 seconds, much like a shy 2-year-old does. Then, she starts sniffing. She senses her environment for another 30 to 60 seconds before she decides which direction she’ll go. Then, she scurries to the darkest, coziest corner she can find. She is a natural burrower.

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Ginger pristinely sniffs a giant scoop of “Gummy Worm Chip”  ice cream she found in “The Spike Cream Woods.”
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Within seconds, she’s off exploring behind-the-scenes, burrowing in between some treat bags. How’d she get dirty so quickly?!

She loves burrowing in flowers, hedges and leaves — or gummy worm and chocolate chip bags!

For The Spike Cream Woods photo shoot, we took it a set at a time, with burrowing breaks in between. I set up a scene, shot on high speed while she enjoyed sniffing the new environment and then she scurried off the set.

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Ginger takes a burrowing break under a fern while on the set for “The Spike Cream Woods” children’s book.

The photo shoot was special for Ginger — full of enrichment activities she doesn’t get to experience every day.

The secret in capturing the photos was in the speed of my professional camera and experience photographing Ginger. After taking pictures of her for fun for over a year, I had learned quite a bit about her behavior and how long I would have before she would get bored.

The most challenging set to shoot was the one where she was making her special ice cream treat. It was getting late. A storm was coming. There were multiple scenes on the same set with little new stimulation for Ginger. She quickly scurried off the scene several times before I could get a good shot of her absorbed in creating her treat. I placed her back until she clearly gave the message — excuse me, I’m the posh actress here. Missed the shot? Not my problem.

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Ginger looks like she is stirring her ice cream dish here but she is really trying to burrow under the giant porcupine quill.

So, I improvised my vision of what the photos might look like. I had captured several shots of Ginger playing under the porcupine quill. When I looked closely, I realized she looked like she was stirring the special ice cream treat she was creating. Perfect. I couldn’t have planned that.

Ginger made this book as much as I did. I wrote the storyline before I took the photos, but Ginger brought it to life.

I photographed her real self — shy, curious, scurrying, burrowing. She doesn’t really live in The Spike Cream Woods, but she really did visit.

Enjoy her adventure with a child, grandchild, niece or nephew by clicking this link. 

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

 

On hedgehog cysts and finding an exotic vet

Ginger finally found a vet clinic that really gets hedgehogs.

When we walked into Cedar Pet Clinic in Lake Elmo, just outside St. Paul, Minnesota, I immediately noticed hedgehogs were included in picture frames on the walls.

It put me at ease a little bit considering I’d already been to two vet clinics that said they treat hedgehogs but, in reality, the vets didn’t know much about them. The first couldn’t even explain what hedgehogs should eat. The second was kind enough to refer me to Cedar Pet Clinic for the future.

Ginger had a small, blackish lump on her tummy. When we went into the exam room to wait for the vet, I saw the staff had set out a hedgehog fleece for her on the exam table. Hedgehogs love warm fleece material. She scurried around on the exam table while we waited for the vet.

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Ginger makes herself at home on the exam table at Cedar Pet Clinic in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

When Dr. Charles Cosimini walked in, he was wearing a hedgehog tie! I told him all about Ginger’s lump and he gave me a cost for testing the lump before she went to the lab.

Thankfully, it was just a cyst, which completely drained away. However, Dr. Chuck saw a few round cells under the microscope, which is unusual for a cyst. They could be normal white blood cells that happened to be in the sample or an indication of a possible pre-malignant condition. We’ll have to keep an eye on the area.

It’s normal for cysts to regrow and they are not a problem unless they become infected or so large they interfere with activity. If Ginger’s cyst grows back, I will have it retested to confirm it is still noncancerous and has not turned into a tumor, considering her test results.

Unfortunately, cancer is common in hedgehogs. But I’m going for six years with Ginger, which is about 90 human years. Ginger is 2, or 30 in human years, right now. Most pet hedgehogs live for four to six years.

As Ginger came out from under her anesthesia, Dr. Chuck mentioned he had written a children’s book about his work with exotic pets: “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze.” He was excited to hear that Ginger is the star of my children’s book “The Spike Cream Woods.”

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Ginger comes out from under anesthesia after her lump was examined by her new vet Dr. Chuck, wearing a hedgehog tie with illustrations from his book “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze.”

I bought a copy of “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze” at the front desk. It tells silly stories of several exotic animals going to the vet. I found it clever that the hedgehog’s story addressed a real health issue that hedgehogs face — homes that are too chilly.

You can keep your hedgehog’s immune system in tip-top shape by ensuring your hedgehog’s room is kept at least at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If a hedgehog’s environment gets too chilly, they will attempt to hibernate.

Their body temperature begins to drop and they stay tightly rolled in a ball. African pygmy hedgehogs are not supposed to hibernate and they can die if not warmed up.
If your hedgehog attempts to hibernate, warm them up slowly by microwaving their favorite blanket and holding them close to your body in it. While hedgehogs can come out of hibernation attempts, it weakens their immune system.

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Ginger reads “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze” by Dr. Chuck.

Ginger attempted to hibernate this winter during Minnesota’s extreme temperatures when our heat turned up to max wasn’t enough. My husband Andrew and I invested in a new space heater to keep Ginger extra warm.

The best thing you can do for your hedgehog’s health and longevity is to keep them toasty warm.

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

Quill paradise: Thailand’s hedgehog cafe

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand. One of the city’s hidden tourist gems is Harinezumi Hedgehog Cafe.

Being the hedgehog fanatic I am, we booked a guest house just a block or two from the cafe so we could visit several times during our week’s stay in the heart of the city.

The cafe is managed by a local Thai, but is part of a hedgehog cafe chain from Japan, where animal and pet cafes have soared in popularity in recent years.

We were early to the cafe the morning after we arrived and peered through the windows at hedgehogs in glass cages next to a counter where you could sit and eat next to them. I was stunned because I saw peeking through the glass what looked like Ginger‘s Siamese twin!

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This cutie (Ginger’s Siamese twin?!) drew passersby into the cafe.

We were greeted by cheerful employees who obviously dearly love their hedgehogs. You can either order a drink or waffle and sit and watch the hedgehogs in their cages or pay a little extra to enjoy your drink and waffle and interact with a hedgehog.

We paid 300 Baht (about $10 USD) for the two-person deal: two drinks, two waffles and two hedgehogs would come out from the back room to play with us.

While we waited for our food, the servers seated us at a table where we could play with the hedgehogs they brought out from their back room. They brought out mealworms we could feed them, gloves if we thought their quills were a bit poky and there was hand sanitizer at the table to wash your hands before eating.

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This is Harry, a prized hedgehog at the cafe. He might be a bit overweight, but he was friendly.

When they brought out our food, they moved us to the counter where we could watch the hedgehogs in cages at the front of the cafe scurry or sleep while we ate scrumptious waffles with fruit and ice cream.

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The food was amazing – a variety of waffle flavors and toppings, with ice cream! And lots of flavorful drink options….

When we were finished, we went back to playing with our hedgehog playmates while we finished sipping our drinks. I ordered Thai tea and my husband had coffee.

Since we were the only early birds that morning, the manager of the shop brought out some of her other hedgehogs for us to see.

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The hedgehog cafe has about 30 hedgehogs they rotate from the cafe to their homes in the back of the building where they can rest. 

She said the shop has about 30 hedgehogs in the back. They take turns interacting with humans. I found the hedgehogs to be quite socialized and willing to interact with humans, as far as hedgehogs are concerned. It seemed like they had gotten used to trusting humans strangers as long as their keepers were around to gently reassure them and give them a break when they needed it.

The shop also has guinea pigs that you can interact with. My husband Andrew prefers guinea pigs over hedgehogs, so he fed them some grass for breakfast.

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You can also choose to interact with a fluffy guinea pig if quills aren’t your thing.

We visited the hedgehog cafe later in the week as well, both in the evening and afternoon, since hedgehogs are nocturnal. The cafe was busiest in the afternoon. We discovered that we could eat our waffles next to our hedgehog playmate if we requested it. Separating food and hedgehog interaction time appeared to be a default measure to help western tourists, who are not used to animal cafes, be at ease. Contrary to popular belief spread by an overprotective CDC in the U.S., hedgehogs rarely carry salmonella and animal cafes take precautions to keep their animals from contracting salmonella, just as western petting zoos do.

If you ever get the chance to visit, I would recommend it. The cafe was clean, the hedgehogs were well-loved and customers were given options as to how they would like to enjoy the hedgehogs and their food.

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This is almost paradise – Thai tea with a hedgehog!

The cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-round; you should check their website for updated information: http://harinezumi-cafe-chiangmai.com/. By the way, harinezumi is Japanese for hedgehog.

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

Birthday blessing: Miraculous appearing of a pet hedgehog

On my prayer list for August 2016 is listed a petition for a miraculous appearing of a pet hedgehog. It may have been a bit facetious, but God was listening.

About a month later, I was praying about something else and randomly opened my Bible. My eyes landed on Isaiah 14:23: “I will make it a possession of the hedgehog….” declares the Lord of hosts.” (ESV)

God was responding to my prayer for a pet hedgehog! Never mind that the context of the passage was about God bringing justice to those who had been mistreated by making their attacker’s land desolate and filled with hedgehogs, a desert creature. He was bringing His Word to life in response to my childlike prayer.

I started saving and researching hedgehog breeders. The only thing was, I really wanted a blonde girl hedgehog. I’d had a traditional salt-and-pepper (white with black bands) boy hedgehog as a child and wanted to mix it up. Blonde hedgehogs are not albinos; their quills are white with cinnamon and ginger colored banding due to a recessive gene, just like blonde-haired people.

I decided to sign up with a breeder that would put me on a waiting list for the next blonde girl born. I inquired with Otsego Hedgehogs in Minnesota a few days before my birthday in January 2017. I got on the waiting list a few days after my birthday. I knew it could be months since they couldn’t guarantee when another blonde girl would be born. Also, quill color and sex are not determined until the baby hedgehogs are a few weeks old.

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Ginger’s litter, February 2017.

But a couple weeks later the breeder sent me a text saying that it appears there were two blonde hedgehogs born in a litter of four January 29.

That was my birthday!

A week later, she let me know they were girls. I picked up my Ginger a few weeks later, a tiny prickly ball of a miracle.

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Ginger on her first day home, March 2017.

The playful way that God answered my childlike prayer for a miraculous appearing of a pet hedgehog is something that reminds me that He is listening when I am waiting for answers to more difficult things.

He might not always answer our prayers in the way or the timing that we would like, but we can be sure He is listening and cares about us in a way that we can’t fully comprehend.

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Ginger, a tiny miracle.

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

Nature therapy: How to let your pet hedgehog explore the great outdoors

Get your spiky friend out of the house and into the great outdoors for some nature therapy and enrichment.

African pygmy hedgehogs were bred for domestication from two types of wild African hedgehogs during the 20th century. They’ve still got some wild in them.

Although hedgehogs are kept as pets inside cages, you can increase your hedgehog’s enrichment by giving it numerous chances to explore the great outdoors. Enrichment is key to animal mental and physical health.

Here’s how to make sure your domesticated hedgehog has a fun and safe time outside in the late afternoon and evening:

No. 1: Monitor their temperature. A hedgehog’s environment needs to be kept at 72 degrees indoors, which means they should explore outdoors when it is 72 degrees or warmer. You can also keep your hedgehog warm in a pouch next to you if going on an adventure in weather 65 degrees or warmer. Hedgehogs can also enjoy going outside their pouch for short periods (5-10 minutes) when it is 65 degrees or warmer. You can monitor your hedgehog’s preference by noting at what temperature they curl up or aim to sniff and explore. Getting in some nature therapy whenever possible is important, especially if you live in a colder climate like Ginger does.

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It’s a nice warm day to enjoy the garden.

No. 2: Keep an eye out for gopher holes. Hedgehogs love scurrying about in the grass, exploring hedges and burrowing in leaves. It is imperative that you keep an eye on your hedgehog at all times to make sure they do not go into a gopher hole or deep into a hollow log. That being said, let your hedgehog have some free range. Exploring nature will likely increase your hedgehog’s mental and physical health, just as engaging with nature does for humans.

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Ahh, the aroma and rustle of old oak leaves.

No. 3: When your hedgehog finds a fun place to burrow, let them stay there for a bit. Hedgehogs are naturally burrowers and diggers. Their fun is in scurrying about and finding a unique place to burrow. It is exciting to watch your hedgehog explore and find a place to burrow. It is a bit boring to watch them snuggle into the leaves and then just sit there. But this is part of the fun for them. Let them take in the scents and textures. This is their nature therapy.

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I’m really enjoying the ferns, can I just stay in here for a while?

No. 4: Speak to them when it’s time to go inside. Just like children need a five-minute warning when it’s time to leave the playground, let your hedgehog know it’s time to go. Being in the great outdoors can decrease the natural anxiety hedgehogs are prone to but swiftly removing them from their cozy outdoor spot may mitigate their nature therapy session. Your hedgehog primarily senses the world through scent and sound, so talk to them. Let them know it’s you. Tell them it’s time to go inside for some mealworms.

Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.

Summer venture tips

It’s the height of summer and it’s time to take your hedgehog on a bona fide adventure on the town or maybe a jaunt to the countryside!

Follow these tips and tricks to help you and your hedgehog have a great time.

Bring the backpack

An out and about bag is essential for taking your hedgehog downtown or on a country drive. You can use a small bag or backpack outfitted for your ball of quills. Just make sure it isn’t air-tight. Use a bonding sack to line the bag so your hedgehog has something familiar to snuggle in. Pack food for snacks and baby wipes for cleaning up messes in a separate pouch.

You can wear your hedgehog on your back as you travel out and about. No one will even know until you bring her out; they might become suspicious if you have a hedgehog patch, however.

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I’m going on an adventure in my out and about bag!

Take a pic real quick

If you want pictures, they are best to take right away when you take your hedgehog out of its bag. Your hedgehog will be in a slight ball and be sniffing the air to get used to its surroundings before it uncurls and wants to either go back into its bag, crawl all over your arms or explore the great outdoors. You will have a short window to take a picture of your ball of quills before it uncurls and strangers start noticing its cuteness.

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If you’re going to take a picture of me with this fluffy cotton candy, you better do it quickly before that kid sees me.

Manage the strangers

Inevitably, when you take your hedgehog out of its bag, strangers around you will ooo, aww and ask questions. They will ask to pet your hedgehog. It is good to socialize your hedgehog, so let people know they can pet your hedgehog on the bottom of its back but to avoid the face area. Too many strange people poking at the forehead is a sure way to get your hedgehog to curl into a tight ball. Make sure you talk sweetly to your hedgehog as it meets new people to let it know you are still there. Make sure you tell strangers they should wash their hands afterward.

Let em have their way

If your hedgehog is scrambling a lot, let them down to the ground to go to the bathroom. Sometimes hedgehogs need to go soon after they wake up. Or maybe they want to explore. Or go back in their bag because there are too many exuberant strangers. It’s your job to discern when your hedgehog has had enough and say sorry, but you can’t pet my hedgehog today to the next stranger you see along the way.

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Let me down so I can get some ice cream, please!

Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.

 

Things to bring for your hedgehog’s road trip

Yes, you can take your hedgehog to the family cabin, camping or even pet-friendly hotels.

 

Ginger went on her first weekend road trip before she was even fully grown. After the trip, I noticed she was more used to me and huffed and puffed less. Taking your hedgehog on a road trip can help your hedgehog bond with you.

 

Here’s what you’ll need to make the adventure as stress-free as possible:

 

Travel bag: Bring your hedgehog in the car in a portable travel bag. I use a small bag with a ventilation hole that I buckle into the back seat. Remember, put your ball of quills in the back seat, not up front where an air bag could damage their little body. Hedgehogs are content to burrow in these bags for hours without making a peep. I also put her favorite snuggle sack in the bag to make it even comfier.

 

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Buckle your ball of quills in the back seat, not the front seat. Air bags can hurt your hedgehog’s fragile body just like a baby.

 

Baby wipes: You will want these along to clean up your hedgehog after they take a pit stop. Yes, when you get out of the car to stretch and go to the bathroom you should also let your hedgehog run around on the grass. They will likely go to the bathroom, too. If it is during the day time, make sure to let them out every few hours as hedgehogs often get up during the day at some point to go to the bathroom and have a snack in their cage. Be patient as they may need to get used to the surroundings before going to the bathroom or eating.

 

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Your hedgehog can take a rest area break just like you.

 

Food, snacks, water: Bring along a sufficient supply of food and water for the trip and keep a small amount accessible in the car to offer to your hedgehog along the way.

 

Portable cage: You’ll want to have a cage that is not too small and not too big; at least about 18 inches wide and long for weekend road trips and larger for week-long trips. You will also want it to be tall enough to fit your hedgehog’s wheel if you are going for more than one night. Collapsible kennels for dogs or cats work well. Make sure you can completely secure the opening or sew on snaps like I did to this cat tent. Have your hedgehog test out the kennel or tent for at least one day a few days before your trip so they can get used to it and so you know there are no issues with the cage.

 

Wheel: When Ginger went on her first road trip, she was not fully grown so she could still use her smaller baby wheel on the trip. Once your hedgehog is fully grown, you should bring their wheel along if at all possible to help them keep their energy up. Hedgehogs will not die without a wheel for a week, however. I had a hedgehog in the ‘90s when no one knew about wheels for hedgehogs. Hokey Pokey lived a full hedgehog life although I am sure he would have been more fit and happy with a wheel.

 

Sleeping hut: Don’t forget to bring their favorite sleeping hut or pouch to put in their cage at night so they can burrow in it and feel like they are at home.

 

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Ginger’s first camping set up included a small tent, her strawberry sleeping hut, small wheel, small litter tray and food and water bowls. 

 

Food and water bowls: If you only use a water bottle, you will have to find a portable cage it can be attached to. But now might be a good time to train your hedgehog to also drink from a water dish. I personally use both in her cage at home in case she spills her dish or the water bottle leaks. Side note: If you do use a water bottle, make sure the ball and spout are large enough so that your hedgehog can get enough water out and also not get its tongue stuck in the spout. Hedgehogs love water. Try one with a 16mm diameter. 

 

Small litter tray: I abandoned the litter tray after the first night on our road trip because her weekend cage was just too small for her not to create a litter trail to her food and water bowls. I think she enjoyed just going on her wheel. 🙂

 

Thermometer, emergency blanket, hand warmers: Bring along the thermometer you use to monitor your hedgehog’s room temperature at home. If you don’t have one, get one that tells you the high and low temperature over 24 hours. If the temperature drops below 72 degrees and your hedgehog’s face or tummy feels chilled, you will need to cuddle them or wrap them in a blanket surrounded by an emergency blanket or hand warmers until they are again fully warm to the touch. When a hedgehog’s tummy turns cold, they could be attempting to hibernate, which is dangerous for their health. Before you travel, check the weather to determine whether it is wise to bring your hedgehog along if you are not able to control the temperature of your lodging.

When I brought Ginger camping at my parent’s farm for one day she slept in her little tent during the day (her night) when it was warm but I put it in the cabin overnight (her day) because the temperature was going to drop too low.

 

Camera: You’ll want to capture lots of memories with your ball of quills on your road trip! Take shots at scenic areas and don’t be afraid to pull over just for a photo shoot break.

 

One more thing: Enjoy the journey!

 

 

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Going on a road trip with your hedgehog can bring you to new places in your relationship with your ball of quills.

 

 

Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze. 

 

 

Good grief: Face your hedgehog’s death with tears

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.

 

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I have kept some of Hokey Pokey’s quills for nearly 20 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers to FAQs about hedgehogs

Everywhere I go with my little ball of quills people want to know who she is . . . so I tell them.

 

Yes, she’s a hedgehog. Her name is Ginger. She’s blonde — not albino — a recessive gene that makes her quills cinnamon and ginger-colored. Hedgehogs are born in many shades  — salt and pepper or chocolate brown are the most common.

 

No, she doesn’t release her quills like a porcupine. Actually, they are technically spines, not quills. They feel bristly like a hairbrush or beard, but you might get poked if she curls into a ball.

 

Yes, she might be nervous or shy about meeting you, which is why she starts to curl into a ball.  Or she might be tired. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and she probably ran a few miles on her exercise wheel last night. When she gets up in the late afternoon, it is early morning for her and she sticks out her two-inch long tongue and yawns. If she makes a huffing noise, then she is really nervous.

 

No, it’s not too hard to take care of her. She eats cat food, mealworms, eggs and fruit. She lives in a rabbit hutch inside, which needs to be cleaned often. She uses a litter box, but not 100 percent. She often has an urge while exercising on her wheel. To give her a bath, I brush her with a toothbrush in warm water with oatmeal soap and coconut oil.

 

Yes, she was expensive. I got her for $250 from a breeder. I took her home at six weeks old. She is full size at six months. She went through the “terrible twos” when she shed her baby quills and grew in adult quills. It is uncomfortable, like a baby teething. She was grumpy and curled into a ball and made huffing noises more often.

 

No, she is not a wild animal native to the U.S. She is an African pygmy hedgehog, which was bred for domestication from two types of wild hedgehogs about 30 years ago. She looks and acts differently than wild hedgehogs in Africa, Asia and Europe. She still has some wild nature in her; the more time I spend with her, the tamer she becomes. She loves to snuggle in a blanket.

 

Yes, she is a great pet — but not for everyone. She needs a lot of unconditional love, understanding and fortitude. She is near-sighted so she can’t see well what is going on around her, which is why she can be timid. I spend lots of time with her so she gets to know my voice and smell. I pet her from her nose to her back so she knows it is me. But she still huffs and puffs into a spiky ball sometimes.

 

No, she won’t live long. The lifespan of domesticated hedgehogs is four years. They are susceptible to cancer and a neurological condition called wobbly hedgehog syndrome. They can also get mites or infections. There are vets who treat hedgehogs.

 

Yes, she is adorable. She slowly pokes out her snout out from her ball of quills as she sniffs the world and uncurls. She explores her surroundings and then finds a cozy place to burrow. If she comes across an interesting smell, she will lick and chew the object, salivate and spread the new smell on her quills, a normal behavior called “anointing.” She is camouflaging herself with the smell, or perhaps wants to perfume herself. No one really knows why.

 

Yes, ask me more questions. I love talking about her. She is fascinating — both cuddly and prickly, a pet for those who are intrigued by paradoxes and enjoy an adventurous challenge.

 

Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze. 

This article was originally published as a column in the White Bear Lake Press, where she is an editor. 

http://www.presspubs.com/vadnais/opinion/article_078c3a8e-602d-11e7-9306-4f52812ed588.html

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