A short story

My heart slammed fast in my chest when I noticed the little prickly fellow shoved to the side of the dirt road. A tractor caught him with its wheels, no doubt. Half expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, I hurried to inspect the forlorn critter.

“Well, hello there.” I added a cheerful tone to my voice when his beady brown eyes met mine. Perhaps he would understand I was a friend.

Picking him up, gingerly, as you might imagine, it became clear the hedgehog was a mere babe. His spines, although turning brown, were pinkish and short.

“Whatever happened to you handsome?” He sniffed the air thoughtfully as I held him up to see where he was hurt. “Hm. No sign of anything serious” I told him, but something was wrong. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been lying in an odd position, in the middle of the day, unmoving.

At the time, I lived many miles from a vet or wildlife sanctuary. It would have taken a ferry ride to the mainland the unearth specialist help. So I held the pip-squeak close to my body with one hand — the other held my dog’s leash — and traipsed home.

“It will have fleas, you know,” my neighbor advised as we passed. “Better put him out of his misery.”

Unconvinced he was in ‘that’ much torment, I did what any cutting-edge animal lover would do. I Googled him.

I determined my new friend was a hoglet (baby hedgehog). When junior, they forage with their mother for a while. Where he was located, however, there were no gardens or even hedges, just stone walls skirting a lengthy road. He was solitary. Abandoned, or orphaned, and conceivably hungry.

What do hoglets eat? I tapped the challenge into the search engine. The answer, if you couldn’t find mass-produced hedgehog food, was low-fat feline food. A modicum of fruit, too, and carrot.

“Are you hungry Hoglet?” I enquired. He waggled his dinky legs and gawked at me. “Here, try this.”

Hoglet inhaled my offering, a squishy chunk of kitty food held between my fingers next to his nose. He was shy at first, tentatively licking my contribution. Then he squeaked, and I felt the warmth of his breath on my fingers as he dug into the food.

By now, I had also swathed him in a soft towel, having learned hoglets get cold. As he warmed up, after I — excuse my wording — went the whole hog and wrapped the towel over a hot water bottle and placed him on top, he was more active.

I turned into a surrogate hoglet mother that day and spent many more caring for my spiny charge. Soon, his confidence and prickles grew, and he was ready to go it alone.

As with all the wild creatures I’ve helped over the years, I missed Hoglet. Sometimes I combed my garden, resting my eyes on each blade of grass, thicket, and shrub, hoping to see him. Mostly, though, I was thrilled he was well enough to go back to nature and live the life meant for him.

Copyright © 2018 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved

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Independent content creator, ghostwriter, author https://tinyurl.com/y2cgqhgv mental health advocate, and poet. bridgetwebbber@outlook.com

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