Christmas approaches and homes are festooned with twinkling lights,
decorated trees, and culturally inaccurate Nativity sets populated
by what appear to be Scandinavian fashion models, my thoughts always
turn to hedgehogs. Yes, hedgehogs.
You see, at some point in the distant past (before bras, braces, boyfriends,
and other omens of my impending doom), my middle daughter declared
that she'd like to have a real live 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 middle child. It ranked right
up there with her aspirations to become a professional coin-operated
claw machine performer. I just dismissed the idea as an innocent,
childhood fantasy because I naturally assumed that it was impossible,
if not illegal, to own a hedgehog, not to mention that they were probably
poisonous-and only existed in children's books.
A few months later, I entered my yearly Christmas shopping panic,
and I came across a Facebook post about a woman in nearby Mineola,
Texas, breeding and selling hedgehogs. "Ludicrous!" I thought.
This had to be one of those ironic Facebook hoaxes, like the one about
Donald Trump actually being a Klingon. Sucker that I am, though, I
called the number on the Facebook post (fully expecting to be connected
to someone in Nigeria with an exciting investment opportunity), spoke
to the hedgehog lady, and made arrangements to purchase my first hedgehog
for about the price of a small private jet.
But, of course, it wasn't that simple. The hedgehog lady needed to
unload the hedgehog by Thanksgiving to make room for additional hedgehogs.
(Apparently, female hedgehogs can actually give birth to baby 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 touch them
at all without risking dismemberment from hedgehog shrapnel.
To make a long
story even longer, I had to help Santa keep this fiasco a secret.
So for a solid month, I spent thirty minutes every morning before
showering, and thirty minutes every night before bed, in my walk-in
closet, gently caressing what looked like the love child of a small
possum and a box of toothpicks. It only took one session to determine
that underwear alone is not appropriate hedgehog-cuddling attire.
Christmas morning finally came, and, once again, Santa got all the
credit. But what mattered the most was that my daughter was in heaven
over the new addition to our own private zoo. (We welcome visitors
for $100 per pound-of visitor.)
Over the course of the next year, suffering from some kind of spiny-mammal
mania, I made three more visits to purchase hedgehogs from the hedgehog
lady, who is by now likely drawing up construction plans for The
Jase Graves Hedgehog Sanctuary. (Realizing we had exceeded our hedgehog
capacity, though, we have since re-homed two of them to friends
we like to laugh at.)
The bottom line is that our two remaining hedgehogs have provided
all three of my daughters several minutes of happiness and given
me something to do on lazy Sunday afternoons when we get out the
backhoe and hazmat suits to clean their cages. And the unpleasant
little animals have actually grown on me. The African pygmy hedgehog
is a rather surly nocturnal creature that will tolerate humans,
but prefers to be left alone-my spirit animal, basically. As a bonus,
they're also relatively quiet and odorless (ok, so we aren't exactly
the same). And you haven't truly lived until you've trimmed an uncooperative
hedgehog's toenails (again, pants required).
So this Christmas, if you want to surprise your family with a unique
gift that will provide them with companionship and fun (at least
until the novelty wears off), consider a pet hedgehog. I have two
for sale now. Heck, I'll even throw in a pair of toenail clippers
and a gently-used hazmat suit.