For a few years in the '90's it was au courant to have African pygmy hedgehogs as house pets. In reality it was a terrible idea. These tiny nocturnal loners need a remarkable amount of space to roam to keep them healthy and sane. Few pet owners understood that and there were many hedgehogs who passed away before their time from improper handling. It was a sad situation.
I will never forget the day my 13 year old son jumped into the car after school and announced that we had to go to the house of someone named Roger to pick up the hedgehog my son had paid him $40 for that very morning. Whaaaaaa? I didn't know who Roger was, barely knew what a hedgehog was and I certainly had not been asked nor even told that my son was going to purchase one! But the money had been paid out and my allergy to other animals had denied my son a pet all his life, so..........off we went to Roger's. First of all we made a stop at the local pet store to find a book on the care and feeding of hedgehogs and the purchase of a small wire cage to bring him home in.
We got to Roger's and went in to discover that Roger's parents were breeding hedgehogs in large aquarium tanks. I was horrified. Other than a feeding dish there was nothing to amuse them or to give them proper exercise. Instead of being upset with my son for buying a baby hedgehog I was just happy to be releasing one of the poor creatures from its dreadful existence. Eli named him Chewbacca and off we went home.
Chewy took over our lives........and our home. We realized the first night that he needed far more space than the cage we had would permit him to enjoy and by the end of the first week he had taken over the entire dining room of our house. For the nearly 4 years he lived with us we served our guests their meals in the living room, where we had moved our dining room suite. Chewy required new papers each morning and it took a half hour to recover the floor. Finding his beloved mealy worms to eat was not that easy in a rural town outside of fishing season. Dell built him a large set of ramps so he could get more exercise. Chewy loved to run about the living room when I allowed him a bigger run, and usually headed straight for the coat closet where he would curl into the toe of my winter boot and sleep for the day. If I tried to remove him before he was ready he would hiss, and swell out his spines to maximum length so that I couldn't get my hand in to remove him and a spatula had to be called into duty to roll him out without hurting him. He loved to bath in the kitchen sink and afterward would curl up in the hollow of my neck, wrapped in a small towel, to dry off. When Eli got tired of taking care of Chewy after a year, and was planning to sell him, I capitulated at last and admitted I loved the little guy, paid Eli $40 and kept Chewy right where he was.
Who else could make me laugh the way Chewy could when he made one of his rare escapes and snuck inside my purse, sitting with his cute little face staring out at me? Who could scare me as badly when he would escape at night and run under our bed, scaring me senseless as he ran through the Christmas wrapping paper I stored under there. The first time he got out of his living space I was certain someone had broken into the house and I lay in bed terrified until he ran out from under the bed and jumped into the small garbage can in the bathroom. hahaha I loved that little animal. He reminded me of me.........a loner, prickly with strangers, demanding nothing but to have his own space, a decent meal and to be otherwise left alone.
When Chewy developed pleurisy one winter and passed away from it I was heart broken. I don't cry when animals die but I had a strong sense of loss for several months afterward. Due to my allergies and asthma I had never had a pet I could keep for such a long time. Chewy didn't bother my health. I am hard on myself with animals because I am so aware of their complete dependence on being cared for and so I worry too much. So in that sense I suppose it was a relief not to have to worry about a pet any more, but to this day I miss the little guy.
Owning African pygmy hedgehogs has apparently passed out of fashion at last, at least out here on the prairies, and I am so grateful for that. Unless they are treated properly their minds go snap very easily and it is wrong wrong wrong to do that to an animal......or a people.......