As 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 nearby 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, 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. (Don’t ask.)
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.
Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. Contact Graves at email@example.com.