I need a hedgehog. I didn’t know I needed one but then some friends and I decided to take a road trip to Texas for a photography workshop. Not long into the workshop, we discovered some of our models would be a trio of Lion Head Rabbits, two guinea pigs, one chinchilla, and a hedgehog in a teacup (no golden rings but we did have silver bowls). The hedgehog, who seemed oblivious of her adoring fans, was clearly the favorite of the weekend.
This is our second retreat at The Refuge Cabin. We are hooked by the hospitality and deep peace which surrounds this log cabin in the woods of east Texas. For this particular weekend, we packed our DSLR cameras, a cooler full of snacks, and with much anticipation arrived for a small, intimate gathering of eager photo enthusiasts. While I had the agenda of all business, it quickly became clear that this weekend was to be heavy on inspiration and creativity.
When our instructor announced we’d have some furry friends joining us for a photoshoot, I didn’t think much of it. As our human model arrived with cages of critters, the smell of small mammals reminded me of my science room in elementary school. There’s a distinctive odor of wood chip bedding and hamster food. My mind flooded with memories of how each student took turns bringing the class hamster home. It was our job to make sure the class pet was properly cared for when school was out on holiday.
After my first year of having a class pet, I convinced my parents to let me buy my own hamster. I had quite the setup: a huge cage with orange and yellow tunnels. I even purchased a clear plastic ball for the hamster so he could run around the house. Our dog, Muffy, a small black and white terrier mutt, went bonkers when I put my hamster in that ball. The hamster would run into Muffy and in return, Muffy would push the ball around the house, sending the hamster jostling and tumbling around like he was in a washing machine. The worst was when the hamster gathered up speed and made a bee-line for the stairs. The poor hamster had quite the trip down a long flight of stairs. As with most kids, after a year or so, I grew tired of cleaning the cage and catching my hamster every time he chewed his way out. So, we found another home for him.
My interest in furry critters faded with the re-homing of my hamster. That interest seems to have been rekindled after my weekend with a hedgehog. Far from the expected workshop, my fellow students and I were delighted to take photos of models in fancy dresses and create a dreamy tea party in the woods. Surprisingly, I looked forward to playing with adorable and cuddly animals. It felt like a mix of raiding grandma’s cabinets to play dress-up in the woods and Alice in Wonderland.
The lion head rabbits and chinchilla were cute and elicited the expected giggles and oohs-and-ahhs. In contrast, when Ilse, our model, held out a prickly black and white ball with a teeny-tiny twitching shiny black nose, everyone let out a collective screech of, “Oh my goodness! How cute!”.
For me, my heart melted and I decided I needed a hedgehog.
My experience with hedgehogs begins and ends with Sebastion from the movie adaptation of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. To see one in person had me absolutely tickled and this little lady was the star of the weekend. Clearly, I had no idea how cute hedgehogs could be. I love how her face scrunches as if in a permanent pucker and her pink feet are a stark contrast to her black and cream quills that shimmered silver in the outdoor sun. When she had enough of sitting in a teacup or bowl, or of the frenzy of ogling paparazzi, she’d curl up into a prickly ball as a not-so-subtle hint to give her space. It never took long for her to pop her head out wondering if all was clear. Then, she’d explore among the silver chalices, bowls, stacks of books, fruit, or the wicker picnic basket.
I’m not one to desire animals in my home. I was clearly joking when I declared I wanted my very own hedgehog. But, watching this little lady, I wondered if a hedgehog might possibly be a nice companion as I work from home. Even my husband adored the photos I took of the hedgehog, which surprised me. There was something about her prickly exterior, soft belly, sweet face, and her resolve to curl up and shut out the world when it gets too overwhelming. Perhaps we’re soul friends. On top of that, she made me smile.
Who knows…maybe I need a hedgehog after all.