The story of a boy and his many hedgehogs…
I thought at first that Hedgie here (formerly Baby Hedgie) was what really kicked off Christopher's obsession with hedgehogs. Hedgie came from one of the The Enchanted Forest gift shops (an Oregon tourist attraction); he was a 3rd birthday present to Christopher from his big sister. Hedgie is slightly smaller than a pear, and of a similar shape. Look at those flippy little ears, and that tiny smile! He is seriously the cutest toy hedgehog I've ever seen.
But then I remembered some of the hints in the past. There was Daddy Hedgie, who started life as a *koff* dog toy. My parent's dog didn't care for him, but Christopher sure did. He toddled around their house at age 2 with Daddy Hedgie draped over his shoulder, and finally my parents decided it should come home with us. Daddy Hedgie used to make this great noise that was halfway between gronk and a wheeze, but sadly, no more:
However, even Daddy Hedgie was not the beginning. No, I am fairly convinced that the early imprint below is probably responsible for starting the whole thing:
Yes, Mrs. Tiggywinkle herself. Christopher used to love having me read the Beatrix Potter books to him—even though I had to translate some of the language on the fly, he wanted to hear these stories, starting somewhere before 18 months. So Mrs. Tiggywinkle was one of his early memories, a good 6-8 months before Daddy Hedgie was even a blip on the horizon.
We also have this wonderful Molly Brett picture that I coincidentally found at Goodwill. All I did was touch up the frame, and voila! This is actually in our living/family room. Note the hedgehog at the far right:
And after Christopher acquired Baby Hedgie, I ran into this other Molly Brett picture at an antique store. This excerpt features the train porter:
We also can't discount the influence of Jan Brett. After buying her illustrated "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," our next purchase was "Trouble With Trolls." This book has an entire second story in the detailed margins, which features guess what? Yes—a hedgehog!
Brett's "Hedgie's Surprise" is another favorite, for obvious reasons. Brett draws wonderful hedgehogs.
The next member of the hedgehog family was Brother Hedgie. I found him at Walgreen's and got him as a Valentine's Day present for Christopher. I offered to remove the "Hedge Huggs" heart, but Christopher actually likes it (I've even sewn it back on when it came loose):
Then my sister sent us this hand-me-down, which apparently is the official Beanie Baby hedgehog, now Mama Hedgie. Seriously, this is one of the lamest Beanie Babies ever—it doesn't even have fur! But the detail on the nose/whiskers is very good. The hedgehog breeder we visited has two of these in her shed:
And last but not least we have these two little critters, both of which came from Safeway and I believe are also *koff* dog toys. One is Sister Hedgie, and the other is Uncle Hedgie or Cousin Hedgie or who-knows-what. I'll call him Random Relative Hedgie. I can't tell them apart, but Christopher seems to think he can. I don't care for the color much, but these chirp when you squeeze their tummies, which is very cute. Sometimes I'll be reading to Christopher in bed, and I'll hear "Chit! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch!" and think, "What was that? Oh. Ha! I did that. I'm leaning on someone. Oops."
Now, can you spot all the hedgies in this Bed of Noses picture? Yes, this is pretty much what the upper corner of Christopher's bed looks like. There's hardly room for him!
How'd you do? Did you find all 6 hedgies, but no extras?
And from my aunt and uncle, who are paring down their possessions in that depressing way that the elderly do (my last visit was kind of somber), we have these fantastic little things. Cast iron, from Bulgaria if I recall correctly, these are nested hedgehogs which were perfect for Christopher! I tried to show some of the detail in the metal—there are distinct ears, some "spine" texture, and eyes. Aren't they something?
And thanks to a bizarre book we read called, "Donuthead," the concept of a porcupine stampede was recreated on our camping trip this year as a hedgehog stampede. With some of the hedgies facing the wrong way:
And there you have the history of Christopher and his hedgehogs! Which leads us nicely into part two, the visit to the hedgehog farm.
Hedgehog Farm Visit
One of my sister's closest friends apparently got a couple of hedgehogs in the last year, and she wants to breed them. She contacted a breeder online, who happens to live about 10 minutes from my parents' house, and had a male for breeding and a female to send along too. These will stay temporarily at the friend's house with her two females, while breeding goes on.
The hedgehogs are kept in a portable shed, which is temperature controlled. The breeder has about 30 of them (!), including several borders who come regularly. They're all kept in cages that are the size used for guinea pigs, complete with water bottle and racing wheel. ;) One of the first things the breeder did was lift up a "habitat igloo" so we could see a female with her little spiny baby. Both were in ball form, and the baby was about the size of a plum. That was really cute. :D
The breeding male was a chubby little thing, and very nervous. He immediately formed a very round chittering ball, and it took some 15 minutes before we even saw a nose. It was hard to tell where his head was, at first! He hadn't been handled much, and will need some socializing. His spines were the typical alternating gray/brown, like Brother Hedgie above, and his nose was black (snout too). Apparently these are called "pintos," which was a surprise—I was expecting something unattractive with splotches.
This other color I'm not familiar with. It's a sort of cream color (they're called "apricot" hedgehogs). There were two of these, the first named Vanilla Bean, who is the breeding female. She was very active, and it was hard to keep her from crawling off the edge of the blanket into nowhere!
The second is Snuffleupagus, who loves to explore everything with his nose. We got our fingers snorfled (but never nibbled or bitten) by this one quite a lot.
Christopher of course immediately wanted a hedgehog of his own. By this time his father was back in the car because the shed kicked up an allergy, so there's very little chance of that happening. But still, it makes for a nice photo!
All in all, a wonderful visit. I wish now I'd take more photos—these were much blurrier than I expected, partly because two of the hedgehogs were really active and also because I turned off the flash to avoid scaring the hedgies.
And for your random pleasure, have some Internet photos:
This one's a Swedish hedgehog:
And here's a Hedgehog-Meets-Toy-Hedgie photo. Sadly, hedgehogs have terrible eyesight and identify things mostly by smell. So the hedgehog in this picture is probably thinking, "This blob smells like nothing."
And lastly, this incredibly cute little guy, whom I made into an icon (which I so rarely do). Feel free to snag him:
And, the blog of Numo, the world's now most famous hedgehog is here, for more cute pictures!
So what do you think? Ready to get one of your own now?