Sea Glass: Goldfish, hermit crabs and hedgehogs
I’ve never had much luck with pets.
Due to allergies in my family, I couldn’t ever have a cat or dog. I tried fish for a few years, starting with a goldfish, Little Foot, that I won at a summer carnival when I was about 4. Poor Little Foot, so named for a character in “The Land Before Time” dinosaur movies, lasted only a day, as I dumped the whole can of food into his bowl.
It was downhill with pet fish from there. I tried hermit crabs next, after playing with a childhood friend’s and deciding they were cute and fun. My brother and sister and I built them forts and Lego mazes, and watched them switch from one shell to the next as they grew. They were fun and cute, until they started to turn cannibalistic. I was very attached to them, and it was utterly tragic when one made a snack of the other.
Throughout high school and most of college, I was pet-less. It wasn’t until my last semester at UNH that I cared for an animal of my own. The change came when I purchased a hedgehog for my boyfriend, Joel. Joel had fallen in love with a hedgehog belonging to a girl who lived in the apartment above his, and I decided to get one for him as a birthday gift. I contacted a breeder about an hour away from school and we went to pick up the hedgehog, whom Joel named Quilliam Shakespeare. Little did we know, but hedgehogs get carsick; the poor thing threw up the whole way home.
Nevertheless, I quickly grew fond of Quilliam, who had to live in my room because it was quieter than Joel’s apartment. He was (and still is) a feisty little thing, and enjoys eating, running on his wheel, burrowing and sleeping in blankets and not much else. Hedgehogs have got the right idea about life.
When we found out that a local pet store had a litter of hedgehogs for sale, I knew I had to have one of my own. Enter Puck, a baby hedgie named for the character in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and keeping with the Shakespearean precedent set by Quilliam. At first, Puck resembled a sea urchin about 99 percent of the time; he curled up tight at the slightest sound or movement or touch. Today, he’s much more outgoing, though he’s still very temperamental. He now doesn’t mind having behind his ears or his stomach rubbed, but he still hates having the top of his head touched and he absolutely loathes baths.
Puck’s a strange little creature. He loves treats, mainly freeze dried mealworms, and will not eat any of the hedgehog formula that I tried at first; he prefers cat food. Puck sometimes enjoys running around outside, though he’s very cautious now, after a chance encounter with a caterpillar. He’s scared of bugs, which he could eat if he wanted to, but not of the vacuum cleaner or blow dryer. He runs for hours each night on his wheel, and could happily play in a blanket for hours as well.
Strangely enough, it’s this little ball of quills that has kept me sane thus far. I moved here, not knowing anyone, but I always had Puck. He doesn’t provide quite the same level of company as, say, a dog, but we hang out just the same. He curls up on my lap and falls asleep while I watch TV, or does laps around the living room while I read. Just knowing that I have another living, breathing creature in the house with me (besides the moths that inevitably find their way in) is a comfort. It’s not quite as lonely.
Taking care of a hedgehog is very different from caring for fish or even hermit crabs. Obviously, hedgehogs are a bit smarter and more receptive to being held, and it’s possible to build a trusting relationship with them. Caring for Puck has added another responsibility to my life but, in a weird way, it has also allowed me to be a kid again. I still get excited every time I take Puck out of his cage to play with him, and delight in the fact that he’s trusting me more and more each day.
I think my luck is finally changing.