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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Happiness Is A Warm Hedgehog

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We have a perfectly good dog.  She’s a nine-year-old Siberian husky named Juneau.  Her arrival in our lives coincides with my last weak moment.

What I love about Juneau is that she is long past the puppy stage.  She has settled into a quiet, late-middle-aged dog who calmly patrols the backyard.  This is a huge improvement upon the digging, ripping-open-trash, nipping, yapping, chewing, tearing-off-her-collar, barfing, jumping, running away, yanking the leash, wetting on the porch stage.

Juneau has just enough funny habits to keep her interesting.  For instance, though she never barks, she howls like a wolf when our town’s six o’clock whistle blows.  In a show of canine companionship, she holds our daughter Clementine’s wrist lightly in her teeth as they explore the yard. And when a possum manages to sneak under the fence, she grabs it by the head, gives it one good shake to break its neck, and coolly drops it by the backdoor as a gift for us.

She’s also a beautiful dog, with her gray and white fur, curly tail, alert ears, and crystal blue eyes.  I actually don’t have much of a complaint against Juneau these days.  So, since we have this lovely pet, why do we need another one?

I received a text the other day that simply read, “I’m getting a hedgehog.”  This text came from the teenaged girl who is leaving for college in two years -- you know, the one who’s going on a school trip for two weeks, attending two camps, working as a lifeguard, and waitressing this summer?  Since this text seemed capricious, I adopted my “ignore-it-long-enough-and-it-will-go-away” attitude as my first line of defense. On rare occasions, this strategy works.  I cheerfully went about working at my computer, sipping my hot tea as if no such worrying missive had come through.

A few minutes later, a second text came in with a link to an online buy-sell-trade site.  I resisted the urge to click, but the thumbnail revealed a photo of a cute little ball of quills perched in someone’s hand.  I knew I’d have to implement strategy two, which is the cop out. I texted back, “Looks like a fabulous pet for your dad’s house.”

There the issue rested -- for two days.  Just as I was beginning to marvel that I only had to implement two steps in the Emergency Parenting Intervention Crisis Strategy, otherwise known as EPICS, Millie casually mentioned that she might go “just look” at some baby hedgehogs in a nearby town.  Now, anyone who has ever seen a hoglet (yes, that’s really what baby hedgehogs are called) knows that “just looking” is a euphemism for “committing to buy and relegate your mother to the position of hedgehog caretaker for the lifespan of the animal (which admittedly isn’t that sustained at four to six years, but still plenty long to make said mother’s life a living hell for the duration).”

It was time to implement step three: logic.  With teens, logic is step I often skip.  I don’t think I need to go into my reasons.  However, with Millie now 16, I thought I might give it another go.  I explained that since she was going to be gone so much this summer, I thought it might be a little too much to expect her dad to take care of her new pet that long. Also, there’s the whole Juneau-breaking-the-necks-of-small-rodents thing.

Even though I haven’t really taught Millie about ethos, pathos, and logos, she displays remarkable skill in using these appeals, especially pathos.  I put my fingers in my ears and shouted, “la-la-la-la-la,” but I still heard something about adorable, nocturnal creatures . . . great pets for busy individuals . . . solitary animals . . . don’t need much stimulation . . . gentle . . . don’t take much room.

Now that I’ve done a little research, I’ve learned that hedgies even poop while running on their exercise wheel at night, essentially creating a broadcast seeder for turds.  I think it’s time to implement the final step in EPICS, which is dictatorial control.  For now, the answer is “no.”  Unfortunately, now that I have searched for facts about hedgehogs online, I’m inundated with ads for the endearing little things every time I get on my computer, so I can only hope I hold out.  I’m doing well so far, as I haven’t started thinking of names yet, although I do think “Quillow” is awfully cute.

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.