How One “Hedgehog Lady” Reignited Her Sense of Purpose

When a baby hedgehog needed a home, this woman stepped in without hesitation.

I’ve been a “Hedgehog Lady” for almost a decade, a known spike whisperer, someone who usually has an emotional support animal so inconspicuous, you wouldn’t even know when I brought him to work, nestled in a pouch against my body, sleeping the day away as nocturnal creatures are wont to do. In time, I’ve learned a lot of secrets and loved many, but it all started with a Craigslist ad back in 2013…

I was puttering around the Internet when something suddenly caught my eye: a pudgy pincushion, all rolls of fat and wrinkles, only the size of a golf ball and dwarfed by the hand holding him. The ad read: “HELP! My hedgehog abandoned her two babies, and I cannot go to school full-time and hand raise both of them. Good home with experience needed ASAP!”

I had absolutely no experience with baby hedgehogs. I was an animal person through and through and had raised orphan kittens, guinea pigs, birds, turtles. But this tiny creature was new to me, and it touched me that he was rejected, that maybe I could love him and be the best mom for him. I had suffered a miscarriage at four months not long before and was lonely for a little baby to need me.

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I wrote the most heartfelt plea I could, that I had a feeling we needed one another and I already loved him. That was how I found my Louie. True to my word, he was my baby. He soon developed a sense of confidence and swagger outsized to his little form. Lou didn’t know he was a hedgehog, didn’t know that he had an expertly evolved defense mechanism in his spikes. He never spiked up or curled into a ball, and he adored my two cats, no fear. The cats, however, were (rightfully) afraid of him, as he had a tendency to barrel into the room, peeping up a storm (like a baby bird) and being generally mischievous (chasing the cats and harassing my feet).

By the time he reached old age, rambunctious Louie had only three feet and used his stump like a peg leg. He was still a “Houdini Hog” and staged elaborate escapes from his enclosure, climbing the stairs to visit the other hedgehogs and peep loudly at them. He was perfectly unique and completely at ease, no matter what. He helped me realize my dream of hedgehog photography, a hobby that began during childhood with guinea pigs and dollhouses. I love showing off his modeling.

Life has meaning because of the purpose we imbue. Lou needed a good home and mom, and in return, I got to be a good mother and be needed. Hedgehogs require immense amounts of patience, trust, and knowledge—but the payoff is pretty epic.

Reader’s Digest is on the prowl for the most touching, adorable, or hilarious friendships involving a pet. Submit your story and photos (and video!) for consideration. We will honor the best in many categories of friendship online, in the magazine, and on social media.

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