So last Saturday, a hedge hog flew into our garden.
Yes, you read right, she flew!
There is little chance she could have just climbed a 6-foot fence by herself. Even if she feared the builders next door so much that she somehow managed to climb up, the fence is bent inwards, so the little hedgie would have had to jump off the top to get down again. Of course, it is much more likely that somebody threw her over the fence, maybe even with positive intent, knowing that we'd take care of the little girl. In any case, little hedgie flew in, landed on the rabbit cage, and rolled off it to the ground...almost. Unfortunately one of her little back legs got stuck, so she ended up dangling from the rabbit cage for I don't know how long, but probably for at least a night, because I am pretty sure that I heard the banging sound that made me look into her direction on Saturday on Friday night already - I just thought it was a twig, not a hedgehog swinging back and forth, trying to get free.
I spent two days with her, but to cut a long story short, I got her unstuck, checked her over (uncurling a hedgehog in a kind manner takes some patience), and gave some initial first aid, but realized after some observation that she seemed to need a bit more help than me just putting her in the back of the garden so she could recover from the shock, with a way out. So, I brought her to the Vet, who kindly took her in immediately, nursed her back to a stable condition, and she is now going to the Hedgehog hospital for some rehab, which the lovely doctor at the Vets kindly arranged for her. I am really grateful that there are people in the world who do care for these little ones, who you can go to for help, if needed - I was not charged a penny, either.
So why bother to spend so much time with a little hedgehog, why not just stick her in the back of the garden, or in the park and be done with it? Why be so sentimental?
Well, for starters, if I had been that hedgehog, I would have appreciated the help, too. Who knows, the way things are going, it may end up being one in my next life. There is this beautiful story that I heard as a child, which always comes back to me in situations like this. One day, a man took a walk on the beach, and he realized that thousands of star fish had been washed ashore and were dying in the sun. As he walked along, he saw an old man picking up one star fish at a time, and releasing them back to the sea. The man walked up to the old man and said: "There are so many star fish stranded here, you will never be able to save them all, so why bother? What does one star fish matter in the great scheme of things?" The old man picked up a little star fish, walked over to the sea, put her gently into the waves and said: "It matters to her!"
As it happens, I heard this story at church, so I always saw it as an extension of the golden rule to "do to all men as I would they should do unto me" - if you believe in God, then you know that God not only created man and woman, but also all creation - so it is quite reasonable to expect that God also loves the creatures God created, otherwise Noah's arch would not have had the size of a cruise ship, or it would have only been filled with humans.
For those of us who are not spiritually inclined, there is another reason, too: Hedgehogs are highly endangered as a species. A BBC article from 2011 predicted that we may lose our last hedgehog in 2020. According to several other articles of the year, the hedgehog was on the 10 most endangered species list that year. The People's Trust for Endangered Species has the hedgehog still on its list. A story in the Telegraph from today says the hedgehog may become extinct in Britain in less than 15 years. Hedgehogs are seen as an indicator species for a healthy environment.
There are many reasons why it is good and right and kind to help. If you can find no other reason, then maybe you would just like to be able to show your grand-kids in 10 years what a hedgehog looks like, and what a delightful creature it is.
So the next time you come across one of these little guys in trouble - you may just want to bring him to the Vet or one of the hedge hog hospitals - chances are it won't cost you a penny, and even if it does, it will likely be minimal considering your other expenses. If you don't have time, a kindly animal-loving neighbor may also help - but let him or her know that he or she has a new house guest, and if you don't want to get involved, ringing the bell and leaving an anonymous note at the door would not be ideal, but better than nothing. Wouldn't it feel good to have done something kind this month without expecting anything in return?