In March 2013, on a rainy night, my partner Reece remembered that he had forgotten a box in his car and went out to get it. On his way back inside he noticed a small shadow moving on the driveway in an area that was usually illuminated by the streetlight. As Reece moved towards the shadow he realised it was a young hedgehog, all wet in the grass, eating mud. He quickly removed his jacket and picked it up. The hedgehog was very weak and unable to move about quickly. He did not seem to be frightened, nor did he resist being scooped up. Once inside, Reece called out to me, saying that he had something that would make my heart melt – he was right! We named the hedgehog Alf because, just like the TV show character of the ’80s, he came out of nowhere. And, like Alf the alien, this little hedgehog was amazingly intelligent. Not only did he learn to eat his dinner and drink water from his bowls, and to use a paper-covered mat for his ‘business’, but he also learnt to wait for us inside his little indoor cubby house and also hop into his pet carrier whenever we took him out with us. Alf knows us very well and recognises both our voices; he does not roll into a ball or put his spines up. Every day he allows us to pat him, just like you would a dog or cat. He loves playing with paper and towels and will bite and tug on the bed sheets if given a chance. Like all pets, Alf loves his treats, in particular small pieces of sugar-coated biscuits.
Unfortunately, in April 2014 I was in a car accident and had to spend two months in Auckland City hospital. And boy, did I miss Alf. Reece told me that Alf would search around the house for me, checking in places where I’d normally be, such as my desk, my favourite seat in front of the TV and even my side of the bed. One evening, Reece set up a video call for me from my hospital bed and my heart rejoiced when I saw the little guy appear on my mobile phone. When I told Alf that I would be home soon, he opened up from being in a semi-ball position. He started moving his head and stretching out his arms as if trying to reach me through the screen. The fact that Alf acknowledged that it was me gave me the strength to get through my recovery.
I cannot describe the feeling when I arrived home and saw his little face again.
Smart animals never fail to amuse … like this clucky rooster called Mr Ancona.