Last stop for prickles…

He’d been lying overnight in the debris of  leaves and kindling from seasons past. Hiding like the rest of us from July’s  polar blast we thought. He’d buried his nose in the pillow of leaves and created one hell of a mess – sticks and leaves and dirt scattered everywhere on the path.  We let him slumber for the weather remained bleak and lots of people were doing much the same in rather more cozy  beds.

Next morning, hedgehog was still asleep. Perhaps a saucer of milk might  reinvigorate him we thought. But later we realised this wasn’t just his bed, but his final resting place. And all that mess might indicate that he’d been attacked by one of the neighbourhood cats. Or maybe the answer was simply that his time had come. Either way he had to go, so out with the shovel and into a backyard grave he went.

Just a day or two earlier we had wondered what had become of hedgehogs. There used to be so many of them and as kids we treated them almost like little pets. We enjoyed watching them slurping up milk from the saucers we left out for them – though we never knew milk made them sick. And there were other enjoyments  because boys being boys, we rolled them down hills. And when that became boring we used to poke them gently with sticks to watch them curl themselves into tight, prickly balls.

As infill housing transformed Auckland, hedgehogs increasingly showed up only as road kill and even those sightings became rare. Our attachment of sorts to hedgehogs now seems strange – only much later did we discover that Landcare scientists now regard hedgehogs as being in the same category as  stoats, ferrets and possums.   (Another import by 1870s colonists ‘to remind them of home’).

Odd that they should remind us over a hundred years later of our quarter acre pavlova paradise – home to us.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.