Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hidden Germany: Hedgehog Underground

From our Not a band name series.

There is a largely unknown, thriving hedgehog underground in Germany. This realization came to the blogster in the course of caring for Valentine, the handful of prickly critter found in the freezing days of early February.

Several websites with information, while helpful, did not give a comprehensive picture of the prevalence of the hedgehog rescue phenomenon. You can think of it in terms of underground music venues, free outside movie screenings in summer, or any other pastime.

People don't advertise their hedgehog rescue activities like they do for cats, or dogs.

Taking a member of the protected Great Prickly species home is allowed only to save the animal, and that might be one reason why Germans keep it on the down low. But then, Germans in general are more reserved, even regarding things as mundane as the best time to plant lettuce.

But they will talk about hedgehogs freely once the subject comes up. It's not something requiring the use of code, like, for example, when your parents tell you they are going to visit friends over night on a weekend, which may really mean they are off to a swinger's party.

In our rural German hills, it seems that every other person you talk to has a hedgehog in their basement or barn over the winter.

The customer service person at the farming co-op store lit up on "hedgehog". Oh, yeah, we have a whole bunch, she said as she launched into dietary needs and general care of the Great Pricklies.

As it turns out, hedgehogs are big eaters with a consequently very active and voluminous output of digested food. This fact will make you go and talk to a lot of strangers. 
The question to a reclusive hill country farmer: can I have a bag or so of straw normally brings at least some slightly inquisitorial sounding question by way of an answer. But add "for a hedgehog", and you are spared not only a frowning "what for exactly" - the kind the blogster imagines you'd get if you asked for an ingredient for a homemade IED - but you'll get a garbage bag full of crisp, nice smelling straw. For free, and with a smiling just let me know of you need more.

Even the tax preparer outed herself as very knowledgeable regarding the bedding needs of hedgehogs when asked for as much shredded paper as car could hold. We spent almost the whole time talking about the well loved solitary rambler and barely about income and taxes. Not that that requires a lot of time anyway.

So, as Valentine is nearing its release, we can summarize that the hedgehog, too, has brought us new friends, just like the lost cat in the early days in Germany.

[Update 5/5/2016] The second rescue hedgehog of last winter has been out in the wild again for a week. The blogster still chuckles every now and then about how different the personalities of the two were. Valentine turned out to be such a ham, an extrovert without fear, unrolling while on his back, leisurely stretching. Attica was much more reserved, she was in worse health and needed several trips to the vet. He bathroom habits almost rivaled that out our super clean cats. Her favorite game was to topple the plastic bucket that contained the blogster's gloves and then hide the gloves.

The fact that the vet treated the hedgehogs pro bono was a nice surprise in a country where pro bono work of any kind is extremely rare.

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