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Old 11-18-2016, 09:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Grieving a lost hedgehog

First time poster. I just wanted to share about my hedgehog and how I lost her as a form of therapy. It happened the morning of Tuesday November 15th 2016 and it was quite unexpected. This is an edit of something I'm posting on reddit because honestly I'd like some feedback and I don't feel I'll get any there. For starters, here is what she looks like:

and you can follow my post history to see more. Lily meant a lot to me and got me out of a lot of dark places. I do not have any mental health issues but I am a nurse and see death a lot and the last year has been full of transition so losing a single constant that I loved deeply simply hurt. Also I feel I need to verbalize some issues around her death. I was there to the end and she did suffer which I’ll get into later but I need to organize them with this and get it out there. Also I feet I needed to ‘set the stage’ so you understood what kind of hedgehog Lily was. Also some background information. I’m a male nurse and also worked in a lab with small animals so I know a little pathology, Lily was a present to my ex, and I live with my ex girlfriend who is an intense program in school. I was supposed to get Lily when she gets a job and we separate because Lily and I were more attached. And if it isn’t already obvious, this is long.

Lily was a sweety but very complex and a little difficult at first. Actual she was always difficult if you didn’t know how to treat her. She never went with the flow but had too much energy so you were a slave to that along with her. It took time to read her moods, and what she was trying to communicate but she made us better people and better hedgehog people for it in the end. At the beginning she expressed love quite aggressively and took to us quite quickly but she was very affectionate. On the car ride home when we first got her, she snuggled her way up my coat, under my armpit and rested between my shoulder blades. Day two she was licking the inside of my ears, pulling at my chest and arm hair and anointing. She was great with people and great with kids but at the beginning, she was rough. I have videos of her nipping my ear, diving into my ex’s hair trying to create the world’s quickest bird nest of human hair, or digging into my armpit aggressively then always anointing for minutes on end after. She also would huff aggressively at me each time I played with her just for a few minutes when I’d engage her in the evening. She eventually settled down and accepted me as her owner. I have a picture I hope to post and will link it later. I should mention too that she was a retired breeder and had 3 litters and 3 owners by the time she was 13 months when we got her so a consistent figure was a huge change. She definitely had been through a lot, been passed around and being taken away from so many of her babies. We thought she still carried some anxiety with her because she came with small stuffed toys which she’d play with. We never saw her play with them but you’d find them near the food or water dish one day, by her wheel another but most often not with her wherever she decided to nest for the night. Even as we added a couple more, we’d observe the same phenomenon. Lily was so full of energy. We would go on to find out how unique she was over our remaining time.

I own a couple other hedgehogs and it really is a pale comparison comparing her to my other ones. Lily was unique in every aspect of how she physically was and with her personality. She was the type of hog who was long and slender, had birthed 3 litters so ran with wobble, she could relax her quills quite easily and she had an adorable lazy eye which only showed itself when she was relaxed. She had big feet and chicken legs which she’d let you play with when she was relaxed and you could also do anything else to her when she was relaxed except pet her face. I assume this was from all the litters and being poked and prodded by humans to see if she was pregnant so much in her short life. I admit, I didn’t find her that cute at first but saw through that in a pretty short time.
Her personality was bigger than herself. She wasn’t afraid of challenges and had very little fear. Also I’m pretty sure she wasn’t aware of her size at times. When we got her we were told we had to be careful and weigh down her hut or she’d push it to the side and jump out. We ignored that warning with a new cage a little taller and were wrong. It took us 8 hours that day to find her. She was in the bottom of a gym bag in a closet, contorted into a corner of that we had checked twice already but missed because she didn’t curl up into a ball each time we checked it but stayed relaxed. If she wanted to run around she’d dive off the couch or whatever tall structure she was on or just struggle in your hands. I don’t know how many times I thought she’d injured herself but then she’d scurry right off. She’d let you know if you were petting her not quite right by giving you a little nip which turned into huffs over time. My favourite memory was I kept not petting her right, by just accidentally brushing her on the wrong side so she climbed up to my shoulder, looked me dead in my eyes barely an inch away from my face and gave the most aggressive huff I have ever heard out of her. She then just nudged my head aside and lay on my neck like nothing happened. Our size difference didn’t register to her at all. I needed to understand my behaviour was not at all tolerable.

Playing with her in the evening was also special. She trained us not to pick her up when she didn’t want it. You could, and she wouldn’t fight but she wouldn’t uncurl until she was ready and if she didn’t want to snuggle or run, she’d huff or pee so we’d have to put her back. She trained us to wait until ‘Lily o’clock’ which was of her choosing or she’d tolerate being awoken just a little early.

She was quirky in her hobbled run and loud drinking. She was patient, waiting for you if in the center of her cage completely still if she wanted to play and relaxing her quills when you were picking her up. She was a trouble maker finding the most insane and ridiculous hiding spots (including under a fridge and under a dishwasher: all blocked off now and places you might assume she could never fit). And she could make the most wondrous messes for someone her size. She also knew how to communicate. Nudges for attention, letting you know when she wanted to run around through squirms or near jumps, or pressing her cold wet nose against your bare foot when she was free roaming if she wanted to surprise you and play. She’d also play with her kitty ball to grab your attention or mischievously pee in her water dish if she felt neglected the previous night.

So about her death. (I'm marking a part to restart reading if it is too much for you, the reader)

Lily passed very quickly and unexpectedly. I played with her the night of and the night prior to her passing and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with her. The only thing I truly noticed was that she was drinking more for the previous three or four nights and that was it. My roommate said she noticed a change in energy level after her passing but I didn’t because of the time change, all I knew is I could snuggle her sooner.

Now for the morning she passed. As part of my usual morning routine I check all three hedgehog cages to see who ran, see who drank what and see if food dishes need filling then I have a shake, shower and off to work or the gym unless I’m on nights. Sometimes Lily is awake patiently sitting in the center of her cage and I let her run around or cuddle her for a few minutes. She usually does that in the winter so there wasn’t anything unusual about her not being awake at that time. I also usually spend a couple of hours at the gym. For whatever reason, I was tired and decided to go home early. I get home, microwave some food, heat up some tea and I hear Lily playing with her kitty ball with a bell inside. I go over and pick her up and ask my ex gf / roommate if she was acting weird because she was awake with the sun up and apparently she did the same thing at 8 (it is about 10 at this point), my roommate picked her up saw nothing wrong and put her back after she was nipped. Also I have to say I was glad my roommate was home (she is usually at placement that day but was feeling unwell so worked from home) because she noticed Lily was passing something. It looked like she was trying to pass a large bloody stool that wouldn’t budge. We quickly gave her a bath hoping it would dislodge with no luck. I was adjusting her at one point and felt a right upper quadrant abdominal mass. Lily has a history of cancer, passing a tumour just in June and I didn’t feel this last night. Also, the stool coating on what she was trying to pass cleared showing an encapsulated organ of blood protruding from what I assume was her vagina and her ears were a little pale. I asked my roommate for the name of the vet we took her to in June, and explained she was hemorrhaging and we’ll have to decide to put her down or not or if surgery was an option and luckily made a quick appointment. I prepared something to return with her in, let my roommate say a quick goodbye and left. I had to uber myself because my roommate had something due for placement in a few hours (I don’t have my full license) and from the time Lily summoned me with her toy and giving her a bath I was in to see the vet about 10 kilometers away within the hour.

The vet assessed her and reported that she could palpate a mass over her entire abdomen and her gums were now pale. We went over her previous history and I was told that she likely had a tumour three times the size. Considering the rapid growth in size of that abdomen mass, Lily was hemorrhaging or her tumour had burst and she was bleeding to death. She said surgery could be done but she probably wouldn’t survive and I cut to the chase that we should put her down. I also tried to reason a time, asking if I could come back in the afternoon or wait for my roommate / former partner to arrive and requested time to make a call but I really didn’t realize how fast it was progressing because Lily seemed herself.

Now, I’m a nurse by trade. At this point I was more or less on autopilot. What had to be done, had to be done, death is a natural process and we do make it more comfortable through pharmaceuticals. Lily had a behaviour change, we figured out what was going on, treatment options were nil because she is too tiny so having the tumour and blood removed would cause her to bleed out and there are no hedgehog rapid bolus blood transfusions to save her. I knew she had to be put down but didn’t know how much time she had.

I called my roommate and gave her the news. I somehow held my composure until that exact moment. It was probably the experience of seeing it and being compassionate but not being on the receiving end for some time. I knew Lily’s cancer would come back as we had explained to us in June and failed to read the signs, I knew we had to put her down but explaining what is going on and that we had to put her down broke me. Through sobs, I offered the options of sitting tight if she wanted to say a proper goodbye to Lily instead of the rushed one not even an hour before or waiting until the afternoon to put her down but she recognized Lily was suffering and it had to be ended.

Before the vet returned I was crying, when she returned I was barely able to speak. We sorted out the paperwork, she explained the procedure and she said to take my time with Lily and they’ll be waiting in the back and to just let them know at the front desk. The moment she left, I was heaving and trying my best to ball as quietly as possible. It took me a minute to catch my breath. I said my goodbyes as Lily lay on her favorite blanket and I wept. I looked her in her paling face and finished telling her what was on my mind that I would miss her, I love her very much and would continue to do so. I covered her up to keep her warm. She was finding my breath even cold but nudged my hand and the blanket away. She still had fight.

I tried to reason in my head that maybe she wanted me to just hold her as she passed. That is why she called me over with her kitty ball, let me pick her up over an hour ago, and didn’t nip me. She always got along better with me and I got along with her. Maybe she knew she was dying and wanted me to hold her on my belly one last time as the last thing she felt. But I adjusted her on the blanket to get her more comfortable and to prop her head. That is when I saw the blood and the tumor protruding out more. She was definitely bleeding out.

She had maybe an hour maximum if we were lucky. She curled up into a ball a little bit when I picked her up to get to the desk she dabbed her nose with her own blood. I had to wait at the desk and have a painful conversation with a nice lady. She asked if I was holding a hedgehog and exclaimed she had never seen one before and I mumbled through tears that she is and she is dying, she had cancer that is back and she has to be put down. She then said something really sweet, she said well Lily is beautiful and lucky to have me and put her arm on my shoulder. Keeping in mind you could see the tumour from across the room, the blood on Lily’s nose, and how pale she was. I had to look away and tried to keep the tears at bay.

I was shown to the back and Lily was placed in a clear box. For those of you not familiar with the procedure, isoflurane, is a gas that acts as an anesthetic, it is fed into the box and this acts to paralyze the muscles and inhibit pain. This is followed by a lethal injection given into the chest to stop the heart which cannot be felt due to the anesthetic and your very loved one dies.

So I have never seen this procedure before and I kind of observed protocol, leaning back to Lily’s side a few feet away against a counter, tearing up and using tissues on hand to keep my sight. I gave her to the vet tech assisting, Lily was placed in the box and had a look of panic on her face because she realized she was cornered and something was going on. Maybe it was the hiss of the gas that scared her? I don’t know. She kept her eyes open with a look of panic and her breathing slowed. They picked her up out of the box and she was limp. Checked for a pain response by giving her paw a squeeze then she was placed on her belly, the drug was injected, the vet listened to heart and said she was gone. She went limp, her eye went clear losing their red color and her quills went flat and sagged in a puddle off her body. She was on her side and that **** tumor was protruding more and her belly was even more swollen and she went even more blue.

I regret how I conducted myself then. I wish I was more involved. I wish I stood closer because I know how poor their eyesight is but I leaned on the counter a few feet away. Maybe she couldn’t see me but I hope she knows I was there. She got my attention not even two hours earlier and she wanted comfort. At some point between my leaving at 6 when I left and 8 AM that morning she knew something burst inside her and she needed us. I just wish I stood in front of the box so she could see me and know that I never left. Also I know she was paralyzed and probably couldn’t feel me but I wish I could have held her in the off chance she could. Maybe just touch her paws or foot in case she might know I was still there. Maybe part of her senses would register my familiar touch which could have provided comfort. She may have been paralyzed but maybe she’d still know I never abandoned her. Lily was truly gone. I had paw prints made in mold and paid for the visit. There was a pathway leading to a national park across the street so I stole some tissues from the vet, darted onto the path and balled until my roommate got me.
Returning home was hard. I left my place in a little disarray but it stood out. I had a couple boxes strewn about choosing one to bring in her back in the off chance she survived, my ‘breakfast’ post gym was still in the microwave, her cage was untouched and I found the towel she was dried in from her last bath 6 hours after it happened. It was covered up on my bed from other things strewn from the morning rush and was still damp from her body. I held it the rest of the night like a lost child. Lastly her lone cage and her kitty ball was sitting right where she last used it.

The last few days have been reliving that hour and a half as so many things were time stamped. When I found her, called the vet, got the uber, got into the appointment, made the call to say she was being put down, paid the bill and texted my roommate it was over. I kept reliving these events but it got easier. Recognizing my emotions, talking with friends and writing this post all helped.
I kept remembering she was happy and healthy the previous two evenings then it ending so quickly and aggressively.

(not so nice bits over)

Lily changed how innovative we were with our other hogs. Her joints looked swollen and arthritic so we gave her and our other hedgies salt baths which brought the swelling down over time and relaxed them all. We learned to cover them up in warm laundry on laundry days in the afternoon so we could have happy warm hedgies with less aches in the evenings. We saw how peaceful and eerily calm she was outdoors in the spring so in the winter we introduced small gardens and dirt lots so they could have dirt baths. We introduced longer free roam times because apparently a half hour is not enough and instituted the pure free roam evenings if she struggled enough and her two sisters (from other misters) were agreeable.

She helped me through so much as well my roommate. Change of units, breaking up with my partner, schooling, coming off of night shifts, coping with missing others who have moved and too many deaths. Lily loved life, loved her sisters, loved her humans deeply and was deeply loved in return. She will greatly be missed, frequently remember and fondly recalled.
Thank you for reading if you finished and feel free to comment and share your stories. Also thanks to all who have shared their kind words and thoughts.
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Old 11-19-2016, 06:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I feel your pain acutely. I am so sorry about Lily. We got a hedgehog from a breeder and we named him Harry. We got him in May when he was 12 weeks old. Almost from the start I noticed something wasn't right. He loved his wheel, loved to cuddle and eat a variety of things. He wasn't a normal hedgehog. Even the vet said they had never seen one so socialized, kind, loving and wanting to be with us! He started to not be able to walk straight and would wobble and fall when he walked. So on that first visit we were introduced to "wobbly hedgehog syndrome" which is neurological and basically eventually paralyzed his whole body. I was his primary care taker and I have never loved a pet more than Harry. On October 16, 2016 we knew it was time. We took him in his bag on his little couch with his favorite blankie. I sobbed the whole week before and the day of as I watched him go down hill very fast! I took the girls who asked to go 13&10 and we all took turns sobbing, loving him, kissing his head, his face, his mouth, telling him what a great hedgehog he was and that we would love him forever!! When we were ready they took him back gave him his shot and brought him immediately back to us! And he fought going down until finally he was at peace and we knew his little spirit went to heaven! Traumatic doesn't begin to describe this experience and I have had to put an animal to sleep before but she was 17 and ready. This was unexpected and horrible. He was truly the best pet we have ever had! So a few weeks later we went back to the breeder and she had 2 sisters who were 13 weeks old who had never been separated since birth and I didn't have the heart to separate them. We brought Hermione and Hannah Grace into our family and I in particular am finding it hard to adjust to what a healthy hedgie looks like and bond with them! The girls are bonding with them great and they are doing wonderfully! But I will never love them more than Harry and will never forget how he would get in his little tent during the day and nap with me in my bed (I have an auto immune disease) and never try and run out! I am comforted by the fact that he knew he was loved....

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Old 02-14-2017, 12:12 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I read all of your message, I don't know if you'll ever check back on this post, but it helped me a lot to read it.
I lost my hedgehog, Jon, last night. I came home from the gym and started to have dinner, just like you and then I noticed something was wrong. He couldn't move, so I just kept him warm and held him. He passed away shortly after.
It's really tough when it happens, and I know time heals.
But, yeah, talking about your hedgehog and their personality and the things they brought to your life seems like a really good idea.
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Old 04-23-2017, 11:07 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by beccadango View Post
I read all of your message, I don't know if you'll ever check back on this post, but it helped me a lot to read it.
I lost my hedgehog, Jon, last night. I came home from the gym and started to have dinner, just like you and then I noticed something was wrong. He couldn't move, so I just kept him warm and held him. He passed away shortly after.
It's really tough when it happens, and I know time heals.
But, yeah, talking about your hedgehog and their personality and the things they brought to your life seems like a really good idea.

I am so sorry about Jon. I just found this message today. Never a day goes by that I don't think of Harry...even with 2 sweet hedgehog girls in our home! I hope your heart is healing!!

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bereavement, death, grief, loss, mourn

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