Gideon the pigeon was in quite a state, he’d injured his foot by perching on some barbed wire. Luckily the kind humans had found him hobbling near a road and taken him to Oak & Furrows Wildlife Rescue centre.
“What have they done with my foot? It feels all stiff” Gideon nervously wonders to himself.
“Don’t worry buddy, these guys aren’t going to eat you” comes a low voice from the cage next to him.
“Huh? Who’s there? Are you going to eat me?”
“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. I’ve caught this nasty virus, so I’m locked up in this containment cage. That way I can’t pass the virus on to other animals. I’m Kevin the hedgehog.”
“Hedgehog? Aren’t you those spiky rodents who eat cat food?” Gideon asked.
“Hedgehogs aren’t rodents, you’re confusing us with porcupines; they are rodents. We’re part of the Erinaceinae subfamily of mammals.”
“In a nutshell, we’re related to shrews. Porcupines look similar to us but we aren’t closely related” Kevin explained.
“Oh okay, so what do these humans do to us?” Gideon asked.
“They help us when we’re in a tight spot of course. What’s your ailment?”
“Well I injured my foot when I perched on some barbed wire”
“Ooh! That sounds nasty! But simple to deal with compared to what they tend to deal with round here.”
“What else do they do?”
“See that cage with a note pegged to it stating ‘MANGE! CLEAN LAST! WEAR GLOVES!’ over there? That’s the current accommodation of Blondie the hedgehog. She’s suffering from a severe case of mange. She’s already conspicuous because of unique her skin and hair pigmentation. But mange is causing her skin to dry up and peel off. So the human volunteers have to wear some latex gloves to make sure they don’t catch the mange themselves.”
“Oh. But why do they clean her cage last?”
“Because once the cloth and water is used on a cage that contains a creature with mange, they have to put the cloth out for washing and dispose of the water, or else they could risk spreading the mange into the other cages by using water that contains traces of mange.”
“It’s not easy being blonde! But it’s even harder being mangy!” Blondie’s voice croaked.
“They take pigeons in often then?” Gideon asked.
“They’re a common patient. But at this time of year in winter, hedgehogs like me and Blondie are often finding ourselves in trouble. Some of us don’t fatten up enough to survive the winter, so we end up wandering outside and catching colds or worse.”
“How do the humans know you’re in trouble?”
“Mostly by appearance, signs of injury or disease. But a less well known factor is the time of day; if we hedgehogs are wandering about during the daytime, then that’s a sign that we are in trouble and need help.”
“What’s wrong with wandering around during the day? We pigeons fly about during the day.”
“Hedgehogs are nocturnal; we only come out at all during the night. We don’t go out during the day unless we’re in real trouble. Of course some humans are ignorant and just assume their garden just has a curious visitor, then by the time they realize something is wrong; it’s often too late to save us. Sad really, but such is the reality that is Mother Nature.”
Suddenly the door to the shed is opened; a human volunteer has come through to check on them all.
“Ah. Must be time for my medicine. Tastes horrible, but it will save my life.”
“Will I need medicine?” Gideon asked.
“What? For an injured foot? Nah! You just need to rest well, drink plenty of water and wait for that injury to heal itself. That bandage will have stopped the blood from dripping out.”
Gideon finally realized what was making his foot stiff, a small bandage had been wrapped around it.
“These humans are really nice. Why do they do it?”
“Some do it for work experience; some do it simply because they care. Either way, we animals are given a chance to go back to the wild and live a normal life again.”
“Hang on a minute, how do you know all of this Kevin?”
“I’ve been here a while. This virus doesn’t just clear up overnight, it takes time. I don’t even know if I still have it, but the humans are cautious and want to make sure I don’t have any signs left at all before they consider sending me back. After so long in here you learn a lot about how things are around here.”
“Yeah, there’s some cages left” The volunteer suddenly called to someone outside.
Two other volunteers brought two more pigeons in cages into the shed.
“Whoa! One of those guys has no feathers! And the other looks ill! See, you’re not the worst casualty they’ve taken in.” Kevin said to Gideon.
“Argh! Where am I? Who are you creatures? Are you going to eat me?” the featherless bird screamed.
“Ugh. I don’t feel so good. Ugh…dizzy” the other pigeon groaned.
“Hey guys don’t worry. These humans are here to help us!” Gideon told them calmly.
“Pigeons won’t just get used to human handling immediately, it’ll take a long time but if they need to stay here, they may get used to it. You won’t be here for long if that injury heals without trouble.” Kevin added.
“Well, thanks for the talk Mr. Kevin. Oh, I’ve been too busy asking questions to introduce myself. Ahem! My name is Gideon.”
“Well, nice to meet you Gideon.” Kevin replied.
This Story was written by Matthew J Belcher - we couldn't resist sharing it. Thanks Matthew!