Today is Candlemas, or St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc. And this morning, when I came downstairs, I saw Spike, our albino hedgehog, and knew that she was no longer with us. Sure enough, her body was cold and stiff, and her spirit had crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I was sad. My daughter took it much harder, though. She’s 12, but she had never lost a pet before. She was devastated. I held my daughter for about 20 minutes, while she held Spike inside the little baby blanket. When my son came downstairs, we told him, and he sat with us for a time as well. Then he got up and got back into his regular morning routine, but Becca and I just couldn’t get into the swing of things. Finally I fetched a shoe box, and we laid Spike gently inside, still curled up in her blankie. Becca put in a couple of Spike’s favorite chicken treats, and then sat down to write a letter that she also put in the box. When the rain stops, Spike will be buried. Our “standard” hedgehog, Angel, is still with us. Being mostly nocturnal, she is very pissy in the mornings, so I tried not to disturb her too much as I tidied up the cage. But it was heartening to her her hissing and huffling at me.
As sad as I am, I am very grateful for the brief time that Spike had with us. She was a very affectionate little beastie, and she loved nothing more than to sit on my shoulder and snuggle against my neck. I came to find her red eyes endearing rather than creepy, and it made me laugh out loud to watch her slurping down mealworms or crickets just as quickly as she could.
She was great inside her critter ball, too – she would tool all around the living room… backwards, all the way. She never did figure out how to go forward in the thing. But Spike was a gift and a blessing to me, in a time when I needed a gift and a blessing. I will not forget her.
About 45 minutes later than usual, I had to tear myself away from my family, from my grieving daughter, to drive to work. In the car, I usually listen to books on CD these days. I just finished listening to a really amazing novel last night, and after my class had loaded up the CD changer with the next book: Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan. As I pulled from the driveway, I hit the power button on my car stereo (while at the same time expressing my dissatisfaction with the universe by repeating the F-word about a dozen times), and Marley’s story settled into me. It is a hilarious and touching book, and I can tell you this after listening to only three chapters of it. And by the time I got to the office, I was ready to face the day.
So today, I am also grateful for John Grogan and Marley. And really, I’m grateful for all of our animal companions. They really do make life special – a gift and a blessing.