This morning we found Hetty dead. She hadn't got up for a couple of days. In my naivety I thought she might have finally had a happy chicken-filled tummy and been able to sleep.
However a phone call to the Hedgehog preservation society revealed that a hedgehog of her size would not be able to sleep, even for one day without a meal.
I must admit, I realised I knew absolutely nothing about what we had taken on. It took us about ten minutes to try and figure out whether she was asleep or deceased. It feels terrible to admit that.
Anyway, I now know that if a hedgehog is healthy and asleep it will be in a tight ball. Hetty was uncurled. I also have a very sensitive sense of smell and her smell had changed. In the end it was this that gave it away for me.
It's amazing how quickly these creatures carve a space in your heart. Hetty was an endearing little thing, mischievous to the last and she used to make us laugh with her antics. Strangely, she used to like a fuss too, she would lie still and let you cuddle her without rolling up. She had a routine for her exercise - running around, curiously exploring everything, running in and out of our daughter's fairyland in exactly the same way every day, until she would lie under the fire for a rest.
I was really upset. Not least because I think I could have done better. In hindsight it might have been better to take her to someone who knew more about them. I now feel that I did the equivalent of take a two month baby from its mother and feed it fish and chips. One would never do that and I think this is what we did with Hetty.
Perhaps her digestion simply could not cope. I'll never know.
I called a hedgehog rescue place today and all the hoglets in there are wired up to monitors, their daily food is charted, they are weighed weekly (I was planning on weighing her today which is why I had to disturb her) and if they are not eating they are put on drips and all sorts of other things.
Plus of course, they know the signs to look out for and can treat is accordingly. I didn't. So she died.
Unfortunately the woman I spoke to was very abrupt and by the time I came off the phone I felt like crying. I felt she was accusing me of being irresponsible and of course that planted doubt in my own mind about my motive. I was asking her simple questions because I don't know the answer and I felt like I was back in school again being scolded for not revising.
Truth is, I did it with the best intentions, but I have learned alot.
I wanted to give Hetty a sky burial, so we took her into the field and put her in her bed underneath the hedge next to the stream. It was here that I used to come when pregnant to find peace and solitude. It was perfect autumn day - warm and sunny with blue skies.
It's been a double whammy of animals returning to the earth today. We found our neighbour's cat dead on our driveway. She used to favour our front garden and always made a dash across the road to greet us whenever we were around. She was a greedy little thing and would come over to eat the food we put out for the birds, even after being fed her own food at home!
She had obviously been run over and just stumbled up our driveway. So sad, she was only a few months old. I hope she died quickly.
So it's goodbye to Hetty after just a week. She touched her hearts in a very special way and there is a lesson in attachment for me in there somewhere that one day I will understand.
The Dalai Lama says that Beings are only in this world to work out their Karma. Does a hedgehog have karma or am I romanticising things? I'm not going to think too hard on that, but I guess I have my karma to live out, and if it means looking after a hedgehog for a week, then I can honestly say it has been a complete honour to be entrusted with one of Mother Nature's creatures for seven short days.