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The Story of the Dog, the Compost and the Hedgehogs.

This morning, 11th Oct 2013, I had cleared the table of the breakfast things and was going to go and have a shave and shower. But there was somebody at the front door. I found it was Claire, a neighbour from just round the corner. She said that there was a dog in our garden busily digging a big hole. Our side garden is opposite her house and there is no fence at that part. I went out the back door slipping some flip-flops on my feet because I was wearing only socks and no shoes. I saw a small white terrier type dog frantically digging out the bottom of the compost heap. I tried to shoo it away but it wouldn’t go. I got a stick thinking it would run if I threw the stick but no it wouldn’t. I approached nearer and saw that the dog was trying to get at a small rolled up hedgehog. I had no strong gloves and got a strong plastic sack and folded it over and managed to get the dog away far enough for me to pick up the hedgehog.

I found that hedgehog spines easily penetrated the sacking.

I carried the creature across to the other side of the garden and put in a 2 foot high raised bed. Claire called out that the dog was still digging and the compost was flying about. I went back and saw another little hedgehog. Using the same method and with another sack I rescued it and put it with the first one. This time, when backing out from the bushes, I lost one of the flip-flops and so got a wet sock and wet foot – it was then drizzling and it had been raining during the night.

Claire was trying to entice the dog with dog biscuits but it was not going to be tricked that way.

The dog was still busily digging.

So, one by one, I rescued five small hedgehogs.

I discovered that hedgehogs have a very loud voice and scream when they are frightened. They were very frightened.

The dog was still busily digging.

Back again and this time there was a much bigger hedgehog – probably Mother Hedgehog.

By this time neighbours Diane and John, who live next door to Claire, had arrived on the scene and they were all making helpful suggestions. The dog had no collar and was still hunting around in the compost. Next the postman came along and he joined in with suggestions – he thought he had seen a similar dog two streets away but wasn’t sure about that.

Claire suggested that she got her own dog (a big one!) and that might chase the small dog away.

I got a plastic box meant for the recycling of cans and emptied it and picked up the hedgehogs and put them in this container. It had high steep sides that would stop them wandering away. Mysteriously there now seemed to be only four babies and the mother. I had lost count.

Then I noticed that the small dog was now up in the raised bed next to the temporary hedgehog home and was digging up the roots and stalks of my now decaying tomato plants. I went across and found it was digging at a small hedgehog. By now I had truly lost count. Was this yet another one or had it wandered across from one raised bed to the next raised bed? Definitely now I could see that my container had mother and five babies. Total six.

Diane said she would find if there was a local dog warden.

I had been indoors to tell Sylvia was was happening and she phoned the vet and got a telephone number for a Hedgehog Rescue place. It was just outside Tiptree.

The lady at the Hedgehog Rescue (HR) said she would collect the creatures but would first have to find a friend who had a car. I said I would deliver them but first had to wait for the Dog Warden who was supposed to be called. I went out and saw Diane on her doorstep with a phone and she was trying to tell the Dog Warden which number our house was. (The house numbering here is rather odd). So that was all sorted out and we were told the Dog Warden would be coming.

The dog was still wandering around trying to get at the hedgehogs. I put the container and creatures in my ramshackle greenhouse and shut the sliding door. I didn’t notice that there was a broken pane of glass about 2 foot above the ground. I went indoors and phoned the HR place and said I would come and Sylvia would somehow manage to get to the door when the Dog Warden arrived.

I took off my wet sock and dried my foot and put on some sandals (not that they were suitable for the rain but because they were handy!). I went to get the container box and found that the dog was not only in the greenhouse but in the container trying rouse up the hedgehogs who were busy screaming. I was hesitant about trying to grab the dog and lift it out because I didn’t want a dog bite to add to the happenings.

I was brave and managed to get the dog to jump out of the container which I hastily took out from the greenhouse and shut the door with a wire-mesh screen and wedged that shut with a heavy pickaxe that had been left out nearby from work done yesterday. Hurrah, the dog was now trapped in the greenhouse.

I loaded the container into the car and got my mobile phone in my bag and moved the car round to the side. I stopped there to tell Claire and Diane what was happening. I said I hoped the warden would wait long enough for Sylvia to get up and to the door. Diane suggested that she should go round and stick a notice on our door.

I left and drove through the rain to Tiptree where I found the place – a bungalow and there on the drive was a large sign board with a large letter H on it. The HR lady came and we took the container into a room with shelves and plastic boxes. She examined each of the babies. She held them and gently shook them up and down which she said would make them unroll. It did that except for one. She examined each one to make sure their limbs were still intact and said that they were of good weight and nearly ready for hibernation. One had some blood on its spines and we assumed that was dog blood because there was no sign of injury. These babies were big enough to fend for themselves and of an age and size not to need their mother’s milk.

Next came the mother who was declared to be fine and a very good weight. I was told that they would retain the small ones and get them into hibernation when appropriate. The mother would be best back in her familiar home environment where she knew her way around. So next Sunday the mother will be returned to us in a cardboard box which I can push under the edge of the compost.

I drove home and found that Diane was with Sylvia and they had been talking for some time. Diane had phoned the dog warden and told him to call first at her house and she then told him to go through our garden side gate and get the dog from the greenhouse.

By now it was rather late for lunch so I postponed the shave and shower and got us something to eat. I thought I would write down all these events – normally very little happens to us here so this was an exciting neighbourhood event that we would remember. At least I would remember if I wrote it down now. So I have done that.

Apart from the homecoming of the Mother Hedgehog all is said and done. No, no, it is now 4.0pm and I still haven’t had that shave and shower.

Arthur Cox – 11 Oct 2013

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And to continue the story.

On Sunday 13th Oct, the Rescue Centre brought back the mother hedgehog. It was in a small carton with loads of straw. I showed the two ladies where it had been found and they pointed out a very nearby place to put it – under some trees. I was told that it had eaten and was a very good weight and had put on weight since they received it. It is in the conservatory and my instructions are to put the carton out tonight. I am assured that mother hedgehog will have several nests in the neighbourhood and will make her way to one of those.

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And by the way, I did get to have that shower and shave.

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Monday 14th

Mother Hedgehog was gone in the morning – just a carton full of straw.

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