Pets- Enriching Our Lives

Ah, the lowly hedgehog.  If you’ve never known one, the thought of having one might seem a little strange.  I mean, they are usually asleep during the day and active at night, right?  Besides, they aren’t very cuddly, are they?  And their natural diet consists mostly of slugs and bugs – yuck!  Who would want one of them?

Well, that brings up the question of what gives an animal value.  And I don’t mean their intrinsic value, because that is a big issue with philosophical and religious implications far too complicated to resolve in a short blog.  What gives a pet value to its owners/caretakers?

Let me tell you a tale of two hedgehogs.  The first we’ll call ‘Rose’ (not her real name).  Rose was taken home from school by a teenager whose friend had brought her to class.  The friend decided to give her away because she had a scab on her nose that was not healing.   Now in a new home, Rose did quite well for a while but over time her new owners became aware something was wrong, as she was losing quills and not moving much.  When I saw Rose she was severely overweight, had an extremely large number of mites on her body, and a respiratory infection as well.   Fortunately, those problems could all be dealt with fairly easily.  Unfortunately, the owners were not interested in providing the necessary care.  They left the clinic hoping that maybe someone else would take her if she was brought back to school again.

Then there is ‘Prince’.  Prince had been owned and cared for from the time of birth.  He had been kicked out of his mother’s nest at one day of age (we don’t know why his mother abandoned him).  From that time the owners did the best they could to take over the functions of his mother, starting by feeding milk replacer, drop by drop every two hours (baby hedgehogs are only a few grams, and are born deaf, bald and blind).  His owners had researched proper hedgehog management and then provided appropriate housing and food for years.  It seems that Prince grew up thinking he was a human, because he is as gentle as can be and never raises his quills.  He answers to his name, has a daily routine that involves stops at various locations in the house and is as regular as clockwork, and has an intense desire to be held and petted.  The reason I saw him was that he had developed a health problem that was genetic in origin.  Despite his owners’ willingness to do everything possible, the problem could not be cured and Prince would have to live with the condition.  Prince’s owners left the clinic intent on keeping him comfortable, seeking to ensure his quality of life would be compromised as little as possible from the illness.

Which of these two pets, Rose or Prince, is more valuable?  To put another spin on it – which owner do you think feels that life is more enriched by their pet?     In both cases no medical intervention was given, yet the level of tender loving care was worlds apart.

Hedgehogs can illustrate the principle quite well: it is in giving that we receive.  At Park Veterinary Centre in Sherwood Park, your Sherwood Park Veterinary team welcomes all sorts of companion animals, prickly or not.  And we hope to be able to enrich the lives of pets and their caretakers – you!