I think if a member of the Hufflepuff house were to reach into the sorting hat in a moment of need, they would withdraw their hands in slight surprise, having just reached in to find my hedgehog coming to their rescue. They would have, of course, roused her from a nap, and so she would naturally be a little miffed, and thus, a little spikey. But a true Hufflepuff, seeing the good in everyone, even a perturbed hedgehog, would reach back in to find my hedgehog quite forgiving, her quills now laid flat. And in that moment of need, my Hufflepuff would offer the greatest support in any Hufflepuff’s moment of need. She would give a good snuggle, and all trouble would vanish.
My Hufflepuff has been the greatest support to this particular Hufflepuff (me) that you could possibly imagine. This is why I am having the world’s hardest time saying goodbye.
Let me try to explain tonight’s particular surplus of sentiment.
Hedgehogs have quills to protect their gelatinous underbelly. If you try and poke at their little tummy, they curl into a ball that looks something like this:
But I’ve spent 3 years cultivating a relationship of trust with my animal. And while she still doesn’t like to be prematurely awoken from her daily 22-hour nap, it’s rare that she give me a good jab with her quills anymore. We get each other. She trusts me. But she doesn’t expose that underbelly. It defies instinct to let her insides go unguarded. I think for her there is innate safety in knowing that she is one startling noise away from sea urchin status.
Today was a hard day of harsh realities at the vet. Hufflepuff had to go on a bumpy car ride, and a vet tech tried to pet her without letting her smell her first.Then, Hufflepuff and I had to receive grim news that really, there’s only a few more months left of Hufflepuff.
So after a long day at the vet, I am extra gentle with my hog. Gingerly, I sweep her out of her habitat so we can commence our nightly snuggle. But there’s something slightly different about tonight: I think Hufflepuff understands her fate.
As I lay in bed, Hufflepuff sidles up close to me, so that I feel her gentle breathing against my ribcage. One breath for me equals two breaths for her.
I reach for her tummy (it’s her softest spot) and am surprised that tonight I am not rebuffed. In fact, Hufflepuff leans deeper into side, splays her stout little legs in the air, and invites me, like a Labrador, to give her tummy a good scratch. And so I do. For several hours.
Hufflepuff falls asleep, appreciating her first-ever tummy rub. It is our tenderest moment in three years of extremely tender moments.
And I am shocked, because her tummy, her vital organs! They’re exposed! Her defenses are down, and part of me is soul-crushingly sad because her survival instinct is not kicking in like it used to.
And the other part of me realizes that Hufflepuff finally trusts me completely. I’m not her owner; I’m her friend. Hufflepuff just knows that there is nothing, nothing, nothing in the world that I would do to hurt her. And so she lets me in.
Maybe there’s another hedgehog owner that loves their hedgehog more than I love mine. But I like to think that I love mine most.