In March 2013, on a rainy night, my partner Reece remembered that he had forgotten a box in his car and went out to get it.
On his way back inside he noticed a small shadow moving on the driveway in an area that was usually illuminated by the streetlight.
As Reece moved towards the shadow he realized it was a young hedgehog, all wet in the grass eating mud.
He quickly removed his jacket and picked it up. The hedgehog was very weak and unable to move about quickly. He did not seem to be frightened nor did he resist being scooped up.
Once inside, Reece called out to me, saying that he had something that would make my heart would melt – he was right!
We named the hedgehog Alf because, just like the TV show character of the ’80s, he came out of nowhere. And, like Alf the alien, this little hedgehog was amazingly intelligent.
Not only did he learn to eat his dinner and drink water from his bowls, and to use a paper covered mat for his ‘business’, but he also learnt to wait for us inside his little indoor cubby house and also hop into his pet carrier whenever we took him out with us.
Alf knows us very well and recognizes both our voices, he does not roll into a ball or put his spines up.
Every day he allows us to pat him, just like you would a dog or cat.
He loves playing with paper and towels and will bite and tug on the bed sheets if given a chance.
Like all pets, Alf loves his treats, in particular, small pieces of sugar coated biscuits.
Unfortunately in April 2014, I was in a car accident and had to spend two months in Auckland City hospital and boy, did I miss Alf.
Reece told me that Alf would search around the house for me, checking in places where I’d normally be, like at my desk, my favourite seat in front of the TV and even my side of the bed. One evening, Reece set up a video call for me from my hospital bed and my heart rejoiced when I saw the little guy appear on my cell phone.
When I told Alf that I was okay and that I would be home soon, he opened up from being in a semi ball position.
He started moving his head and stretching out his arms as if trying to reach me through the screen.
The fact that Alf acknowledged that it was me gave me the strength to get through my recovery. I cannot describe the feeling when I arrived home and saw his little face again.
– Luz Kawashima
We usually feed our wild birds with oats and bits of chicken skins at mealtime.
Last spring, while lunching on our deck, one cheeky butcherbird stole a hard, crusty corner off my husband’s lunchtime pie.
The bird couldn’t break it up so tried to swallow it whole.
The crust got stick on the way down and we could see it protruding from the poor bird’s mouth.
No matter how many times the bird shook and banged his beak on the table it would not dislodge from its open beak.
Perhaps sensing our concern for him, the bird flew off the deck and landed on the nearby birdbath and dipped his beak in the water several times.
A few gulps and the dry pastry went straight down.
With this, the bird shook his head, took another drink then came back looking for more!
My throat was sore just thinking about it but it didn’t phase this smart little cookie!
-Mrs Trudy Elze
He follows the sun’s warmth and for the moment, his favourite spot to lie is near the car, looking up at me bravely from between his paws.
I shouldn’t say the word “walk” to him anymore – he gets too excited and falls over a few times before he is able to stagger over to me.
He has a neurological problem, a suspected brain tumour that has been getting progressively worse over the last few months.
As he falls over again and again he gives me that “what the hell is going on, dude?” look and I tear up …
Gomez has been my mate for 11 years, he’s a patched tan and white American Staffie who has even managed to win over my wife – she’s not really a dog person.
I used to walk him for at least an hour each day; we’d go off and explore the nearby lake, run around the oval or check out the local shops.
He has saved my butt from aggressive dogs on numerous occasions. I remember once we were coming out of the wetlands when two big German Shepherds bore down on us.
As I tried to get Gomez out of the way, the dogs started having a go at me and boy, was I in trouble!
I shouldn’t have worried though because within a minute my little mate grabbed one of them and had the other squealing off into the distance.
He’s always been protective of me and he preened himself after any incident.
When the owner of the German Shepherds abused me for not having my dog on a leash, we gave each other a knowing look and both had a giggle.
He can read me, knows when to play and when to back off and I know when he needs a break from me.
Now his time’s nearly up, from the way he looks at me he knows I can’t help him but he’s okay with that.
As long as my wife and I continue to pat him and cuddle him and give him a good rub on the tummy he’s content. He’s taught me what it is to be brave and I’ll miss him.