My friend and podcast co-host, Justin, has been bravely battling wildlife. Inspired by him, I, too, have been confronting the animal world.

Now, Justin lives in British Columbia, Canada, and has a penchant for exploring the vast wooded interior. And, as every child (or British child, at least) knows, “if you go down into the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.” Read “Justin & Coco v the Bear” here.

Of course, I do not live in Canada. I live in Cyprus. In case you’re interested, one could fit Cyprus one thousand times in Canada and still have room to spare. Our little republic is 3,500 square miles, while Canada is 3.8 million. Our wildlife is similarly scaled.

Dear Reader, I have become a ranger, a champion of the entirely undomesticated, wild and free...hedgehog. I know you have no reason to expect such courage from me, but there you are.

Dog number two at the mountain hideaway is Charlie. A fox terrier, a wire-haired Jack Russell, if you will. Of living things, he has no fear. Should a firework go off anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, he leaps to sit quivering on my head, but animals? Nae bother. Charlie will approach a snarling rottweiler, tail wagging, inviting a game of “chase me, chase me.”

Where dog number one, Spice, a Cyprus poodle, will alert us of any animal intrusion with a persistent (annoying) yap, Charlie silently goes straight to the intruder. To play with it, I think.

When a terrier is on a scent or a mission of any kind, there is nothing else. Ordinarily, Charlie can hear a fridge door opening from the next district, but on a mission? Deaf as a post. Twice last year, I found him pawing a stone in the garden. As I got closer, I noticed the stone was a ball of spines. Judging by the blood around his mouth, Charlie had discovered that spines or quills are sharp. Using my powers of persuasion (or a firm grip on his scruff), I returned Charlie to the house.

A couple of nights ago, Charlie ignored the fridge’s opening, so I went to the door to call him. Nothing. Then, all hell let loose. It turns out that when in pain or distress, hedgehogs squeal, literally, like a baby. Guided by the sound, I found Charlie prodding at the wailing hog. I pulled him off, gratified that he seemed to have taken the lesson and did not engage with his mouth, but I was concerned for the little spiny creature.

I deposited Charlie back in the house and returned to the spot. The hedgehog was unfurled and met my gaze with a steady eye. I could swear there was a hint of gratitude in that look. I proposed that crossing the boundary into the vineyard might be prudent, where dogs did not roam, but the hog continued to regard me adoringly. I backed off awkwardly, and when I checked back half an hour later, the little dude had moved on.

The next night, the squealing kicked off again. I cursed Charlie, loudly. Affronted, he looked up from the couch.

Together, we went to investigate. Spice took the precaution of a pre-emptive yap, which sent something (a cat?) scurrying. Charlie went straight to the oil tank, and was excitedly trying to get under it. I got down on all fours, using my phone’s flashlight. There was our little friend.

I could swear he winked at me.

So here you are, reading the blog of an official “Guardian of the Hedgehog.” I’ll have to get him a searchlight.

The hog signal.

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