I get frustrated very easily. I lose my patience, temper, and cool. Putting the pieces together after a breakdown has always been difficult, but I get there.
Ever since I got my pet hedgehog, this has all changed.
Fran (short for Frances) has been my best friend in the whole, wide world for four years now. She is dependent on me, but that's okay. We are inseparable. Fran is an African Pygmy hedgehog, and the result of a Christmas wish. I run her Instagram account, and she in turn, runs my bank account. I'm not saying that taking care of a hedgehog is super expensive, but it's not cheap.
I got Fran four years ago in March, and she has changed me for the better ever since. Fran was my first personal pet. My family has had dogs, fish, cats, and hamsters, but Fran was my own to take care of. It was a lot of pressure at the time! Hedgehogs need to be kept a certain temperature, need their nails trimmed frequently, and are grumpy most of their lives. They love to hide, sleep, and poop. Consequently, they require constant cage changing, a careful diet, and lots of handling. If you don't pick up a hedgehog every few days, your hedgie will be upset with you.
This may all sound like negative consequences of owning an exotic animal, but the benefits are plentiful. Fran is a conversation starter! How many people do you know that own a pet hedgehog? Not many! She also loves to meet new people, and pee all over them. Her spikes have toughened my hands up from holding her over the years. Fran makes for good tweets and Instagram posts. But, the absolute best part about owning a hedgehog has been the patience I have gained.
When you first hold Fran in your outstretched hands, she is loud and scary. She makes huffing noises instead of breathing to let you know she is nervous. She clicks to let you know when she is upset. Her small, curled up body rocks back and forth and contracts. It really is an experience to hold a hedgehog for the first time. Taking into account all her body language, you have to watch yours as well. Are you hands outstretched? Or close to your body? Are you standing straight up? Or seated on the floor? Are you giving off nervous energy? There is a lot to think about in this moment.
When I hold Fran, (depending on her mood), she will sit in my palms for what seems like eons without uncurling herself for me. But then her huffs start to slow down. Her spikes will then fold down, instead of stabbing straight into my fleshy hands. She sniffs the air with her moist, ball-like nose, and slowly brings her head to look up. Her beady, black eyes blink and look me up and down. Sometimes Fran will just sit like that, staring at me. And I look back at her, and we wait to see who will blink first.
Other times, her paws will unfurl from her soft, furry belly and start to swat at me. Fran takes so long to try and turn herself over. It is quite comedic. At this point she struggles to flip herself on her stomach, and I usually assist her motion.
So how long does it take for Fran to finally start running around? Honestly, a few minutes. But for my friends and family who want to see her do tricks on command, they cannot wait this long. They lack the loving patience that I have learned from this small rodent. We all take our time doing things. There are several times when I think too hard about this; I start to believe that I am a horrible pet owner and Fran hates me. I know this to not be true now. I have gained a sense of true love and acceptance.
This doesn't just extend to my pet hedgehog. We as a society are so used to everything happening quick and conveniently. If something does not go as planned right away, we freak out or give up. I truly think that waiting for Fran to uncurl herself has taught me more about life's spontaneity than anything else ever will.