That Saturday night was one of the most difficult nights of my life and this is one of the most difficult blogs I’ve written. That night, when I checked in on Brian, I found that he wasn’t his usual grumpy self. Normally he hisses and spikes up – his way of telling you to leave him alone. He’s a lot like me: socially awkward. When I looked in, Brian was lying on his side by the entrance to his igloo, just looking at me. Straight away, I knew something was seriously wrong.
I scooped Brian up and took him downstairs where there was more light (hedgehogs are nocturnal and prefer dark environments). Straight away, I could see he was struggling to breathe and very lethargic. He never hissed at all. When we took him out of his igloo, we saw he’d lost a lot of weight. Normally, this isn’t an issue because hedgehogs can get fat really quick, so Brian’s no stranger to having to go on diet. Sensing that he was in serious pain and discomfort, we called the emergency vet straight away. At the back of my mind, I was starting to get really really scared. When we arrived at the surgery, the vet said it was likely to be an internal abscess, which had led to infection, or a tumour. It felt like somebody had dumped a pile of bricks onto my chest. It kills me to think the poor little punk was lying there in pain whilst we were at work. We were given 2 options: try him on antibiotics and see how he responded, or put him to sleep. I won’t lie, a part of me was wondering if sleep was the best option for him. He was struggling to breathe and couldn’t even walk. But we weren’t ready to say goodbye or give up on him. The vet said there was a chance he could make it, so we had to try. We chose for antibiotics. On the drive home, We prepared ourselves for staying up all night to make sure he had regular fluids and would try to eat something. I’m not going to lie: when we got home, I struggled to help. I froze completely. I was so fucking useless. Within about 30mins of getting back home, Brian had gone. My heart was broken. He went whilst we were holding him. I’m glad we chose to bring him home. I held & hugged him for the next few hours, not wanting to let go or admit that he’d gone. I managed to convince myself he would be fine in the morning and that he just needed some rest. That was the only way I could put him down. I put him back in his cage, making sure he had his friends Clumsy Smurf, Pink Flamingo and Tiger Mouse by his side. I changed his water and put down his favourite food, in case he was hungry. I then did some of his laundry. I didn’t care that it was midnight, I had to make sure he had more towels and blankets for when he woke up. He never woke up.
Some people will probably never understand why I feel so sad or why it hit me so hard. After a few very difficult weeks of dealing with anxiety and dysphoria, and even turning back to taking painkillers as a way to escape daily struggles, losing Brian was the last thing I needed and I completely broke down. Even now, as I write this, I’m still broken. I cannot believe he’s not here anymore. Seeing Brian all wobbly on his little legs, struggling to walk and instead dragging himself towards the safety and warmth of his favourite igloo, is something that will forever haunt me. I can’t shake that memory at all. He was trying so desperately to crawl back into his igloo, where he always felt safe and warm. I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed him. That I never spotted signs sooner. Knowing that I was so fucking useless and powerless when we got home also haunts me. I’m angry at myself that I never went straight home after work. That instead I went to Tesco to get him some more of his favourite cat food (yes, hedgehogs eat cat food) whilst he was in pain. His favourite cat food that he’ll now never be able to enjoy. He was a tough little punk that survived pneumonia when he was only 1 year old, I really wanted him to beat this. Why was he a punk? Because he had spikes!! He was our little punk and I’d give anything to have him back. A good friend recently said “I hate when pets die they are the best part of us” and that is so true. Animals don’t judge (a quality which seems to elude a lot of humans). They don’t question. They just love you for you. Brian didn’t care how I looked or what choices I made in life. He always cheered me up through some of my toughest times – especially during the time when I was so suicidal shortly before coming out.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for their love and support recently. To those who understood that Brian was more than a pet, he was family. An important member of our family. The house feels empty without him. His bedroom (yes, he had his own room) is still dark and full of his things. I still can’t bring myself to go in there. He was grumpy, independent, cheeky and always inquisitive. He was such a little champ and a nosy explorer. We’ve had Brian from when he was a hoglet, just under 4 years ago. He would have been 4 on May 27th. The moment we saw Brian, we loved him so much. He came into our lives at a time when it was about fresh starts and taking chances on the rest of our lives: for us as people, as a relationship, as a family and at the start of our own business. He was like our first child together. No actually, he wasn’t like our first child…he was. Knowing right from the start that we didn’t want children, we opted for animals instead. Fur babies. So yeh, to us, Brian was our first and he meant the world. He was the missing link to our family back then and has been with us through thick and thin ever since. Whether a person or animal, you cannot deny that sort of love and attachment, which is why I feel so empty and destroyed right now.
I know I will always have memories of Brian but to be honest with you, I’d rather have him back here instead. I miss him so much right now. Brian will never know how much he meant to us and how much he helped to create a family unit. As much as it still hurts, the only thing I can take comfort in is the fact that he’s no longer hurting.
Brian, thank you for choosing us and being with us. For all the times you made us laugh, snuggled up to us, you pee’d or poo’d on us or sat and watched Road Wars with us (Road Wars was his favourite TV show because of the blue flashing lights). From teaching you how to run on your wheel to playing tug o’war with your hat to teaching you how to swim during bath-time, it was amazing to have you in our lives and to watch you grow from a little hoglet into a loving hedgehog. Sleep well and stay warm Brian. I miss you so much and I will always love you.
Life is short. Anything can happen at any time, so please don’t take anyone for granted. Hold the ones you love, tell them you love them all the time and enjoy every single moment you have together.
Featured image: by me