Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

This Side of the Pond

Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman

Somewhere in the north of England, not too long ago, a good Samaritan stumbled across a creature in need.

We’ll never know the identity of our well-meaning citizen because it’s been redacted for the privacy I am sure they will be grateful for now this story has come to light. But we do know all about the good they did that day.

Our tale takes place in Cheshire, and I would like to imagine it began in a sunlit glade, deep in the picturesque woods, with spring leaves rustling in the morning breeze as our good-hearted friend enjoyed a stroll.

In my imagination, it was an idyllic sort of day…until, suddenly, disaster struck.

There, curled up on the ground, lost and completely alone, was a baby hedgehog.

The poor little thing was motionless with fear, a ball of fur without a mother.

No siblings to shuffle along with, no evening meal to look forward to.

What was our savior to do?

As any animal lover would, they decided to save the day.

Unsure if it was injured or simply lost, the good Samaritan placed the hoglet in a cardboard box that they’d carefully lined with newspaper in case of accidents. They set down a plate of cat food beside it, just in case it was feeling snackish on the journey.

And then they headed for the Lower Moss Nature Reserve and Wildlife Hospital, a well-known animal charity that rehabilitates about 2000 wild animals each year and releases them back into the world once they’re good and ready.

Volunteers met them at the door, ready and prepared for the hand-off. They carefully opened the box to retrieve the hoglet and start checking its vitals.

It was at this point that someone realized it was not a hedgehog.

It was, in fact, the bobble from a winter hat.

You might have seen this coming. I did include a small clue earlier, which you may have missed if, like our Samaritan, you were too worried about the hoglet’s welfare to be paying attention to the details.

Hedgehogs, you see, are at no point fluffy.

Hoglets aren’t born with fur that gets matted into spikes from all the wiggly-nosed sniffing they get to doing. They arrive complete with their spines – although, thankfully for all those hedgehog mothers, they don’t start pushing through the skin for the first few hours.

I suppose our well-meaning friend might also have questioned why the hoglet hadn’t so much as twitched its nose during the encounter, but on the whole I’m glad they played it safe and went to the experts.

Britain doesn’t have the kind of wildlife we enjoy here in the Big Empty. You won’t run into any elk during your woodland hikes and we got rid of all the bears and wolves many centuries ago.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with what we’ve got.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is the oldest and largest animal welfare organization in the world, and is relied upon by the Brits as our national emergency service for animals in a pickle. As every RSPCA employee knows, the hat bobble is far from an anomaly.

Take, for example, the woman who reported a dead dog on a church roof, apparently expired due to the heat. Fortunately, it was only floppy because it was a stuffed toy.

Or the terrified residents of Grantham who spotted a scorpion in the middle of the sidewalk. The animal collection officer arrived to find they’d cordoned it off with cones to ensure it didn’t bite anybody – which was unlikely to happen, because it was made of rubber.

Because animal welfare is a top priority even when no help is needed, the officer now keeps the scorpion on the dashboard of her van. His name is Cecil.

Meanwhile, in Cheshire, an RSPCA inspector was relieved to find that the “beheaded swan” she’d been summoned to assist was just a statue that had fallen over. A similar thing happened in North Yorkshire, but it turned out to be a Christmas decoration.

A motorist also called in to report a swan tangled in electric fencing that had been washed into the river during a flood, but this time it was a plastic lawn chair. I think it’s safe to say that the Brits are really bad at identifying swans.

Also in Yorkshire, firefighters were called to help a baby owl that was stuck in a roof gutter, only to find it was a heart-shaped cushion.

I’ll grant you that sometimes the callers do get things right, even when their reports are weird and wonderful. A Staffordshire family was unpacking their groceries recently when they discovered a vacuum-packed frog among the bananas.

It was a Hispaniolan common tree frog from the Dominican Republic. Somehow, it travelled 4300 miles while staying very still and is somehow perfectly healthy.

Over in Newcastle, a finch flew into a clothing and homeware store and couldn’t get back out again, so she spent the next two days visiting all the displays before she was finally caught.

Fortunately for everyone trying to enjoy a burger, it didn’t take nearly as long for the RSPCA to catch the five-foot boa constrictor that turned up in the middle of a McDonald’s.

They didn’t manage to catch the bird that got stuck in a lady’s loft. The collection officer could hear it peeping, but couldn’t find a thing – until he realized it was her smoke alarm, alerting her to a flat battery.

From a “collapsed horse” that turned out to be a pile of hay to a “dead badger” that was actually the upturned contents of a flower pot, the RSPCA has seen it all. It seems we’re liable to panic about animal cruelty in virtually any scenario – but at least it shows we care, even if we’re not very good at it.

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