My children have always had pets when they were growing up, mostly guinea pigs, hamsters and later, rabbits. At one stage, we ended up with eleven rabbits (yeah, they DO breed like rabbits, so to say).

The children always had full responsibilities for those small animals because I felt it is important that they learn to care for small beings and also to learn about responsibilities from a young age. For instance, when one of their rabbits, Alvin, went missing, the children went round our street putting up “lost” posters.

Their pets kept them busy and engaged. They spent more time with pets and each other, and consequently, very little time with toys. They knew a lot about animals.


One day, Georgina asked me, “Do hedgehogs remove their spikes so that they could cuddle each other?”


I hadn’t thought about this question for years, but I did, today, sitting in the hospital hooked to an ECG machine.

We human beings developed invisible spikes to protect us from hurt, and like hedgehogs, we hide our tender hearts and soft bellies behind our sharp prickles. But to allow someone to get real close to us, to hug us deeply, we need to be brave enough to remove our spikes.

But it’s a big gamble to remove our spikes – when we do so, we are no longer majestic and strong. So it’s a big risk. If someone “loves” you for what those grand spikes represent, they’ll be off like a shot, never to be seen again, the minute they see your smallness, your vulnerability, your lack of usefulness, and maybe the uglier, less noble side of you.

But nevertheless, you need to get rid of your protective shield if you want to get truly close with someone. And you know what, the right person will stay and protect you when your spikes are off, cuddling you. That’s the best feeling in the world.