After a week, I can finally write this post.
Thursday, December 22nd, I had to make the hard decision to put my hedgehog Bilbo down. At four years old, he lived a long and healthy life for a hedgehog. He had been losing weight for a while and drinking a lot of water. All signs pointed to a tumor in the kidney area. However, he seemed to get better; he was still drinking a lot, but he was eating and gaining weight again. Then it seemed like he deteriorated over night. He stopped eating and drinking, and then he wouldn't run in his wheel. He couldn't maintain his own body temperature, so he had to be kept constantly warm with external heat sources. Even so, he became totally lethargic and had absolutely no interest in anything. With these signs, I knew it was coming. But there's no way to completely prepare yourself for losing something you love. Four years is a good life for a hedgehog, but it was way too soon to have to say goodbye.
Bilbo was the inspiration for this blog. He also served as inspiration for the illustrator Robert McPhillips, who illustrated The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn. He was a terrific conversation starter with all of the authors I've met at book signings; I even had a few ask me how he's doing if I ever had occasion to see them again or email them. Ever since I got him, at eight weeks, he was a faithful little reading companion. He loved his wheel and he loved eggs and bacon best as treats. He didn't like many people, but he was an absolute sweetheart with me and always very well behaved at the vet's. He was a very opinionated little animal and preferred to curl up under my chin and sleep than go on adventures.
Someday soon there will be another Reading Hedgehog. But right now, I'm still grieving and saying goodbye. I find myself constantly having to remember that I don't have to check his cage temperature anymore or feed him when I get home from work. I don't have to text my sister halfway through the day to ask if she'd looked in on him. And whenever I look up from a book or watching a movie, to glance at his now-empty cage, I have to remember that he's not there. I still expect to hear him rattling his water bottle at night or getting up to run in his wheel. It's hard to believe how quickly all of that became normal routine. It's so weird to not have it there anymore.
Thank you to everyone who has followed The Reading Hedgehog, both on the blog and Youtube. Many of you never met Bilbo in person, but I know you loved him anyway. I look forward to introducing the next Reading Hedgehog, but for now: safe journey to the land of the Elves, Bilbo. ^_^