I have had a couple of real characters contact me lately wanting breeding animals. This isn't unusual, I get requests all the time. Sometimes I'm fortunate enough to meet really great people who have done some research and are willing to do a little talking with me to reassure me that they're in it for the hedgehogs, because they really are. I'm lucky enough to still call a couple of them good friends, and enjoy hearing about or seeing the lovely babies they raise. What is notable about the latest batch is that they have had very little knowledge, haven't WANTED any knowledge, and aren't picky in the least about the animals they breed. Needless to say I have turned them down. But it got me thinking about why I continue to breed hedgehogs.
It sure isn't for the money. I have babies I choose not to sell to people I feel would not be a good home all the time. I don't sell to casual breeders, or huge breeders, or people who strike me as not being concerned about the well being of the hedgehog. I don't require a complete resume, but I do expect people to be willing to either fill out an information form or to talk to me enough that I can be reassured. Or sometimes some of both. :) I especially love the people who want hedgehogs to breed so they can make lots of money. Yeah, like that happens. :-P
Heaven knows we don't do it for the prestige. While I"m proud of being a good breeder who is fairly well known for really nice animals, it's not like winning the Nobel prize or anything. Beyond our little corner of the sandbox no one has even heard of us, and the vast majority of people still go "you raise WHAT???". LOL
Power? Um, not so much. Heck, I'm not even completely in control of the hedgehogs. They breed or don't breed, raise their babies or eat them, get sick unexpectedly, sometimes escape, sometimes fight, sometimes they even wake up dead, leaving me scrambling to figure out what went wrong. Power? I don't think so. Some days I"m not sure I'm even remotely in control.
So why do I do it? Partly just because I'm crazy about the little monsters. I love playing with them and raising babies and caring for them and all of it. And I love sharing them with my kids. But if that were it, I could just have a bunch of hedgehogs and enjoy them that way. Or have a casual litter here and there. But I don't, and I won't, so why????
I have spent just shy of twelve years owning hedgehogs. Our first girl was incredibly shy and feisty. Often downright grumpy. I got lucky on our early breeding animals, and most of them were pretty great. But some of them weren't. And quite a few of the animals I met at shows weren't. Or the ones I took in as rescues. Or the ones I met that were other people's pets. And I had to wonder why people weren't just getting cacti or caltrops or something equally spiky and annoying. And I knew that many of the rescues we got were people who were frustrated by these darling little animals that were so very hard to play with.
So we cut back on our herd and found homes for the grumpiest of our crew. And we started breeding only the best temperament animals we could find or raise. Sometimes we got great babies. Sometimes we didn't. We still had to worry about health, and longevity, and major health issues, so we couldn't always do it exactly how we might have liked to. But slowly, over time, our babies got more friendly. And more of them got more friendly. And some of them started routinely showing up so friendly you could just about play badminton with them (no, I haven't tried, I promise). And recently I realized that we really could start playing more with breeding for certain colors, because with the rare exception, even the grumpiest of our babies now is nicer than our darling Annabella was then. And it is so incredibly amazing to realize the difference we have made, just by keeping to our goal of making any of the species we could a better pet.
So why do I breed? There are a lot of good reasons, but I have to say that the one that means the most to me is that over the years I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a small group of people who have worked and planned to improve the friendliness of an entire species of pet. Its not a Nobel prize, but it is something really cool to have been a part of. And there's no way I'm stopping now.