About Me and The Painted Hoof
Welcome to The Painted Hoof! I am Dar Fletcher, an artsy-craftsy creative type who is also happily obsessed with her garden, her cats, and who would just love to have a dog and a pig but can’t right now. I also love DIY and reno projects but am much better at planning than executing (just ask my husband – or better yet, don’t!). [ more ]
Here’s my latest post…
Meet Sweet Sterling!
posted on 8 February, 2016
This is Sterling, and yes, this adorable little sweetheart is a baby hedgehog! I have to be honest here. Before writing this post about Sterling, I knew nothing about hedgehogs, but I’ve sure enjoyed learning about him.
Sterling lives in Vancouver, BC, with his hedgie mama, Pahnia. He is about four months old and is an African Pygmy hedgehog. You can tell just how small he is by looking at this picture (to the right) of him being held in a hand. He is just so tiny! Pahnia very kindly agreed to a short interview to tell us all about Sterling and life with a little hedgehog, but before we get to the interview, let’s look at some facts about hedgehogs.
- There are 15 species of hedgehogs
- The most common type of hedgehog for a pet is the African Pygmy hedgehog (like Sterling). Not all types of hedgehogs make good pets.
- Up to 11 babies can be born into a hedgehog litter. The mother will keep the babies with her from four to seven weeks, until they learn how to hunt and forage on their own. Then the family members will all go their separate ways.
- The hedgehog got its name from its foraging habits: rooting under hedges and logs for all sorts of creatures like bugs, snails, frogs and snakes, making little grunting pig-like noises all the while. Thus the name.
- Their quills are called ‘spines,’ and they have about 5000 of them! Each one will last about a year and then will be replaced by a new one. When they are scared or provoked, they will curl up into a spiny, defensive ball!
With this info in mind, let’s hear what Pahnia has to say about Sterling:
- I guess this is the big question. Why a hedgehog?! I mean I can see why now that I’ve seen him as he’s so darned cute, but what led you to him?
Sterling actually isn’t my first hedgie. I can’t pinpoint when or why exactly I decided I wanted one, but my ex boyfriend and I had this total fascination with them and decided one would be the perfect pet for us. After much research and YouTube video watching we had a “hedgehog weekend” and drove to Edmonton to pick one out, we named him William Wallace and he was our little baby. Only other hedgie owners understand the crazy love you have for your hedge, it’s funny. Will passed in a fire about a year ago and it was really awful and hard, so a few months ago for my birthday two of my girlfriends surprised me with a hedgie voucher and I went and picked out my little Sterling.
- What kind of care does he require? (food, bedding, etc)
He eats kitten food, he has a bag that will probably last him two years :). For treats I cut him up little veggies and fruit, and meal worms are extra special. His bedding is a natural paper bedding. He also needs to be bathed often, just in the sink with water mostly and then once a week I soap him up and clip his little nails which is a challenge. It’s very important that he’s kept warm; if he gets too cold he could try to hibernate which is dangerous.
- Is he generally a happy little guy? Does he get crabby?
He is happy with me because he knows me and my smell and touch. He will warm up to others after time too. They make noises to express their mood so a purr and whistle are very happy noises, hissing is defensive so when he’s all quilled in a ball and scared he makes kind of a spitting hissing sound. If they are not played with and socialized enough they will be grumpy so it’s really up to the owner how friendly they are.
- Do hedgehogs need to have a friend, or are they pretty happy as solitary pets?
Hedgehogs are very solitary, but they do love to play, so he has little balls to push around and tunnels to crawl through and most importantly a wheel.
- Are his little quills a challenge, meaning is he difficult to pick up or handle?
Not for me because I’m used to them and he relaxes them right away when I handle him, but for others they seem to be scary. When he’s in his little ball they are sharp but manageable if held properly.
- Does Sterling just cruise around your place freely, or is he mainly in a pen? Do you ever take him outside?
He has a decent sized little pen, he’s not caged but the walls are high enough that he can’t climb out (hedgies are escape artists). When I take him out to play I let him run around, they need their exercise and they love to explore and are very curious. I have yet to take him outside because it’s too cold, but we did used to take Will out in the summer. Also they are litter trainable which is great.
- Finally, is there anything else you think we should know about Sterling or hedgehogs in general?
Like I said, only hedgie owners know the true joy of having one as a pet, they have such big personalities and they’re so sweet, my heart wells up when I think about William and Sterling. They do take a lot of time and work, I think many people go into it not doing their research and end up not having the time to play with and take care of their little quill baby, so I encourage anyone who’s considering having one as a pet to please read up and ask lots of questions!
Great advice! Thank you, Pahnia, for sharing your story with us. I am so very sorry to hear about William. That is truly a horrible thing to go through, and it must still be painful to talk about. Your little Sterling is precious! I know that your mom, my dear friend Christy, clearly adores him too. I love hearing her Sterling stories.
That brings me to my painting experience of Sterling. His little quills — actually not quills but spines — were indeed a challenge to paint. If I were painting with acrylic or oil it would be easier, I think, as the process is additive, meaning you just build up the paint and add the spines last.
With watercolour or acrylic ink, the process is quite different as you are not building layers in the same way. In fact, in order to paint the dark body colour behind the spines I chose to mask the spines by using the masking fluid pictured here in the bottle on the left. For those of you ‘of my era’, think of the toxic, smelly rubber cement that you likely rolled into little balls and did other things with in your youth. This is basically the same goop but a bit less toxic.
I painted on the spines with the masking fluid, let them dry, and then added the dark background of the body. Here is the progression of the painting. To the right you see the dried spines. After adding the background burnt umber (left), I then peeled off the rubber.
You can see how I then began to layer the ink more and the spines still showed through. I added layers of grey, burnt umber, and dark blue so that the body would start to take shape.
The next steps involved defining the face and adding all of the really important colours, like peach and purple to his skin tone. Here is the final painting:
All in all, little Sterling was a wonderful subject to paint. Pahnia, I hope you like his little portrait. :-) Thank you again for sharing him with us.
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