Posted: January 11, 2015, 4:30 p.m. EST
We are all too familiar with the plight of homeless pets in this country. Luckily, a vast number of advocates and services work to meet the needs of the more mainstream pets, such as cats and dogs. Some of the better-known small pets, such as bunnies and rabbits, also have their animal welfare groups. But have you ever thought about the needs of the more exotic small pets, such as hedgehogs? Who has been willing to step up to the plate to champion these animals as well as those that care for them?
© Courtesy Jim Woodring
Baxter is a rescued hedgehog who found a home with Woodring.
Working Hard For Hedgehogs
Linda Woodring is one such person, and then some. Now retired, this resident of Illinois became intrigued by the adorable prickly ones when her boss first introduced her to his pet hedgehog more than 18 years ago. She has been love-struck ever since. Her involvement evolved from being the owner of a little hedgehog named Dudley to today’s superstar of animal advocates.
Her work began nine years ago when she joined the Hedgehog Welfare Society and went on to hold a variety of positions, such as Vice Chief Volunteer Officer and Chief Volunteer Officer. Today she serves as both Vice Chief Volunteer Officer and Rescue Chair. If those positions sound crucial to the organization and time consuming, you’d guess right.
Linda describes just a few of her many duties.
"I get the adoption applications and process them for approval and oversee all the adoptions and relinquishments that come in,” she said. "I also work closely with our web designer keeping the website up to date.”
Other responsibilities include keeping a veterinary list updated on the HWS website for veterinarians who see hedgehogs in different states, attending educational events and shows, and monitoring the HWS Yahoo chat group. You may also find her on the HWS Facebook page on occasion. Perhaps one of her most important contributions, however, is that she makes herself available to hedgehog lovers in need by always being just a phone call or email away.
© Courtesy Jim Woodring
Woodring rescued Gromit in the big Texas rescue (read about it on the HWS website), and he participated in past Wheel-A-Thons.
Raising Money With Exercise Wheels
The most successful fundraising event held by the HWS is run by Woodring. The annual Wheel-A-Thon brings in thousands of dollars each year to help run the organization. It is held every year on Hedgehog Day, February 2. Woodring explained the origins of this celebrated day and its title.
"Europeans used to predict winter if the hedgehogs saw their shadows by the light of the moon,” Woodring said. "When they came here and found there were no hedgehogs it became Groundhog Day.”
The concept of the unique and fun HWS event is very simple. "We basically have people sign up to participate and collect pledges — flat amounts — from family, friends, co-workers, etc. for their hedgehogs running that night,” Woodring said. "It's basically just a virtual thing ... nothing to see.” She said the pledges are a flat fee, not per mile, so the actual distance run doesn’t matter so much.
"Everyone has different ways of doing it,” she said. "I have my hedgies send out personal emails to all our friends and relatives saying that they're running to raise money for hedgehogs that aren't as lucky as they are. Another guy makes and sells hedgehog wheels and gives a portion of his sales in addition to soliciting funds. Some people just put a jar where they work with a cute picture of their hedgie and an explanation of what the money is for.”
Woodring and her husband, Jim, have fun taking it to a whole other level though.
"We outfit the running wheels with wireless bicycle odometers, calibrated periodically for accuracy,” Jim Woodring said. "Daily I read the meters, recording the daily miles, run time, average speed, maximum speed and lifetime miles. Linda enters the data into an Excel spreadsheet. We may have more running data than most anyone; I'm planning to combine all the data for a published article on hedgie running. When we visit the vet, he asks how their mileage has been recently.”
If you’re interested in joining in on the Wheel-A-Thon fun, contact Woodring at this email.
Life As A Hedgehog Rescuer
Deb Weaver is the current president of HWS and is also a good friend of Linda and Jim’s. She explains how much time Woodring dedicates to the organization and how vital she is.
"I’d say she spends at least 30 hours a week doing this job for us,” Weaver said. "She screens all potential adopters — maintaining several databases for this purpose. If we can't find private adopters for relinquished animals we have rescue stations around the United States and Canada, and she's in constant contact with these folks as well. Linda is the linchpin that holds our organization together, we wouldn't exist without her.”
I am very happy to tell you that her sacrifices and efforts have not gone by unrecognized. In 2013 she was awarded a gold Presidential Service Award for her contributions.
Always by Woodring’s side is her adored husband, Jim, who also shares her hedgehog passion and proudly supports her in her efforts.
"Linda tends to get totally involved with an interest and hedgies are no exception,” he said. "So we travel to hedgie events, meet with hedgie owners and post comments on the Yahoo chat group — and have arranged the rescue of hundreds of hedgies.”
He says her adoption process is known to be quite intensive. "I've joked that one could adopt a child from overseas with less scrutiny than conducted by the HWS.”
When the couple is not tending to animal welfare efforts, they are contributing volunteer work to their local police department. And — surprise, surprise — Woodring was awarded two bronze medal Presidential Service Awards for that volunteer work as well.
When at home, they like to spend their time caring for their own hedgehogs and interacting with them.
"Proper care of as many as three hedgies requires daily chores of feeding, cage and wheel cleaning and arranging sleeping pigloos and blankets,” Jim Woodring said. "Most nights they get a turn sitting on her shoulder while watching TV.”
Lastly, the couple enjoys traveling in between all of their volunteer work. They have seen lands as far as the ends of Europe and Africa. Of course Linda’s immediate comment when asked about those trips was they didn’t get to see any hedgehogs along the way.
© Courtesy Jim Woodring
Woodring's Kenny was a winner at a past show. Hedgehog shows offer enthusiasts an opportunity to have their hedgehogs compete in fun events and to meet other hedgehog enthusiasts.
Helping Hedgehogs With Laughter
It’s important to note that Woodring is not just loved for what she does, but for who she is. She has been described by many as outgoing, friendly and engaging.
"What first attracts you to Linda is how kind and helpful she is,” Weaver said. "Those first couple of years I kept asking folks at shows 'what's that nice couples’ name again?’ The second thing you'll notice about Linda is her giggle — once she gets going you'd better settle in, it won't stop quickly. She and Jim are truly delightful people to know.”
Woodring is also noted for her grand sense of humor. I’ve been told that one of the funniest memories people have of Woodring arose during a hedgehog event. Deb Weaver explained.
"You can't expect to attend a hedgehog event without getting pooped on — it's just a fact of life,” she said. "At a show here in Milwaukee, Linda had managed to go all day without getting pooped on — a fact she had just finished bragging about to a table full of people. Right after that someone came up to her and asked her hold his girl for a few minutes. Well, a few minutes later Linda comes back pretty much covered in poop. I seem to recall a lot of laughter at Linda's expense.”
One would think that after a lifetime of giving to others and to the welfare of such a unique and misunderstood pet, retirement would mean taking it easy and perhaps enjoying her days in a rocking chair. That’s not what retirement means to Woodring. To her, retirement means more time to roll up her sleeves to dig deeper into hedgehog welfare. In fact, she very much wants to get re-elected in the HWS despite the hard work because she loves the adoptions. She would also like to travel more with her husband. So much for staying at home in a rocking chair … well, unless she has a hedgehog to sit on her shoulder.
Like this article? Please share it, and check out:
10 Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Hedgehogs
12 Strange But Common Hedgehog Behaviors And Facts
See all small animal exclusives
See all small animal news
See all Small Animal Champions articles
Are you or your pet a small animal champion? Contact us to be considered for a future article, click here>>