How A Childhood Encounter Saves Hedgehog Lives Decades Later

A mother’s love of nature and wild hedgehogs inspires her daughter to rescue pet hedgehogs years later.

Ilme Ivand first became fascinated by wild European hedgehogs in her youth, and now she is a pet hedgehog enthusiast. klimkin/Pixabay

By Rebecca Stout

During the winter of 2014, a greatly needed hedgehog rescue station for the Hedgehog Welfare Society opened up in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is run by a fascinating woman named Ille Kaglik who enjoys a wide variety of interests in life, including reading physics and autobiographies, cooking, and long country walks. In her spare time, the hedgie lover volunteers at Small Animal Rescue Society, which is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a chocolatier by trade and owns Saltspring Island Chocolates. But perhaps the most interesting things about Kaglik are how and why she entered into the world of hedgehogs and rescue to begin with, and why her rescue came to be.

It began many decades ago across the ocean and in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Kaglik’s mother, Ilme Ivand is 87 years old, but remembers her glorious childhood living on a large farm in Estonia very clearly. And most of all, she remembers her long walks in the woods. While foraging for wild mushrooms and wild strawberries, Ivand came across a wild hedgehog. Completely captivated, she followed the tiny animal until it led her to a very special surprise. A nest of baby hoglets! Kaglik explains, “Now, hedgehogs are much-loved in Estonia and are the main characters in many children’s stories. Their appetite for eating all the things that liked to eat their vegetables was much appreciated and my grandmother would leave out large bowls of water in front of their porch.” Every day, the little girl visited the babies until they were grown enough to follow their own adventures in the woods. This is the story Ivand told Kaglik in her native tongue. She told her daughter how much she loved those hoglets and always wished to find babies again, but never did.

Several summers had passed after her chance encounter with the magical creatures in the forest when the Soviets invaded Estonia. Ivand lost her home and was taken to a labor camp until the war was over. Fortunately, she found her way to Canada soon after. Unfortunately, European hedgehogs do not reside in Canada. Ivand continued to be fascinated by them however and eventually wrote a children’s book called Siilikuru, which means “Home of the Hedgehog.”

Years passed and on one cold, rainy night in November of 2010, Kaglik’s mother suffered a terrible fall. Her injuries left her unable to walk and care for her home. The cause of her fall turned out to be quite ironic. “True to form, she had been chasing a raccoon from our balcony when she slipped and fell,” Kaglik said. “She almost died that day, for she was unable to get up and laid outside in the cold from the morning until I came home that night.” She was taken to the hospital and never returned home.

Today Ivand lives in the extended care wing of a hospital on Saltspring Island. However, it is just a 2 mile drive away from the chocolate factory where Kaglik works. Kaglik spends two or three nights a week working late and spending time with her beloved mama.

Although the new home was marvelous, filled with wonderful caring people and new friends, Kaglik’s free-spirited mother missed nature and especially her pet cat. Kaglik tried to smuggle her mother’s kitty in for a visit, but she was caught. The hospital has very strict rules about pets visiting, especially those that have saliva, dander and hair that cause allergic reactions in many people.

The holidays were upon them when Kaglik’s mother directed her daughter to take 100 dollars out of her bank account and buy herself something unusual that she would never buy herself. Kaglik window-shopped and browsed the Internet day after day until one day she found a photo of an adorable, furry, white face with teeny, black eyes peeking out at her from beneath a ball of quills. “This did not look like any hedgehog I had seen,” she said. “It had a lovely, white, furry tummy and black-and-white quills. I learned that this was a pet hedgehog, that people kept them inside and that they had been created for this purpose. Well, my goodness, there was my special gift!”

Kaglik strolled into the hospital carrying a wicker picnic basket containing a special treat for her mother. “I will never forget the look on her face when I reached down into the basket, brought up a pile of fleece with two legs sticking out and said, ‘Mama, I would like you to meet His Lordship, Sir Huffalump!’” Kaglik said.

The little quilled baby wasn’t a secret for long and became a hospital favorite. Nurses and residents alike quickly understood what made Ivand and Kaglik fall in love with the tiny animals. Jennifer Ritson is the activity coordinator at the hospital and says she is grateful to have both ladies in her life and describes them as being compassionate, loving and respectful to animals. She recalls her first introduction with the quilled visitor, “The first time that I met one of Ille’s hedgehogs, all I saw as I walked into the room was a tiny nose peeking out from under the bed covers — Ilme was in bed. I just about jumped out of my skin. Ilme and Ille introduced me to the hedgehog and I fell in love.”

Sir Huffalump belonged to both mother and daughter. The beloved wee one passed away, but today Kaglik’s mother is visited weekly by Winston Churchquill or Miss Mildred Pierce. Ivand cries and laughs along with her daughter when she hears about the woes and triumphs of Kaglik’s frequent hedgehog rescues and the going’s on in the little animals lives. She in turn shares that with the nurses and friends at the hospital.

In 2011, Kaglik rescued her first hedgehog. It didn’t take long before people heard about the “hedgehog lady” and started showing up with rescues and going to Kaglik for help. Private owner and rescue volunteer, Heidi Shaw has adopted from Kaglik and describes her as extremely passionate, grounded and secure. “She has an amazing heart for the abandoned and lost, and it shows in everything she does.”

No doubt this speaks volumes about the character of her grandmother and mother to have passed this on to Kaglik. Shaw adds, “There really are very few who will be a voice for the small and unnoticed creatures of this world. Ille is one mighty voice!”

Laura C. Dunklee is a member of the Board of Directors for the Hedgehog Welfare Society (HWS) as Health, Research and Education Co-Chair. She is also one of the administrators for the HWS Facebook group. The fellow hedgehog lover came to know Kaglik through the Hedgehog Happenings group on Facebook and was instrumental in getting Kaglik to become a rescue station. In the past they have worked together in coordinating rescue efforts. Dunklee says, “Ille’s commitment to doing what’s right for hedgehogs — driving hours to get a little one to a new home, her unwavering drive to see to it that hedgehogs have good lives with knowledgeable owners — has had an impact that I cannot measure. She’s there for them, period. She inspires me. She brings a lot of light into the world, and into my life.”

And where did that light originate from? It came from a young girl who lived through the hardest and darkest of times only to pass on to her daughter a love of long beautiful walks in the wilderness and of animals. It came from the solid foundation of family, love, values and respect for life that she gave her. Not just respect for people, but for nature and all the creatures of this world. Today that light continues to reach a great many people and has in turn saved many little hedgehog lives. What Kaglik’s mother has instilled in her daughter has lived on and will now continue to live on through others. This is Ilme Ivand’s beautiful legacy.

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Critters · Hedgehogs