Frankie, a college janitor, was used to finding unusual things on the university campus where he worked – but this was a new one. The tiny animal had run across the floor towards him, and at first he hadn’t recognized it. But then he did, and his heart broke. How could someone treat the poor thing so terribly?
Frankie works at the University of Sheffield in England. It was in April 2016 that, while on duty at the campus, he saw something strange. Yes, a live creature was in the kitchens, and it was coming right for him.
It wasn’t a frightening sight, though; the animal was tiny. Indeed, it’s possible that the janitor suspected it was some kind of rodent as a result of its size. But whatever the case, the creature was definitely unusual, and it seemed to be covered in something.
Following a closer inspection, the man finally identified the small animal – but the realization likely only made his heart sink. After all, someone had clearly abused the poor creature. It was consequently left vulnerable and deprived of its best means of self-defense.
The animal was a hedgehog – but its attacker had made the creature hard to identify. That’s because they had cut off its spines. Yes, whereas the tiny victim should have had roughly five thousand spikes, he was only left with a fraction of them.
Not only had someone sheared off thousands of the hog’s spines, but the caretaker also feared that the animal had suffered other injuries. In light of this, he contacted Allan and Anita Broadhead. The couple run the Cawthorne Hedgehog Rescue and Care Center from their Barnsley home, which is 40 miles from Sheffield.
The Broadheads were happy to help, and they subsequently named the hedgehog Frankie, after the caretaker who’d rescued him. Naturally, they were disgusted by how Frankie – the hedgehog – had been made to suffer. “It’s an act of absolute cruelty,” Anita told The Independent in April 2016.
“Whoever has done it needs to be brought to book,” she continued. “Frankie was in such bad condition that we actually thought he might have been used as a soccer ball.” In addition to his missing spines, Frankie was also distressed and dehydrated.
Fortunately, a trip to the vets and an x-ray revealed that Frankie had avoided breaking any bones. He was suffering from another ailment, though. The poor hedgehog was infected with ringworm – a fungal infection of the skin that affects both hogs and humans.
In fact, there are around 40 different types of fungi responsible for ringworm. Sufferers can experience itching, a red rash and even hair loss. Not only that, but it’s also a contagious infection, so whoever abused Frankie likely caught ringworm, too. It’s unclear, however, whether the perpetrators were ever found.
The rescuers deemed that Frankie would recover but that it would take some time. His cut spines would further hinder the process. “Having his spines cut off won’t have hurt him,” Alan subsequently told the Daily Mail. “But… it could have been really dangerous [without] his defenses.”
Hedgehogs’ spines don’t regrow quickly; it’s a long process that would leave Frankie vulnerable. And there was even a chance that new ones wouldn’t ever grow back. With that in mind, the Broadheads took Frankie into their sanctuary for the duration of his recovery.
“If his spines grow back, we’ll be able to release him back into the wild,” Allan told The Independent. “If not, we’ll keep him at the sanctuary and create a little safe area for him. We’ll do our best to get him well.”
Even so, Frankie’s new carers predicted that his recovery could take eight months or more. But in a safe and warm environment, Frankie’s wellbeing significantly improved. In fact, despite his ordeal – and much to Allan’s admiration – the hedgehog showed little hesitance eating and drinking.
And there was further good news: Frankie’s spines began to grow back more quickly than expected. “We have seen a new spike on his bare bum,” a Facebook post uploaded on April 13, 2016, announced. More spikes followed just days later.
During his time with the Broadheads, then, Frankie became quite a celebrity on social media. A retired carer even came back to work briefly in order to give him a spa day! The carer administered aromatherapy to the hog’s poor skin during the luxury treatment.
By June 27, 2016, Frankie was being slowly reintroduced to the wild… or at least the Broadheads’ garden. And over the subsequent month, Frankie learnt how to be a hedgehog again. But even when it was time to say goodbye, Frankie still couldn’t bring himself to leave.
In fact, Frankie decided that the Broadhead garden was so much like home that he wanted to stay there. And he also developed an adorable display of gratitude towards his rescuers. “Frankie has now made a habit of coming to Anita for a cuddle every night,” a Facebook post reported in August 2016.
And it wasn’t just Anita who had the pleasure, either. “It was my turn last night to have Frankie’s company as he came for his supper,” Allan wrote on Facebook. On January 13, 2017, however, the Broadheads had some tragic news.
“Sadly, we have just found Frankie in the garden this morning,” they wrote. “He has passed over rainbow bridge; his time had come.” So while Frankie’s life may have had its troubles, he had at least at the end experienced kindness and love.