Sanc­tu­ary founder on how prickly char­ac­ters help pro­tect her men­tal health

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Bill Gibb BGIBB@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Ahedge­hog res­cuer has re­vealed how car­ing for the prickly lit­tle crea­tures has helped her own health.

Na­dia Al- Du­jaili launched the Forth Hedge­hog Hospi­tal as a safe haven to help sick, in­jured or or­phaned hogs.

But Na­dia, 33, ad­mits help­ing the hedge­hogs has also as­sisted her as she coped with men­tal health is­sues.

The SSPCA staff mem­ber had to leave her job be­cause of wors­en­ing de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and ago­ra­pho­bia.

But, she says, her new role has helped her find a new sta­bil­ity.

She said: “I dealt with all sorts of an­i­mals at the res­cue cen­tre but to­tally fell in love with hedge­hogs.

“They are such cute, fas­ci­nat­ing, de­ter­mined lit­tle an­i­mals.

“While I’m help­ing them, they are also help­ing me.

“I’m on med­i­ca­tion but they are my prac­ti­cal ther­apy and work­ing with them makes me feel bet­ter.

“My life re­ally re­volves around them.”

And her life’s work is more cru­cial than ever with a re­port last week re­veal­ing that only 9% of gar­den­ers saw them reg­u­larly in 2017. That’s down from 12% spot­ted in gar­dens the pre­vi­ous year, while 57% hadn’t see one at all, up from 51% in just 12 months.

The sur­vey fur­ther il­lus­trates the wor­ry­ing plight of the coun­try’s favourite mam­mal. The num­ber of hedge­hogs in the coun­try­side have halved since the turn of the cen­tury and dropped by a third in towns and cities.

Na­dia set up the cen­tre, which is a reg­is­tered char­ity, in her gar­den in 2014 and has a con­stant flow of poorly and or­phaned hedge­hogs handed in by wor­ried mem­bers of the pub­lic.

She has a main hospi­tal set up in a shed in the gar­den and also a num­ber of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion en­clo­sures.

Typ­i­cally, an­i­mals that are brought in will be as­sessed be­fore see­ing a vet for any im­me­di­ate med­i­cal or sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures.

They will then be lov­ingly looked af­ter by Na­dia for any­thing from two months to a year.

“They have all sorts of things wrong with them,” said Na­dia. “Some are in­jured in gar­den ac­ci­dents. One had two legs sliced off by a strim­mer but was still gamely pulling it­self along.

“Oth­ers have been hit by cars, which I think may have hap­pened to one with a head in­jury I’ve got at the mo­ment, and an­other has a urine in­fec­tion.

“Worms are also quite com­mon, as are burns from chem­i­cals, like weed­killers and slug pel­lets. Of­ten the hedge­hogs that are brought in are quite de­hy­drated and I use the equiv­a­lent of a drip to get flu­ids un­der the skin which has an ef­fect quite quickly.

“There are also few oldies who have be­come ill just as we do as we get older.”

But many of those Na­dia sees are suf­fer­ing from mal­nu­tri­tion as their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments are van­ish­ing through the loss of hedgerows and not be­ing able to get in or out of fenced- in gar­dens.

Look­ing af­ter them is a round-the­clock job.

“You have to feed them when they need it,” said Na­dia. “So I’ll of­ten have to do a feed at mid­night, get up for an­other at 3am and then one at 6am.

“I feed them on a mix of dry cat food and tins of cat and dog food.”

Na­dia also mon­i­tors the weight of the hedge­hogs every day to keep a track of their progress.

The hospi­tal’s set- up has been ex­tended to deal with 30 rather than the ini­tial 20 hedge­hogs.

She has 16 at the mo­ment but is ex­pect­ing to be full in a few weeks when she has ba­bies to look af­ter as it’s cur­rently the breed­ing sea­son.

When they are fi­nally fit enough, Na­dia tries to en­sure they are re­leased back to the area they were found.

“It’s al­ways great when they have re­cov­ered enough to go home, but I do get at­tached to them.

“Peo­ple think they look the same, but they have dif­fer­ent shades and colours, so I can def­i­nitely tell them apart.

“And you can see the var­i­ous char­ac­ter­is­tics and tem­per­a­ments.

“I keep in touch with the peo­ple who have brought in the sick or in­jured hedge­hogs and they are usu­ally keen to come back and re­lease them where they found them. But then I spend a sleep­less night hop­ing they are go­ing to be

okay!”

I’ve worked with all sorts of an­i­mals but fell in love with hedge­hogs. I spend my life help­ing them but they help me just as much

– Na­dia Al-Du­jaili

Na­dia in her Rosyth gar­den, where she runs Forth Hedge­hog Hospi­tal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.