Editor’s Note: At King County, we have a lot of employees who care for animals even if they don’t work for us at RASKC. Kathleen Knudsen, who is part of our Records and Licensing team, fosters injured and abandoned hedgehogs through her involvement in the Hedgehog Welfare Society. The following story was first reported in our employee newsletter.
Some people foster kittens, puppies, cats or dogs. Maybe guinea pigs and the occasional rabbit.
Then there’s Kathleen Knudsen, who has taken care of 37 hedgehogs over 15 years.
“There have been times I’ve had one, brief periods I’ve had none, and I’ve had up to seven at one time,” said Knudsen, Customer Service Supervisor in Records and Licensing.
Due to images in popular culture, hedgehogs sometimes end up being abused by unsupervised children or neglected by families. The Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland” uses them as croquet balls.
Whenever a new Sonic the Hedgehog video game or movie comes out, Knudsen gears up, as hedgehog adoptions go up and then sometimes fail when the kids go off to school.
Knudsen has fostered many hedgehogs until they were adopted into permanent, loving homes. For those who were ill, or severely neglected or abused, she has been a caretaker and hospice until their final days.
Knudsen’s first experience with a hedgehog was years ago in Norway, when a wild hedgehog essentially “rescued” her. She had been struggling as an American of Norwegian descent in college in Stavanger, in southwest Norway. The Norwegian students shunned her because of her nationality. One day, she sat on stone wall pondering whether to stay or go back to the U.S.
“All of a sudden here comes the strangest critter that I had never seen before. It came into my lap, turned in circles and sat down,” Knudsen said. The critter turned out to be a hedgehog, said students who walked by.
Once they saw the hedgehog sleeping on her lap, their attitude took a complete turnaround.
“If I was good enough for this animal, I was good enough for the students,” Knudsen said. “That’s what broke the ice and saved the rest of my experience.”
From that first encounter, it has been Knudsen doing a lot of the rescuing. The first hedgehog she took in once she returned to the U.S. was very sick. She researched the needs of hedgehogs and got involved in a group that became the Hedgehog Welfare Society.
“Ever since then the door on my home has been a revolving door for rescues and abused and neglected hedgehogs,” Knudsen said.
The Hedgehog Welfare Society focuses on the wellbeing of hedgehogs around the world. Hedgehogs are prone to a disease similar to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The Welfare Society works with veterinarians who are researching this disease, to find medications for people with MS.
“Hopefully one day you’ll see some results for MS that are a direct result of that research,” Knudsen said.
We’re certain the hedgehogs are grateful for her contributions, as well. As Sonic said:
“So what were you expecting? A dirty little hedgehog eating berries, and struggling to survive? Think again, because I am living my best life on Earth.”