Saturday, May 19, 2007

Badger in the undergrowth

I wondered last week why Timothy Hedgehog was so keen on me writing something in support of the badger community. He told me it was essential that people took pity on badgers and treated them with the respect they deserve. I was a bit surprised by his approach, mainly because I've never heard Timothy lobby for anything other than a more comfortable cage since his arrival several months ago.

After the post had been up for a few days, everything became clear. 'Dr McCrumble...' said Timothy one morning as I was picking lice and other ectoparasites from his body. 'I have something to tell you...'

'Mmm...' I murmured, not really taking much notice due to be pre-occupied with a particularly strong tickthat refused to be removed, and was grasping hold of one of Timothy's hind legs.

'You like badgers now don't you?' asked the hedgehog.

'I always like badgers. Unless they're sick...'

'He's not sick, as such...OUCH!'

'He...?' I replied, holding up the tick, now fully engorged with hedgehog blood.

'Do you have to be so rough?'

'I had no option I'm afraid. I might have been too late already. If he was carrying....'

'I don't want to know.'

'So, what were you saying?'

'There is someone I'd like you to meet. His name is, er, Roger.'

'Right...', I said slowly, unsure where this was going.

'He's over by the art studio. Can we go now?'

I'd just about finished picking arthopods off Timothy's legs and so agreed. En route to the art studio I heard the sounds of No.3 crying, and the gentle tone of my wife asking Ravel to find Timothy to help soothe the infant. 'I'll bring him in a minute', I shouted.

Timothy directed me to the back of the studio, and pointed with his front left leg towards a sheet of corrugated metal sheet that had been previously used to shield some firewood. Lifting the sheet must have startled the animal hiding beneath, and all I saw were the back legs and stripey rear of a small badger as it scuttled out of sight underneath the art studio.

'Roger!', cried Timothy, 'It's me, Timothy. You can come out. I've brought the doctor.'

I mulled the combination of Roger and Badger in my mind whilst waiting for the timid animal to re-emerge. The combination sounded not unlike Bodger and Badger - the name of a long running children's TV show starring a puppet badger (named Badger), and his master (called Bodger). It was a show I've never seen, but which was immensely popular during its ten year run, apparently.

Anyway, it took a few minutes of coaxing by Timothy before Roger emerged. I could see immediately from the dullness of his coat that he was not in the best of health. Judging by his size, I could also tell that he was a juvenile.

Roger sniffed loudly and looked at me inquisitively with rheumy, dark eyes. He then produced a rather large amount of phlegm, which he coughed out at my feet. It was yellow-green, indicating that he might be carrying some form of infection.

'Hello Roger', I said quietly, as one might to anyone one meets for the first time.

'Are you a doctor?', asked Roger, his quiet voice barely audible above the background sounds of birds in the neighbouring wood.

Before we go any further, I should point out that I am not Dr Doolittle's twin or direct descendent. Nor have I ever met Rex Harrison or Eddie Murphy. I was not expecting a reply from the badger, as I was under the distinct impression that Timothy hedgehog was alone in the universe for being the only animal that could talk on a par with humans. To be faced with another mammal that apparently converse, in English, was momentarily both surprising and shocking. It is a testament to my scientific training that I was able to keep control of my feelings in order to keep the animal calm.

'Well, er, Roger', I began, 'I'm not actually a medical doctor, nor indeed a vet, but rather a Phd. Is that any help?'

Roger emerged a bit further into the light. I could see now that he was really quite sick. He looked both underweight and dehydrated, and I was forced to manifest the idea that the poor animal may be infected with tuberculosis. If so there was only one course of action...

******TO BE CONTINUED!*******