Niagara Gazette

Web Extra

February 1, 2013

Puppy Bowl and the growth of online cute

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

Elaine Fischer, a hedgehog enthusiast who has traveled with her three pets from Roanoke, Va., boasted about Speedy, who she said was a grand champion of hedgehog shows (yes, they have hedgehog shows).

"He got the most points ever, of any hedgehog," said Fischer. "He has got a personality that fills the room." Not only that, he won a gold medal in the Hedgehog Olympics (yes, there is a Hedgehog Olympics). He won first place in the sprints, marathon and obstacle course, she says, but "he didn't do well in the hurdles."

Showtime. The hedgehog owners cluster around green-room TV monitors to watch their pets with the anxiousness of stage parents.

"Come on, baby," one woman whispers.

"I think she's pretty photogenic," says another.

On the field, the hedgehogs, do not take to their cheerleader outfits, which more closely resemble ballerina costumes with their pink tulle. It's about six seconds before they wriggle out of them and head to the end zone buck-naked. The critters are proving more difficult than anticipated, and not just because they've stripped out of their clothes.

"This one's a biter," a volunteer says, pulling one hedgehog off the field. Hedwig quills up. Fischer, his owner, frets that the males will start to fight or mate. "Hedwig's after the female," she says.

There is screeching, and as predicted, a skirmish.

"Fight! It's the white one!" a crew member shouts.

Fischer swoops in. "Did he start it, or did someone else?"

There is a foul on the field. Kleenex are summoned. The 69-person crew breaks for lunch.

Twenty-one kittens arrive for the "Kitty Halftime Show," and by 2 p.m., the room is totally blissed-out on fluff. Volunteers and crew are holding two to three kittens at a time. This is partly out of necessity — some of the kittens are scaling the wire walls of their topless enclosures to make a break for it. But it's mostly because aww, kittehs , in the language of the cuteblogs.

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