Pickles good for athletes: Class hedgehog brings joy on, off the field

When an athlete gets hurt, they go to the athletic training room at the Field House to be assessed and to do rehab, all with the goal of being back on the field or court. What an athlete will find when they enter the athletic training room is that it’s a different culture full of awesome student athletic trainers who drop what they are doing to help injured athletes. When an injured athlete sits on the table to be assessed, they might look down and see a hedgehog rolling across the floor in her ball. That hedgehog is Pickles, the athletic training team’s class pet.

Pickles is two years old and came to Bryan High from her previous owner in Huntsville.

“We did not want a baby, because we wanted an older one that was already tame and that we knew would not be a danger to students,” assistant athletic trainer Trent Cox said. “It was initially the student’s idea to get a class pet. I went with a hedgehog because I didn’t want to do something stereotypical like a hamster or a snake, but I also wanted something they could hold.”

Pickles has improved the atmosphere in the training room and has given the student athletic trainers a class pet to love, hold, and nurture.

“Pickles makes us feel like mothers,” student athletic trainer Emily Velasquez said. “When we hold her, she’ll fall asleep and chill with us. We also take her out of her ball and let her crawl around.”

She has also impacted the athletes by helping them and being there for them when they come in injured.

“During the fall semester when I hurt my hip, I spent every 7th and 8th period with her when I wasn’t at therapy,” softball player Hallie Lewis said. “Pickles made the training room an exciting place because when you go in there and see her, she automatically makes you smile.”

Though it may sound like taking care of a hedgehog is a lot of work, the students handle the responsibilities well.

“Pickles is extremely low maintenance, but some students help to make sure she has plenty of food and water,” Cox said. “Students have also split the start-up cost of getting her the ball to roll around in and a wheel.”

Pickles doesn’t always stay in the training room, she sometimes heads to the gym to support her athletes once they have recovered.

“Pickles is so supportive,” powerlifter Sydney Overton-Juarez said. “She used to come watch us lift weights at powerlifting practice and cheers us on. She also used to roll on the mat in her ball. Her favorite is watching deadlifts.”

The appearance of Pickles on the field is always a pleasant surprise to student athletes and those that might be nervous around her, but they quickly warm up to her.

“During track practice we were working on relays but before we started someone brought Pickles outside to meet the team,” track athlete Reagan Brown said. “At first I was afraid to hold Pickles because hedgehogs are weird-looking, but she was the sweetest.”

Pickles goes into the weight room to cheer on the powerlifters, she goes outside on the field to cheer on the soccer players, and she even rolls around the track with the track athletes. But taking care of the athletes when they are hurt, cheering up anyone after a rough day, and being a member of the athletic training family is where she is most at home.

“The training room is more like a family now, because she’s like our family pet,” student athletic trainer Haylie Douglas said. “We all love Pickles, and Pickles loves us.”