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Remember Meet the Parents, when Robert De Niro's character comments on how "dogs are easy to break," and "cats don't sell out like dogs do"? Well, hedgehogs make cats look like a punk band signing to a major label.

"Some just don't want to be social," Mile High Hedgehog Show secretary Kari Espelien says of the prickly critters. "They're never going to be like a dog, where they're so happy to see everybody."

Fortunately, there are plenty of people happy to see them. The Mile High show draws breeders and owners from all over the country for a chance to hang out and play with hedgehogs.

Though hedgehogs aren't exactly known for having perky attitudes (they're nocturnal, after all), Espelien says the hedgies at the show are among the most affable.

"Temperament is the most important thing that the judges look at. The majority that I see are very social," she says, motioning to Jackpot!, a two-year-old light brown hedgehog. "He'll come sit up on my shoulder and snuggle up against my neck. It's the ones that haven't been handled enough that get the very wicked personalities." The show educates the public on what many falsely assume to be a quick and easy "pocket pet," and benefits rescue organizations that aid in the recovery of abandoned hedgehogs.

"Like any pet, people mistakenly get them on the spur of the moment," says Espelien, "and then they decide, 'This big prickly ball of spikes is really not a lot of fun.'"

But, oh, the fun to be had. At the show, hedgehogs are judged on things like color, shape and quill uniformity, and compete in a sort of hedgehog Olympics, which includes, among other events, a floor exercise, sprint and even a slalom course.

Don't let all this pomp fool you, though. Hedgehogs haven't sold out. They're just doing this for the fans.

-- Eric Phillips

capsule

The Mile High Hedgehog Show

Clarion Hotel, 314 W. Bijou St.

Friday, Oct. 14 through Sunday, Oct. 16

Tickets: $2 for children, $3 for adults; call 964-4704 or visit milehighhedgehogs.com for more.

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