Tingo is usually sleepy during the day. When his owner, Michelle Mejia, brings him out, he’s wound up in a tight little ball. Mejia said her nocturnal pet is often slow-moving when they're out and about, but lets loose once the sun goes down.
“He runs like 5 kilometers a night in his little wheel,” says Mejia, a 21-year-old student at the Art Institute of Dallas.
Tingo is more widely known as Tingo the Hedgehog. The hedgehog-about-town has over 2,000 followers on Instagram, where you can see his adventures all over, from the Bishop Arts District to Deep Ellum, Reunion Tower to the Dallas Contemporary.
Mejia is an animal-lover who wanted to find an unusual pet, though she says she had trouble finding a hedgehog at first. She called an Uber and drove to pet store after pet store with no luck. In the end, her Uber driver looked up a breeder in Carrollton, who sold her Tingo. He proved to be a pretty photogenic hedgehog. After seeing Mejia's pictures of him, one of her friends persuaded her to start the Instagram account.
When it came to naming her new pet, she was torn between Tingo and Burrito. She liked both names and thought either would be out-of-the-ordinary for a hedgehog, but Tingo won out when she checked Instagram and couldn't find any other Tingos.
Two years later, the two are inseparable, and often hit the town together.
Tingo is the star of one of Instagram's dozens of hedgehog accounts. Click on the #hedgehogsofinstagram hashtag and there's a flood of pointy-nosed pets tallying up followers. Mejia stages Tingo's page from his perspective, referring to herself as his mommy. Several other hedgehog accounts follow Tingo.
"Every day there's another hedgehog following me," Mejia says.
Living the (tiny) high life
Mejia is constantly buying Tingo tiny clothes and playthings. Photos show him with a plastic burger and McDonald's shake, a miniature globe, a teeny beer bucket, cotton candy and Tabasco sauce. He has little whale and doughnut blow-up pool floats, and Mejia says she'll often dress him up in his cap, black hat or sombrero.
Taking the photos is one of Mejia's favorite parts of having a hedgehog, and she says she often has the chance to get creative. She's stuck him in hollowed-out fruit and on top of an ice cream cone. Sometimes, she'll add food or clothes emojis to the photos. She's a foodie and landscape lover and often holds out Tingo in front of skylines or lets him roam next to her lunch. She has a few favorite photos, such as one of him overlooking his tiny McDonald's meal, or him sitting in a pineapple. Another favorite is his very first photo from March 2016, where he sits, brow furrowed, in a tub of ice cream.
Where he's been
Mejia has visited several businesses around town, posting photos of Tingo at shops and restaurants. She's posted photos at Cade's Cakes, Mercat Bistro and Mill No. 3, along with several other coffee and ice cream shops. Mejia says when she's not in school she likes to take him everywhere. When she brings him to restaurants, the staffers often offer him water and fruit.
"They would treat him like a celebrity," she says.
You can follow Tingo on his Instagram account, tingothehedgehog.
Here are some more spots around town where Tingo has been spotted: