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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hamster Tales

A couple of years ago my daughter begged for her own pet (we already have two dogs).  I'm a sucker for pets so eventually I caved and we bought her a teddy bear (Syrian) hamster.  She promptly named him Cutie Patootie and before we left the pet store, we signed him up for hamster races (in a ball on a track) the following weekend.  We bought all the hamster paraphernalia (cage, toys, ball, fence and food).  We set it all up on a table in Kenzie's room.

The following Saturday we took Cutie back to the pet store for the hamster races.

Wouldn't you know it, he won!  Kenzie was so excited and we took a picture to celebrate the big win:

Alas, poor Cutie Patootie, a winner one day and a chew toy for a terrier the next.  My husband and the kids came home to find the cage on the floor and Cutie dead on the patio.  They gave him a proper burial and we went back to the pet store for another hamster.

Our second hamster was dubbed Furry.  He was a notorious escape artist and a very loud roommate for Kenzie.  She kicked him out after two nights and he was banished to the laundry room where we could close the door and let him bang around in his wheel all night long.  He escaped his cage numerous times, but we always managed to find him.  One morning before school I accidentally left the cage door open.  About five minutes later, just as the kids were about to get on the school bus, I noticed the dog on the back patio carrying something in his mouth.  I hustled the kids out before they could see and confirmed that it was poor dead Furry.  Dogs 2, hamsters 0.  I called in sick and rushed up to the pet store and looked for a hamster that looked like Furry.  (That wasn't too hard to do because teddy bear hamsters all look alike.)  I found one and secretly named him Mischka.  Every one else in the family thought he was Furry.  About a week later I let my husband in on the secret.

From the beginning, my very responsible daughter made sure that I fed the hamster and cleaned the cages.  So the hamster actually became my pet.  Mischka (Furry II) proved to be as impressive an escape artist as his namesake, but we always found him before the dogs did.  I thought it might be fun to get another hamster, even though I know you can't put two male teddy bear hamsters together.  No problem, get more cages.  This hamster we called Teddy (our names aren't terribly original).  Teddy was a little more feisty, wanting to taste fingers on occasion, but I thought he was a real sweetie.

I've learned a few things about hamsters over the past year or two.  One, they are great Houdinis.  Two, they are messy.  Three, they sleep all day, so if you want to play you need to wait until about 9:00 p.m.  Finally, I learned that if you fail to regularly clean their cages, they will die of a bacteria that develops in their waste.  That lesson I learned with the tragic death of Teddy.  Kenzie lost almost all interest for hamsters after that.

Today, Mischka (Furry II) is the last man standing.  The kids still don't know that he is a substitute for a hamster that left this world over a year ago, but that's just as well.  I'm still the one who cares and plays and talks to the hamster.  He's sweet and a little clever.  I hate cleaning his cage, but I love those little rodent eyes that recognize me as the person who cares for him.