Thursday, June 25, 2009

the Hamster is Dead! Long Live the Hamster!

The life expectancy of the average hamster is, so I am told by Wikipedia, about 2 years. In our house, we tend to get through about a rodent a year. Bethany is the chief hamster owner, and is thus often to be found weeping and wailing as we bury yet another of her pets.
Hamster #1 was an overly large albino with a penchant for freedom and a thus uncanny knowledge of the air conditioning vents. Snuggles met his untimely end when Beth was ill and I forgot about him. He starved to death in his cage and was mourned by us all.
Hamster #2 was Squeaky, a little blackberry dwarf. Extremely antisocial, a ferocious finger biter, he was confined to his cage and died alone and unloved a few weeks ago.
Last week we went to the pet store and found George. A cute-as-can-be Black TeddyBear hamster. He is cuddly, sociable and a non biter of human flesh. Long may he reign!

But there are other tales to tell of small pets.Tales which are, shall we say, somewhat less savoury. Stories which may turn your stomach and cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end. Stories that involve Jessica.

Jessica is our chief animal lover. But, as occasionally happens in narratives of love, feelings are not always reciprocated.

Jessica, aged 4, fell head over heels with the two pet mice belonging to the 11 year old daughter of friends. During a family visit to their home, I was approached by Jessica, who stood looking at me with big solemn eyes. She leaned forward, and in a conspiratorial manner whispered "I killed the mice".
I sat quietly for a few seconds, and then asked her to repeat herself. Maybe I had misheard. Surely she had said "I kissed the mice" ... But no.
So I asked her "How?" (Not "why?" ... Maybe I didn't want to know)
And she brought her little hands up, closed her fists tight, and said "I squeezed them"
I closed my eyes and wished I were miles away. For a few seconds,I actually thought
"I wonder if we can leave now and not say anything". I knew this was not really possible. Consequences, however unappealing, must be faced. Before I said anything though, I went upstairs to check the situation out for myself. Maybe they weren't really dead; maybe they were just traumatized. I approached their living quarters and had a brief rush of hope as I saw the lid was firmly in place and even the heavy books on top of the mesh netting were still there. But upon closer inspection, it was indeed as bad as it could be. The mice were well and truly dead.
We were mortified. Jessica apologized. The friends daughter was not as sad as she perhaps should have been under the circumstances (it turned out she had been waiting for them to die anyway as she wanted a pet snake next) We remain friends, and the tale of Jessica and the mice has become something of a legend...

There are other stories.
For example, her fascination with fish.
I would wake to a noise in the night. Suddenly alert to the potential threat of burglars, intruders, rapists I would creep from the bed,and find Jessica hiding behind the sofa, the floor wet and slippery, tiny silvery fish flip-flopping helplessly at her feet.I would gather those I could see and plop them back into their tank. Occasionally in the morning, or the next week I would find the ones I had missed, now hard and crusty, wedged down behind the cushions, or just out of sight behind the sofa.
Sometimes I would be unaware of her nocturnal wanderings and upon the morning find in her bedroom 5 or 6 plastic tumblers of water, neatly placed by her bed, each containing a little fish.
And her affinity with tadpoles frogs and toads. One year she removed nearly all the tadpoles from our neighbours neglected pond and placed them in our paddling pool. We had many, many frogs. And that same year, one particular night,I was awoken by a strange noise. Upon investigation I found all my children sleeping soundly and so returned to bed. But again, a noise disturbed me. This time, It seemed that Jessica had moved. I pulled at her duvet, thinking maybe she was too warm, but it resisted my attempts. So I tugged harder, and as I won the battle, Jess released her hold, opened her eyes wide, and as the duvet landed on the floor, there was revealed a large and ugly toad, nestled up beside her in bed. Maybe she was searching for her Prince Charming?
There are countless episodes of Jessica saving birds, lizards, salamanders ... anything living and breathing. A true lover of wildlife, she has outgrown her heavy handed toddler-hood and now attempts to preserve life as opposed to crush it to death. She has a big heart and cries endlessly when the creatures succumb to injuries or illness. You would think that two dogs a cat and a new hamster would be enough, but no. She wants a bird, or a snake or a gecko. Something else to love. Maybe for her birthday ...


malcolm watson said...

All this rather puts into the shade things that happened when you were young. Remember our little guinea pig? (can't remember his name, I suppose he had one). We left him out in his cage one very cold winter's night, and he froze to death. Or did he? When I found him the following morning, "stiff as a five-day corpse", I wrapped him in newspaper, and "buried" him in the dustbin.Hours later, I felt sure I heard a high-pitched, long, mournful guinea pig-like shriek coming from the direction of the dustbin. I didn't investigate, but the sound haunts me still. Not too seriously, though.

Lynne said...

we had a guinea pig? I don't remember a guinea pig!

malcolm watson said...

It may have been before you were born. Mum thinks it could have been before Paul too, but I think he was around. Possibly too young to remember, though. You do remember Fergy, the rabbit?

About Me

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I have been married to Andy since 1991, we have 4 daughters, 2 dogs, 2 cat, 4 rabbits (and various baby rabbits) and a hamster (not dead). We have lived in the U.S.A since 2000, and are citizens of the U.K. I miss many things about the U.K.(pubs, old buildings, red post boxes, church bells,narrow roads, a good joint of roast lamb with mint sauce, to name but a few) but I have grown to love the U.S.