Thursday, October 13, 2005

Death of a Hamster, by KL Williams

Biter came to our house as a replacement for our dear friend, Shelly, who had died an agonizing death after 2 short years. Shelly had been a replacement for Henry, who had died a similar death before that. At first, Biter didn't have a name; the little kid kept coming up with silly, fluffy names, like, well, Fluffy; we don't have no stinking fluffy names for our animales (ask Booger, the patriarch of the bunch), so she continued to go nameless. Until one night, when I got her out of her cage after the boys were in bed (that's the only time I could play with her in peace); she was still new to us, and hadn't really gotten used to being handled yet, but I thought she was coming round. Boy, was I wrong. I had her sitting on the flat of my palm, and I looked away for a second, probably talking to DH, when all of a sudden, I heard this sound like nails punching through leather. I turned around, and the little monster had bitten right through my hand, right up there on the fleshy bit right below where my middle and ring finger separated from my hand. As I looked, I felt it - a burning, right through to the knuckles of both fingers. I was later surprised to find I didn't just automatically throw her through the air towards a wall; I calmly put her back in her cage and ran to the sink to douse myself in antibacterial soap and alcohol (rubbing, not drinking. You know, to disinfect the wound). The next day, the upper half of my palm was a black and blue mess, and I couldn't quite make my fingers work right. But at least the houseguest now had a name: Biter.

Apparently, Biter didn't care for the taste of people; right after that, the boys seemed to finally take an interest in her (yeah, you bit Mom; man, that's so cool! Some day, I'm gonna bite the shit out of her, too, right when she's yelling at me to clean my room). Little kid had her out of her cage almost every day, and didn't have any trouble with her. I stayed away from her, though I really did want to pet her little fuzzy body, and play with her little ears - they were so cute!!11one One day, Little Kid just dumped her in my lap, and I froze; please don't bite me again, or I WILL toss you, I said to myself. Well, she must've heard my plea, though she did give me a look like "Don't move a muscle, lady, or the hand gets it". Then I thought, hey, this is a rodent; what do rodents like best? Food!!! SO I very carefully carried her out to the kitchen, and put her on the bar. I dug in the fridge and found some veggies - boy, she loved that! Then I went for the cereal shelf - Honeycomb! WOOHOO! That silly rat shoved 10 of those whole honeycombs into her cheeks, and would've kept going if I hadn't taken her back to her cage. She then yakked them all out in a corner of the cage, and went and got a drink. We were pals from then on. FoodMaster = yummy goodness.

A few months later, I was sound asleep in bed, when suddenly, I heard a little scratching sound coming from somewhere in our room. I sprang instantly awake; it's coming from the bookshelf. I thought to myself, "that damn hamster is in here". I waited until I heard the scratching again, then I jumped up and turned on the closet light. I stood still until I heard it again, then got down on the floor in front of the bookshelf; she was right back there, I knew it. I moved a couple of books, sitting on the floor, out of the way, and watched. After a few seconds, a little pink, wiggly nose stuck out from behind a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting"; AHA! I had her. I scooped her out, and carried her back out, all the way to the other side of the house, to put her back in her cage. Along the way, I woke up Fat Ass, Booger, and Ripley, all sleeping in the hallway or the living room. What a bunch of completely useless animals - a 5 oz. hamster got down to the floor, without disturbing the lid on her cage one bit, I might add, and got all the way to the other side of the house, with 3 cats in it, one of whom (we're not sure which one, but think it's Fat Ass) likes to eat the heads of rodents, and leave the bodies under our cars for us to see as we pull out of the drive. And made enough noise to wake me up out of Mommy-sleep; DH to this day cannot believe I woke up knowing that little tiny sound was that of little hamster feet on shiny dust cover. Try it sometime - it makes a very distinctive sound. So back to her cage she went, and to keep her in it at least long enough for me to get back to sleep, I piled some books on top.

We went like that for a few weeks, but now that she had discovered the secret to freedom, she was constantly banging the hell out of the lid of her cage. Hamsters are nocturnal, like most rodents, so of course, this was going on at night. And since the whole damn house could blow up around these other people that live here and they wouldn't know, I was the only one to hear all this carrying-on. After a couple of weeks, I told DH that we had to come up with some other arrangement; if I didn't get a full night's sleep, soon, someone was going to get hurt. Then it came to me. Several years ago, I bought a 75-gallon fish tank and stand, thinking it would be nice to have a really big tank, so I could have schools of neon tetras and such, not realizing that it would cost me $500 at least to get it set up with the best low-maintenance stuff I could. Well, needless to say, it had been sitting downstairs, unused and empty. What better solution to the Amazing Escaping Hamster? There's no way she would be able to get out of there! Now, where to put it? Well, Little Kid is the animal collector, so we rearranged his whole room, and with just inches to spare, jammed that huge tank and stand in there, and outfitted it good enough to house a hamster Queen. And mover Biter right on in.

She lived in style for I can't even tell you how long; I'm guessing she was here for at least 3 years, which is a really long time for a hamster. She had a wheel, she had a ball, houses of legos and kleenex boxes and Play Doh volcanoes; we gave her treats all the time, honeycomb cereal being one of her favorites. One of our greatest family things was to gather around her, sitting on the bar, and counting how many pieces of any kind of cereal or sunflower seeds she could jam in her head at once; if we split an Oreo in half, and gave her just the cookie part, she could get that whole thing in there, in one piece! Her head would be all deformed and stuff, and it was so funny. Then the boys would take her to her house, and would be totally fascinated by her yakking it all up in her stash in the corner. Some of the faces she would make, or the gyrations she would have to go through to dislodge some of it were pretty comical. She was our pal, and better yet, she didn't seem to upset the cats. Except Zeke; if she was in the living room in her ball, and he walked in, she would just plow into him as many times as she could, until he would finally get his Fat Ass up and leave the room, always with a look of complete disgust on his face. Nobody likes a grouchy cat, especially a grossly fat grouchy cat.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was in there, doing something (putting clothes away, cleaning the turtle cage, looking for the source of the smell) when Biter came out of her house. She didn't look too good - her fur was all out of order, she was not walking around with her usual spring. I waited for her to come fully awake, and stuck my hand in there to give her a pet - it had been a while since we'd had her out - and when she turned to see what was attacking her, I noticed her left eye was funny. She definitely didn't want me messing with her, so I left her alone. She went to her water bottle, and seemed to be having trouble getting anything out; I gave it a tap, to see if I could free up a drop for her, and it appeared to be working okay. I got another good look at her, and it kinda looked like she might've had a little hamster stroke or something. On the side with the funny-looking eye, her whole face wasn't right - her ear was a little droopy, her mouth was loose, and she didn't seem able to use the legs on that side of her body very well. I figured she wouldn't be around much longer; she just seemed to have gotten old over night.

DH was in there one day last week, and hollered that she was gone. She had crawled out of her little house, gone up to the front of the tank, and died right there where we would be sure to see her. I had just gotten an order of beads, and had just given the empty box to Little Kid; I had an argument with him to get the box back, so we could put Biter in it, in the nice piece of teal tissue paper that comes with all of my bead orders. She's down in the garage now (I hope not stinking), waiting for her funeral, out back where Shelly and Henry were. She was a good hamster, once we got past that first bite. I don't think we'll be getting another hamster again soon. Actually, I'd like to get that tank out of that room, and give Little Kid some room, though more room = more mess. 1 down, 10 more to go (KittyKitty, now KiKi, I guess, is officially a resident, though she still isn't allowed in overnight; I don't know why I waste my time and energy on saying no - it never works). I want new carpet and furniture!!!!

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