Flashback Friday is where I post some writing of a little snippet of my life as a younger me. Apparently, I had a lot to say about my pet hamster so I’m splitting it into two parts. Read Part 2 here.
I wanted a hamster and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like my parents saying “no” get in the way. I don’t know where I got the idea in my head that I wanted a hamster, but I thought about having a hamster all the time. Whenever I asked my parents if I could have a hamster, the conversation went something like this:
“Can I have a hamster?”
“Because I said so.”
“Pretty, pretty please?
“No. And if you keep asking, you’re grounded.”
Though during one conversation I did get more than a “no.” My dad pointed out that I couldn’t have one because I didn’t know how to take care of one. Pff. I could fix that. They’re called BOOKS.
So I bought me a hamster book called “Your First Hamster.” It talked about how to clean the cage, what to feed it, different breeds, how they’re nocturnal (getting dictionary – they are awake at night. Oh.), don’t pick them up when they are sleeping unless you want to get bitten etc. It didn’t sound too bad. Cleaning the cage once a week sounded kind of nasty, but I could handle it.
The hard part was getting the hamster. Alas, I am 10 and not old enough to drive and if I asked my parents to take me to a pet store, I’m pretty sure the answer would be no. So I devised a plan where I convinced my friends to buy me one for my birthday. They were reluctant, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer and they finally agreed while they rolled their eyes and called me stubborn. Whatever. I’m getting a hamster! They show up at my house and give me a chinese take-out box that made scratching noises. I was so excited that the first thing I had to do was show my parents.
“Look what I got for my birthday!” The box was open and I’d already peeked at the little guy. I walked over to where my mom was sitting on the couch and before she could look in the box, the hamster peeked his little head out and looked around. My mom screeched. I don’t know what she was expecting, but apparently it wasn’t a rodent.
I got a huge, long lecture about how irresponsible it is for me to get a hamster and I should have told my friends I couldn’t have one blah, blah, blah. I did tell my friends I couldn’t have one. That’s why they needed to buy me one, I thought to myself. I’m trying my best to hide my glee. They talk about returning it, but I’ve done my homework and animals are not returnable. My dad glares at me when I tell him this and I’m biting my lip to keep a straight face so that I look properly humble instead of giddy. The hamster can stay. I knew that lecture was coming a mile away and it was a small price to pay for my cute little hamster.
I named him Butterscotch because that’s the color of his fur. It’s not very original, but it was the best I had. My friend, Amanda, had an extra hamster cage that she gave to me. Turns out, Butterscotch was a mean little bugger so I sold him and bought a hamster that Amanda’s sister didn’t want anymore. My friends were disgruntled that I sold their present. When I told them the real gift was the right to get a hamster, they didn’t buy it. Oh, well. My new hamster is so nice!
He was a long-haired hamster. His fur was grey and Amanda called him Charcoal because the other long-haired hamster they had was red-haired and they called him Fire. But Charcoal was a terrible name. I loved his long fur and when Amanda told me he was called a teddy-bear hamster because of it, the name stuck. Teddy the hamster it is.
The first thing I learned about Teddy was that he was smart. The second thing I learned about Teddy was that he used his intelligence for evil. He’s so much like me. No matter how much I duct-taped that plastic cage, he was always getting out. He had the cutest clear, plastic cage with a little door on top and tubes that connected to it on the sides so that you could put them in all kinds of patterns for the hamster to explore. The tubes were cute and he loved climbing in them, but after so many times of running away I faced the facts (and the chewed holes in the plastic) that he needed something made of metal. I somehow got ahold of an old cage that someone didn’t want. The previous resident was a guinea pig, and not a hamster, so there was a huge hole cut into the top of the cage for the massive water bottle that guinea pigs apparently need. I figured that hamsters can’t climb and as long as I put some duct tape over the hole in case he does, he’ll never get out.
Oh how wrong I was. Lots of duct tape and a big rock later, I finally went a month without him escaping. That is, until my mom bought him hamster food instead of me and she got these ugly green pellets instead of the nice nuts and seeds that I buy him. He ran away the next day. I can’t say I blame him. My mom defended herself by saying they were cheap. I used my allowance and bought him food from then on. Some days I gave my mom $3 in pennies, but gosh darn it, I bought him the good hamster food every time.
Teddy was always running away, but the first time he ran away I panicked. I thought for sure he was gone for good. After a few hours of searching and crying, I heard a faint scratching noise and I eventually found him in a cardboard box in the office in the basement. After he ran away so many times, it became more of a chore than anything else and it didn’t worry me one little bit.
With every penny I had, I finally bought Teddy the Taj Mahal of hamster cages. It was metal and one that he was sure to never be able to get out of. It was 3 stories high with ladders and a removable tray for the wood shavings. It cost me a steep $40, but I knew it would be worth it.
I put his hamster wheel on the second floor of his cage and I noticed that he wasn’t running on his wheel for some reason. He loved his wheel and would run on it all night long (as far as I knew). Then I realized that he didn’t know how to climb the little ladder going up to the second floor. So I pulled out the ladder and propped it on the table. I dragged a sunflower seed (his favorite) up the ladder just out of reach until he figured out how to climb it. He couldn’t figure out how to get down, either, so I had to teach him that, too.
After that, I taught him all kinds of things. I taught him how to ride on my shoulder. Hamsters have very poor depth perception and they’ll walk right off a table if they’re not paying attention, so I had to get him used to sitting still on my shoulder. I would put him back every time he moved and eventually he stayed put. I also taught him to walk on my hands switching them as he got to the end so he was walking on an endless treadmill. He liked that game.
Even in his Taj Mahal, he still figured out how to escape. The steel barred doors had locks on them that even I had a hard time opening sometimes, but I soon learned that unless I put a pad lock on the doors, he could jimmy out. He was the most talented escape artist I’ve ever seen. Too bad all his smarts were wasted on escaping. He was terrible at hiding. Not only would he leave a trail of wood shavings, poop, and food behind him, but he always hid in the same place. He would walk under a door, down an entire flight of stairs and hide under a table entirely surrounded by junk. The only way to get him out would have been to rearrange all the furniture. If I did that, though, he would have run away somewhere else long before I could get to him. So I did the only thing I could do.
“Teddy. Come here Teddy. Come heeere Teddy. Come here! Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!”
My dad was standing next to me and he had a look on his face that said he thought I was a little nuts calling my hamster like it was a dog. But the look on his face when my tired little hamster came waddling out was pure amazement.
“How did you do that?” he asked
“I call his name every time I feed him. He thinks he’s going to get food.”
And I gave him food until his little cheeks puffed out. Then I put him back to bed. Years later, when we moved all that furniture, we found a chewed up foam pad and a nice little bed of shredded foam with a little stash of food. Aww. It was like his home away from home.