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 1 here.
The first thing people noticed about Teddy was that he was fat. No matter how many times I indignantly replied that he was hairy, they wouldn’t buy it. When I got tired of hearing about Teddy being fat, I decided to give him a haircut to prove everyone wrong. The hard thing about giving a hamster a haircut is that they won’t hold still. I finally got a hold of some hair and I hurried and cut it off before he could move. Poor Teddy let out a high, small screech of pain because I had also cut his skin. Panicked, I carried my injured hamster to the phone and called a vet I found in the phone book.
“I gave my hamster a haircut and now he’s bleeding. Is he going to be okay?”
“You gave a hamster a haircut?”
“Yes.” It now occurs to me that this was a strange thing to do.
“Did he make a noise when you cut him?”
“Yes,” I say sadly as I remember the pitiful noise he made.
“Is he bleeding a lot?”
“Can he reach the wound with his tongue?”
“He’ll be fine.”
Needless to say, I let people call him fat and never gave him a haircut again.
It cost me a lot of money to keep my hamster entertained in a vain attempt to keep him from trying to escape all the time. First form of entertainment was a plastic ball that he could run in around the room. I diligently kept all the stairs blocked off so he wouldn’t die. I always bought these plastic balls new, but after a while his nails would scratch it up and he couldn’t see out of it anymore. He would get stuck in a corner and you could see him pause inside the ball like he was confused. Then he’d try another direction. And another. And another. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. That’s when I’d go move him to the middle of the room. He could cruise in that thing. I remember showing Teddy in his ball to my grandpa and he said, with his eyes all squinted, “There’s an animal in there!”
Another thing I had to buy to give my hamster something constructive to do was lots and lots of wood sticks. He loved to chew on the metal bars of his cage, but it was noisy and bad for his teeth, so I bought him flavored wood sticks and he would shred those things to nothing. I also gave him empty toilet paper rolls for him to crawl through and chew to shreds.
As much fun as Teddy had shredding up toilet paper rolls, they were useful, too, because he liked to sleep on it once the shreddings were nice and soft. Teddy also liked to sleep on toilet paper. My mom thought it was the funniest thing when he would shove two whole toilet paper squares in his mouth-pouch with the end sticking out of his mouth like a big, white tongue and then he would awkwardly walk to his corner where he slept. He liked to sleep in a big, comfy bed of shavings and toilet paper with all the good food stashed nearby.
Hamsters are odd creatures. They sleep in the same place all the time and will pee in the same place farthest from their bed. And for whatever reason, Teddy would turn in circles one way and then the other over and over before he peed in what my dad called “the rain dance.”
As much as I loved my hamster, I soon discovered that cleaning my hamster’s cage was nasty precisely because Teddy (and all hamsters, really) always pee in one corner and that stuff hardens like rock. Hamster poop is made of hard little pellets that don’t make a mess. That’s easy to clean. You just dump the poop in the garbage with the rest of the shavings. Then you have to get a hammer and chisel for the one stupid corner with hardened pee.
When I first got my hamster, I was terrible at keeping his cage clean and my parents stuck him outside because his cage stunk. It was summer and I figured he’d be fine outside in his plastic cage. Teddy was fine out there for a while until one day my mom called me at my friend’s house to tell me that something was wrong with him. I came rushing home to find my hamster, who usually curls up in a ball in the corner, laying sprawled flat in the middle of the cage. I yanked him out and he slowly woke up. His belly was entirely covered in sweat. I think the plastic cage acted like a green-house and made it blazing hot in his cage. I demanded that he stay in the house. My parents demanded in return that I clean his stinkin’ cage. We came to a truce and Teddy got to live (in his cage, of course) in the basement. And sometimes the bathroom.
As I got older and made more money, I bought Teddy a mini plastic house for him to sleep in. It had a slanted roof and fake windows. He loved it because he could climb in the top floor and down the hole into the bottom where there were no openings. Hamsters naturally live in burrows underground, so it made him feel safe to sleep in such a closed off space. Since I couldn’t see him in his house, I would wake him up by calling his name whenever I fed him to make sure he got his food. He’d usually come waddling out, grab a few of his favorite seeds and put them is his mouth-pouch to store for later and go back to bed.
That’s what he always did, until one day, he didn’t wake up.
I opened the top of his house and grabbed him to see if that would wake him up. His instincts should tell him to react to danger immediately by biting me or something, but he slowly roused himself and barely moved. I held him up to my face and when I saw that his whiskers weren’t moving hardly at all, I knew something was very wrong. I tried to get him to eat and drink, but he wouldn’t. I went to show my mom that something was wrong with Teddy.
My mom was sympathetic, but she seemed to think at first that he was just sick. Maybe he’ll get better. I put Teddy in his mini house without the top off so I could watch him. My active, troublesome hamster just laid there. He laid in his house with his little whiskers twitching now and then instead of nonstop like they usually do. As I sat there watching my hamster, I looked up to see my mom crying. My mom, who never cries was crying over my hamster that up until that moment I had been convinced that she hated.
“Mom! Why are you crying?”
“Because it’s sad.”
“But you hated him.” Now we’re both crying.
“I didn’t hate him. I just didn’t like him.”
She would call him a rat and say things like “Get that rat out of here!” And she never touched him or wanted to pet him. But on the day he died, that’s what I remember most – that even my mom who hated rodents loved that sneaky hamster who always ran away and was sad when he died.
I felt so powerless just watching him. I decided to do something and I called a vet. The vet was surprised when I told her that Teddy was 4 years old because hamsters generally live 2-3 years at the most. She told me he had lived a good long life and there was nothing she could do. I was mad. How could she know that he was dying? She hadn’t even seen him! It could be something else. But deep down I knew she was right. He died the next day. That stubborn hamster held on for a long time.
We buried Teddy in a box in our backyard. I tried to fill the void he left behind by buying another hamster, Oreo, but he did weird things like staying in his cage and never chewing on the bars. He just wasn’t Teddy. To this day, it still makes me laugh or cry when I think about that hamster. I remember feeling like he was my only friend when I went to my first day of 7th grade and didn’t know a single person because I had just moved there a month before. I remember letting him crawl on my head and laughing at my mom’s horrified look and my dad’s question of, “Won’t he poop on your head?”
When he died, I even remember hoping that there was a heaven for animals. I’ll bet you there is and I’ll bet you that wherever he is right now, he’s trying to get out.
Here’s a video clip of all the footage I could find of Teddy. And yes, I know – I’m a brat. I can’t believe I told my sister to shut up! We get along fine now.