Ozzie & Harriet

Last Spring Thing 3 lobbied hard for a hamster. Rodent averse, I said no. My own experience with hamsters harkens back to the 5th grade when a neighbor girl, Cindy Puck, got a teddybear hamster. Although cute, I did not desire a hamster, my turtle experience fresh in my mind [refer to previous blogs]. Hamsters, like turtles, poop a lot. And among other things I knew that my mother’s response would be a vehement NO.

“OK, then, Mom, how about after summer?” Thing 3 lobbied.

“I am not paying for a hamster. I am not paying for a hamster cage or hamster food. I am not cleaning up after a hamster.” I replied, nailing shut the coffin.

“Deal!” Thing 3 cried out in glee. “Hamsters are cheap!”

And just like that my no became a yes.
Later on in the spring, while I was watching Thing 2’s soccer game, Thing 3 said she had saved enough money to buy the cage. Could V3, the driver, take her to the pet store? But of course, her chariot awaited her ….

So you can see how my heart softened just a wee bit when she came running back across the soccer fields fifteen minutes later, hamster cage swinging in her hand, ebullient and radiating joy.

The soccer mom sitting next to me, who is also a 1st grade teacher, said “Now you’re done for. But don’t worry, hamsters have a short shelf life and they are easy to take care of.”

All summer I heard “63 (insert descending numbers) days until I get a hamster!” from Thing 3. Naturally, it was the first item of weekend business on our return to China.

On the way to the Doggy House pet store, Thing 2 said, “I’m going to get one too. I am going to name him Ozzie.” Thing 2 had been exploring heavy metal music on iTunes.

“What should I name mine? I am going to get a girl hamster.” Thing 3 said.

We scrolled through the list of H names. Hammy was out. So was Hannah, Hilary, and Haylie. Then I mentioned Harriet, remembering Lady Tea’s daughter.

“Yes! Harriet!” Thing 3 agreed.

So into the tiny pet store we trooped, all five of us. Hamsters, are cheap, it turns out, about $5, the cost of a beta fish in Brazil. Thing 2 selected a different hamster cage since the store was out of Thing 3’s model. Ozzie was small and white, Harriet sturdy and brown.

Two hamster cages, two hamsters, two happy kids. I did not even realize how perfect the names were until we were all back in the car, a utopian pet experience.

“Very cute mouse,” V3 said.

“It’s not a mouse, it’s a hamster.” I said.

“Look like mouse to me,” V3 replied, closing the matter.

And then Ozzie went missing 24 hours into his tenancy. Thing 2 swore he did not let the hamster out of the cage. For three days we set up traps for Ozzie in Thing 2’s room, checked the cat litter boxes for unusual shaped, furry stools, smelled for decomposing hamster bones. Nothing. I despaired at our luck. Known turtle killers, we could now not even keep a hamster for 24 hours. What was wrong with us?

Loading the dishwasher one morning (yes, I do that occasionally) I noticed the cat peering under the machine. The dog too showed an interest. When the maid came in, I told her, in pantomime, to call the maintenance crew to remove what I suspected to be a dead hamster. The machine, I told her, was also “bu hao”. Could they check that out too? Then I left the house.

“Thing 2 grad.” Ayi, the maid, told me when I returned.

I had no idea what she was talking about. Until I saw Ozzie burrowing in the sawdust of his cage. The miracle hamster. “Thing 2 glad!” Aha! The little bugger has escaped the jaws of two Persian cats and a poodle and had run down a flight of stairs to his dishwasher haven. We were not hamster killers!!!

And then it happened again. This time Ozzie hid behind a bookcase in Thing 2’s room. With an exchange of the cage, we have yet to lose Ozzie again. Moral of the story: get a fat hamster. I can’t imagine Ozzie will be so lucky if there’s a third go around.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Ozzie & Harriet

  1. Mood Ring Mama

    Hilarious! I can’t believe you, the Nae-ming Queen, didn’t think of Ozzie & Harriet right away! I am very grad that Ozzie has a new cage.

  2. 425Heidi

    Loved this story! I was given a Teddy Bear Hamster when I was a kid by a cousin whose hamsters kept having babies and then eating them. (Make sure Ozzie and Harriet stay in separate cages!) My hamster was named Floyd. He also escaped his cage a few times and always ended up in my sweater drawer. My dog would be the one to find him, thank goodness. Floyd lived too long of a life. I got tired of cleaning his cage and smelling him. After a couple of YEARS, I gave him to another family, and soon thereafter he escaped from his cage and was found cold and lifeless (aka hamstersicle) in the garage. I think my favorite part of owning a hamster was watching him run around in a plastic ball. Has Thing 3 purchased one of those yet?

  3. MCV

    Good story, but remind me not to visit.

  4. Expat:
    I will not allow any pet smaller than our cat into our home, for the very reasons you’ve experienced. When I was four a snake (garter/gartner – whatever) slithered into our house and we couldn’t find it for a week. Gross!

    And ask Elliott when you next see him about the time he killed his hamster.

  5. Flaky Friend

    I had a Teddy Bear hamster for exactly 24 hours; Mom and Dad got him for me for my 10th birthday. My cat, Scamp, broke into his habitrail and ate him under my chair in the kitchen. The next hamster had babies, ate them and then escaped. This experience has left me deaf to the pleas of my children for anything other than our cats. (I would consider a dog but my husband won’t hear of it). Good luck!

  6. Love all the hamster stories!!! What is it about 10 year olds and hamsters? Even I am babytalking to Harriet who is pretty darn cute, MCV. Ozzie is still caged, for the moment. I think my cats eye O & H longingly but know that they will become permanent outdoor cats if they come close. My soccer carpool rotation took 4 hours today…

  7. safmomma

    Natalie’s hamster was allowed to run around her room – until I discovered she had decided the corner carpet under Natalie’s bed was perfect for chewing. Darned hamster had chewed all the way through the carpet and the padding. After that we bought ‘fences’ to build a bigger running area for her (where we could see her!), all she did was look for a way to escape instead of play in the elaborate playground which Natalie had thoughtfully set up for her. Ungrateful rodent! Natalie’s still begs for another hamster, no way, uh-uh, not happening!

  8. Safmomma,
    Run around the room???? Are you crazy??? Would you care to comment on the state of South Africa at the moment? Can you enlighten us? Tell us more about your exchange student! Of course, right after I posted my last comment I went to look for Ozzie and he was gone, baby, gone. We are sending the cats in to sniff him out.

  9. MCV

    Now it’s sealed. I’m not coming . . . at least while you own hamsters!

  10. Ozzie is now lurking under dishwasher again, his old stomping grounds. Thing 3 had a visual this a.m. … let’s see if he survives.

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