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.