By: Kandy Persall
Hamsters, I’ve decided, don’t do well in our family.
Maybe we merely get that for which we have paid. I’ve heard tell that hamsters from reputable pet stores in America cost about twenty dollars. But, the ones we bought set us back about four dollars apiece. Of course, that was after a little Mandarin bartering in a Taiwanese open market. And since my accent amused the shop keeper, he usually threw in a free bag of food and a cage upgrade. Not bad, huh?
Our first hamster caught pneumonia one summer under the apartment’s refrigerated air. Our second Rodentia met his demise when his incisors broke off for some mysterious reason, and I couldn’t hand-feed him enough.
Then came Snuff.
I suppose we favored Snuff because he bit us less than our other hamsters. When we took him out of the cage, he was less escape-prone, meaning we didn’t have to hold him so tightly that his eyes bugged out. He did get lost behind the sofa once when he camouflaged himself with the dust bunnies all over his fur. But still, Snuff remained our favorite.
As I look back, we probably should have covered his cage when we delivered him across town. The week of Chinese New Year can be bitterly cold for any individual (or creature) accustomed to ten summer months a year. But we were excited to leave town, and in a hurry to deliver him to his 23-year-old American sitter.
We did find out that week that even lab animals can contract bronchitis. I know this because Kerri said he wheezed throughout the first night. By the second evening, his condition worsened, and Kerri let him sleep on her chest to keep him warm. (Yes, I agree. She did go above and beyond a normal hamster nanny.)
Compassion has its disadvantages, for instance when an animal expires, he stiffens next to your heart. Death proved quite traumatic to Kerri, as you might imagine. Not only had she grown attached to our little lint lodestone, but she also dreaded telling our 12-year-old the news. Kerri turned to someone with more life-experience on condolence.
Enter our friend Elinda, without whom this story would have no point. As a long-time ex-pat and mother of three boys, our community often consulted Elinda for advice. She listened quietly as Kerri unfolded the tragic details amidst weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then, after drying Kerri’s tears, Elinda offered the following solution. Not only would Elinda break the news to the pet owner, but she would also serve as undertaker.
That afternoon, Elinda bagged Snuff’s remains and put him in a mortuary cold chamber to await further instructions from our family. Without a proper body bag, Elinda simply zipped him in a Glad quart-sized and nestled him between the frozen peas and chicken nuggets. Later, she admitted that his beady eyes startled her every time she opened her freezer.
My thoughts go to Snuff as I think about the upcoming new year. Rather than busy ourselves with fresh resolutions, maybe we should dispose of the dead ones. What deceased hamsters do you have in your freezer? What grizzly little faces stare at you without life? Insecurity from your childhood? Guilt from the distant past? An unforgiven offense?
Let’s bury the hatchet (or the guilt, or the hamster) this year to start anew. God encourages, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth: Will you no be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
Now if you will excuse me, I have a few baggies to throw away.