Sunday, April 12, 2015

All Things Rodentia, Part II

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, March 15, 2015

A few years ago, in a moment of parental miscommunication, my oldest daughter was allowed to buy a hamster. Before we knew it, we had gone from zero rodents to four and my husband is completely to blame. He knew our deal was that if the kids asked for hamsters we were to pass if off to the other parent for the rest of eternity, thereby avoiding actual procurement of any hamsters forever and ever amen. But whether it was batted eyelashes or a sweet voice saying, “Daaaaaddyyyyyy…” that caused him to say, “I don’t care,” is beside the point now. We are knee-deep in rodents.

Last summer Abby’s precious hamster, Pearl, passed away. There were actual tears shed for sweet Pearl. She was smart and loved macaroni and cheese. We placed her tiny, furry body in a shoe box and my husband was charged with the burial. I expected a shovel and a shoe box-sized hole. Oh, no. By the time it was all said and done, it looked like we had buried three grown men out by the garden. He said he didn’t want the dogs to dig her up. No chance of that – I’d be more worried about the devil himself getting to her as deep as she went. The next to go was Bugg’s hamster, Sundae. She had a little rodent stroke. She, too, was buried in a shoe box, however the hole dug for her was more appropriately sized for a rodent and her memorial is behind the barn. Abby lost her original hamster, Hanna, this winter, but the ground was too frozen to bury her so she went into a barrel (in a shoe box, of course – we aren’t total heathens) out by the barn with the intent of a burial on a warm day. We just remembered her last week. Oops. She’s still in the barrel. Above ground. Maybe we are heathens.

Both of Abby’s hamsters have now since gone on to the big hamster wheel in the sky but she replaced them with a pair of fancy mice – Lily and Chrysanthemum. The lady at the pet store told us that mice are social and are better in pairs. She didn’t tell us that they would also MOURN THEMSELVES TO DEATH if their companion dies. On one particular cage cleaning day, Chrysanthemum refused to go into her exercise ball and it took much coercion. Imagine the horror about 10 minutes later as Abby and I looked over and noticed that one exercise ball was moving with a very much alive hamster inside while the other was….still. Upon further inspection we realized that Chrysanthemum must have gotten so stressed out over the whole thing that she died of a little mousey heart attack. What followed were two weeks of a very sad Lily who finally died of a broken heart. Both mice were given Viking burials at sea. Okay, they were set sail in shoe boxes in Sycamore Creek.

Last weekend Abby came home with a teensy, tiny baby mouse.  She named the new baby Petal. She is insanely friendly and cute – so cute you want to just stare into her little furry face all the time. (And for me to make such a statement of adoration is a big thing since you know, a regular ol’ house mouse in my house is cause for me to scream and refuse to put my feet on the floor until I see a corpse in a trap, so yeah, she’s pretty doggone cute.) She has escaped once. My first instinct was to scream for her head on a pike, then I remembered how cute she is and just curled up in a chair until she was safely in her cage again.

And the only way I can think to end this story is that y’all must think my family buys a lot of shoes because it seems we have a never-ending supply of shoe boxes around here…   

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