Girls in their 20’s don’t own hamsters. Well, it’s not common, anyway. I didn’t expect to, but I had one.
A little boy who lived next door used to play with a hamster everyday after school. I’d see him on the inside steps of my building holding and petting him. He loved the little fuzzball, that much was clear. I would briefly talk to him as I passed by, acknowledging the cuteness of the hamster and how well he took care of him.
One evening three summers ago, his mother came to my door and asked me in a very thick Ethiopian accent if I would mind watching the hamster while they went on vacation. I said sure-I had hamsters growing up, and, I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but I won ” 4-H Grand Champion” in the “Small Animal Division” at my county fair for my hamster, Buddha, in 7th grade. True story.
So I take in the hamster, he’s so cute, and he doesn’t have a name. I thought that was sad and I named him Dot. Dot the cute little hamster.
Two weeks went by. I figured they went overseas so they would be awhile. Four weeks. Five. So I ask my apartment manager if she knows when they are due to arrive back. “Oh honey, they moved out a month ago!”
Right. So here I was. A single 20-something girl in the city with a hamster. Normal.
But I loved the little guy and enjoyed watching him go nose to nose with my cat Frankie, not even the least bit scared. I loved watching him roam around my apartment in his little ball and taking treats. The little boy had done such a good job with him- he never bit, jumped out of people’s hands, or did anything bad…. except the one time I left a pair of pants too close to his cage and he shredded them.
Last night when I went to give Dot his daily baby carrot, I noticed he was still sleeping. Strange for him- he’s usually up at 1am, running like a crazed little hamster. It’s always been a race to try and fall asleep before he starts his daily run- it’s really hard to fall asleep over his loud little wheel. When I went to put the carrot in his cage, he still didn’t wake up, and that’s when I knew. My little guy had gone on to hamster heaven.
He looked so sweet there- all curled up, eyes closed, like a cute teddy bear hamster should. But he wasn’t waking up.
I knew it was coming- a hamster’s lifespan is 1-2 years. Dot was almost four. An elder hamster. But he got around just fine, loved his little ball and loved treats, especially sunflower seeds. I’ll miss him and his beady bright eyes.
Some might say it’s silly to be sad about the death of a rodent. But in my family the rule has always been that all animals deserve kindness and respect, regardless of their pedigree, size or background. Every furry, scaly, and feathery animal was treated equally, and we were always sad when they left us. Dot was no exception, and his nightly marathon wheel runs were welcomed, even if I did have to put a pillow over my head to sleep during particularly hard workout sessions.
I’ll be sad when I wake up in the middle of the night or when I’m up editing late, and I don’t hear his wheel squeaking as he covers the last lap of his 10k.
Goodbye, Dot- you were the best!