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December 1, 2007

Alex has been wanting a pet. ‘Something with legs and fur.’ I guess fish were no longer filling the ‘we have pets’ requirements. We researched the Internet for options, by ‘we’ I mean Alex. ‘We’ even cracked open a few books... I didn’t even know there were sites and books set up to help you choose which pet is best for you... then even further, which breed of that chosen pet... Isn’t that great?!? Of course the ‘perfect pet’ was a Golden Retriever or a German Shepard. That is... the perfect pet for Alex. Alex forgot to tell the computer that he lived in a house with other people that needed to be factored in. Like me... Mean Mommy.

The one that will not clean up after one more smell producing... noisy... mess making... food eating... time consuming... air breathing thing... that Mommy. I already have two kids, a husband, and Grandpa... that’s enough living creatures, in one house... each capable of finding their way home! Although Grandpa is becoming questionable...

After requests for a dog, a bird, a cat, then back to a dog... We ended up discussing hamsters.

He swore up and down that he would be responsible and care for whatever we ended up with. I wouldn’t have to do anything. We went over the very high probability that he would get bit, over and over... He didn’t care. The smell... Didn’t care. Mess... Didn’t care. Nighttime noise... Didn’t care. Buying food... with his own money. Didn’t care. No rough housing in his room... Didn’t care. He clearly wasn’t giving up.

I always site the saying, ‘You have to pick your battles in life.’ A little hamster in comparison to a big dog seemed like a logical choice. Hamsters are small. They’re, contained in a cage. Cost is minimal. And... they only live 2 or 3 years... Seemed like a great way to test the pet waters and Alex’s level of responsibility and stick-to-it-ness. I thought they would be the least of all the ‘evils’. We did go to look at a few and hold them as well... we also bought a book which explained the good and the bad...

Alex and I discussed waiting for a few weeks. We had to go away for a few days and I didn’t feel a new animal should be left unattended for that long. Alex, wholeheartedly, agreed. I was also hoping that the ‘urge’ would be ‘exercised’ from his being by the passage of time. Not... The day after we returned from our trip Alex informed me it was time to go to the pet store. A promise is a promise. Off to Pet Supplies Plus we went.

How helpful everyone was! Here’s the cage... here’s the food... don’t forget the hamster... why not take two........


It seemed like a good idea at the time. They would have a playmate, while confined to their 1 by 2 foot cage. How cruel can life get for a critter, to live your entire life, albeit short, in such a small space? So, two it was...

I requested two females or two males. Unfortunately, the hamsters we got were Dwarf Hamsters and very young, making it very hard to determine. An attempt was made, but we weren’t positive. I inquired as to ‘What happens if they have babies?’ The store said they would take them back. What did I have to loose?

So here we have it. Our new family additions. Hammie and Spot. Hammie was much fatter and bigger than Spot. Spot was much calmer and sedate than Hammie. Each had their own personalities.

Alex attended to his pets as promised. I was expecting to smell hamster all over the house. I didn’t. He was gentle and caring, and loving every minute of being a ‘dad’. I would eavesdrop on his phone conversations with friends and family. So excited and proud... This was turning out okay.

There was the day that Alex raced down the stairs to inform me that Charlee was holding Hammie and dropped him/her in between the cabinet. Of course, I was not happy!!! The rule was no one was to hold these tiny little creatures where they could fall great distances... or escape... What happened to the RULE!!??? There we were looking for any sign of life... or fur... Charlee wailed - WAILED - the entire time. She was besides herself thinking she killed Alex’s pet. I had to send her out of the room. There was no way anything was going to come out of hiding with all that noise. I didn’t even want to be in the room. I knew she would stop as soon as we found it - we just had to find it. Finally Hammie came out to grab the treat we place out as a lure... this is a new kind of trick or treat. The kind that allows humans to grab your fuzzy butt and put you back in the cage... Sorry, that’s the way the hamster cookie crumbles. Charlee finally stopped screaming... and I must say Alex was very sweet. Actually hugged Charlee trying to comfort her, telling her ‘it was an accident, it was okay. We will find a way so that doesn’t happen again.’ I stood there proudly smiling - yet in my head I said "If you would have just followed the RULE in the first place - this wouldn’t have happened?$#@!!" We went over it again. That was the only escape far.

Life in the Lopez house returned to ‘normal’. The hamsters became part of the daily grind.

Until the day our oil tank began leaking... of course.

As I stood in the basement, arguing with the two oil servicemen... I heard the intense pounding of little feet racing down the stairs. First one flight... then the next. Alex was red faced, out of breath and shrieking. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The servicemen stood beside me looking bewildered at this child. I immediately looked for Charlee, which wasn’t hard, she wasn’t far behind. They both joyfully and with great exuberance... and in unison... started shouting the story. Apparently the hamsters had babies!

We all started laughing. Mostly out of relief. The oil guys seemed a bit too happy... not funny. I tried to calm Alex, pleading with him to bear with me for a few minutes so I could finish addressing our lack of heat issues...

He turned on his heals and pounded back up the stairs... one flight... then the next... Charlee followed right behind. I returned to my conversation, only now it was with two smirking men trying to keep their composure.

I made my way upstairs as quickly as I could. No pounding or racing for Mommy. A nice leisurely climb was more like it. Lest the pounding you would hear, would be the sound of Mommy’s heart pounding clear out of her chest.

Sure enough there were babies... on top of babies. It was impossible to count them. One hairless body blended into another. Their eyes weren’t even open yet. I guess this is one way to determine the sex of a hamster. Hammie, now known as ‘the mother’, was cuddled over the brood. She wasn’t so big any more. Now she had a baggy belly with little dark circles, clearly the area from which the babies had just nursed.

This was sooo up Alex’s alley. Nature, nature, and more nature. We called Pet Supply to find out what to do. First... get the father out of the cage! He will upset the mother and she will kill the babies. Next... don’t touch the babies - AT ALL!! - or the mother will kill the babies. Then... Make sure they have enough food and water so she doesn’t get hungry or stressed and kill the babies... What is with this‘kill the babies’!!??

Alex went from exceedingly happy... to completely stressed! He and Charlee just looked at each other, suddenly drained and in disbelief of what they just were told. Off to the pet store we went to get another cage for Spot. Mind you, we still don’t know if Spot is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. It could be that Hammie was pregnant when we got her from the store... no matter, Spot had to be removed. Having Hammie kill was a nature lesson I wanted to avoid.

Alex continued to be a perfect caretaker. We continued to research hamster babies. The likelihood was that they would not survive. Hammie was just a baby herself and they usually kill the first litter.

I must say I never heard it so quiet in the kids room. They tiptoed, they whispered, even the TV was kept low. Better yet... the bickering was gone. Mommy was liking this! This, I am sure, is an unknown benefit of hamster babies. If I remotely raised my voice in disapproval of a messy room, or undone chore... children would jump ‘toot sweet’ to address the complaint. Keeping Mommy happy and quiet was the goal! Hmmmm? Not a bad perk! Did I use it? Hell yeah! At least it was just raising my voice... nothing remotely close to what ‘the mother’ hamster would do, should she get bothered or stressed...

Days went by... and babies got bigger. The room slowly got back to the normal noise level.

Actually, one night I heard a strange sound coming from upstairs. Odd since the kids were asleep? I went upstairs to check. Alex had put Spot in the bathroom because he was running on his wheel like a madman. I just chuckled... Spot, who I renamed Mr. Happy, was working off some steam.

Now to back track for a moment. During our quest to determine the sex of our critters, Alex informed me of his educated speculation... ‘Mommy, I really think Spot is a boy. When Hammie walks on my hand I don’t feel anything. But when Spot does, I feel something hanging between his legs"

I didn’t know what to do with this illuminating moment... ‘OoHhhhooooo, way too much information!! Leave Spot alone... go wash your hands!!!’

Pet Supply had their own technique. ‘If you turn the hamster on it back and press on its belly it will become evident.’ All that came to my mind was a living pop up toy... there were a few off beat jokes, involving Frank, that came to mind but I’ll keep this rated G.

Then there was the moment I had to inform Alex that he could not keep all these creatures. That was fun?! He was not happy with me. ‘Every time we get a pet, we get rid of it!? I am tired of getting attached to something... just to have to get rid of it when it gets tough!’

He was referring to the cats we had to get rid of. He doesn’t remember why, he just remembers that they had to go. For those inquiring minds... there were issues of pee and poop - and not in the kitty litter. Escaping - with little children following... and attacking, albeit, in defense...

It was either the cats or the kids... I chose the cats. From the way Alex was chastising me, I clearly made the wrong decision.

We went back and forth for days. Even used math to explain. 1 + 1 = 9 what would those 9 equal??! I told him that nothing was going to happen right away. The babies couldn’t be moved... you know that whole ‘kill’ thing.... so his little family was safe for the time being. But he was going to have to come to terms with getting rid of the babies.

More time passed... The babies grew fatter and bigger. They even grew hair. Each day was something different. Life was unfolding rapidly before our eyes. Then the day came when these tiny creatures opened their eyes. They were cute!!! Especially when they grew their hair. Hair was definitely good :)

Alex updated everyone on a continual basis. He tried in vain to find homes. He offered to teach all he knew, even offered his hamster books... then tried to gift them as early Christmas presents. Sadly for Alex it was one polite ‘Thank you, but no’ after another... Only one friend was able to adopt. Lucas is now the proud parent of a baby hamster .

Saturday was the ‘dreaded day’. We headed back to the pet store with the entire family. Neither Alex or I was sure of what he was going to come home with. He wanted to keep Hammie, however I did not. She could be pregnant again. ‘Mr. Happy’ was in the cage with her even after the babies were born....

As we made out way to the car Alex was still deciding what to do. He did not want to keep Spot. He wasn’t interactive like Hammie was..."He just lays there...’ Charlee quickly followed behind him down the front steps... now adding her educated speculation...’He’s a boy what do you expect!? He should have a little couch and tiny TV tuner!’ This from a 6 year old... After trying not to laugh... I had to defend my husband. After all, here it was, Saturday, and he was at work. "Hey! Daddy is the guy working, so you could have your couch and TV tuner... how do you think we are able to buy all that food for that endless pit you call a stomach... Get in the car...."

We went back to trying to decide... I wanted to keep a baby - maybe two if the pop up test actually worked... we would see when we got to the store and had an experienced eye, and finger, do the checking.

Of course, nothing goes smoothly. We ran into the store. Everyone ooood and aaaaad over the cute brood. The consensus was that the babies were still too young to be separated from their mother. That was not good! Lucas came to both of our minds. Even worse, the mother would not accept the missing one back because it has been gone for too long. May I remind you about the ‘kill, kill, kill’ commentaries..... This story may not be over yet. I hope it has a happy ending. I surely did not intend to send Lucas spiraling into a life lesson....

As for the family of critters. We decided to let Hammie, ‘the mother’, stay with all the babies at the pet store. Spot too. He’s back with his family and having conjugal visits.

We now have one Desert Hamster. It looks like a miniature chinchilla. No book yet. Alex has mixed emotions. He is happy for the new addition but sad about letting go. We have already discussed going to the pet store to visit.

In the car he held the lone being in the cage on his lap. ‘This is really hard Mommy!’ he let out a heartfelt sigh and shook his head in a tisk-tisk manner... ‘Now I know what it feels like when parents send their kids off to college!’

I thought I would drive off the road... but I didn’t. I, also, thought the story was going to end here...


A Desert Hamster was supposed to be a great pet and extremely docile... hence, not bite. For the first day it stayed in the tube, never coming out. Alex called Pet Supply who said ‘maybe it was because the cage was new and it smelled of the previous inhabitants... try cleaning the cage.’ It didn’t help, and now to make matters worse, this non-biting hamster bit. Every time Alex tried to pick it up, it bit him. Neither was happy. By Wednesday Alex had had enough. He put a glove on and picked him/her up. That’s when he saw it. The it’ was a mass protruding from just under its tail... ‘What the heck is that?!’ No wonder it wanted nothing to do with being handled... much less life! It looked really uncomfortable. Another phone call was placed to Pet Supply, who is by now wishing they had never sold us a hamster... It didn’t sound good. Back to the store we went. This time Daddy got to go. We came home with one of Hammie’s babies. Isn’t this what I wanted in the first place?!

As for the mass... we have no idea. One opinion was an intestinal blockage. Another was sure it was female and getting ready to have babies... either way I am glad it is back home.

We all piled back in the car. Alex was exhausted. He said if this time doesn’t go well he’s done... ‘No more hamsters!’ From the drivers seat Frank turned to me, speaking softly so the kids wouldn’t hear... ‘A dog would have been easier.’ We laughed as I countered with the only logical response... ‘SHHUUUUT UP!!??!’

** Coming soon... from the archives of the animal kingdom... Charlee’s fish.