HomeStory TimeContact Me

November 7, 2008

It is a sad day in the Lopez household. Our pet hamster died last night. It was too late to have a burial... so we had one early this morning. Hammie now has a special spot in the garden by a beautiful rock. ‘We’ are all very sad.

Hammie never quite ‘made it’ in this house. He didn’t like to be held. Which I guess I can understand, I mean would I want to be held by some immense creature just so they could pet me with their equally immense appendages? I think not! But this is the fate of a house bound, or more accurately, cage bound pet hamster. This was not endearing him to Alex by any means, who was very bothered by it. It only served to compound Hammie’s solitary cage bound existence. From time to time Alex would don a pair of gloves and force the issue, but never without. He had been bitten too many times. Even Aunt CeCe (Lisa) was christened by the wrath of Hammie. Alex warned her not to touch... but he was ‘so cute’... and quick as a wink Hammie made his mark. Aunt CeCe screamed in shock and promptly inspected the damage. Another nail in the coffin of lonely existence for Hammie. No longer ‘cute’ in the eyes of his beholders... Aunt CeCe now labeled Hammie, our pygmy dwarf hamster, a ‘monster.’ One less visitor to worry about.

There was also the issue of the tumor. That was also not very endearing. On Hammie’s chest was a growth that haunted him his whole short life. The kids wanted me to take him to the vet to have it operated on... sorry. I know I am going to sound like a totally mean Mommy, but I was not about to pay oodles of dollars ‘fixing’ a $10 hamster... that is only supposed to live - maybe - two years. I survived the puppy dog tears my children put me through... so did my wallet.  Now Hammie is gone.

I tried to explain to the kids that he is no longer in pain and burdened by that ugly mass.... it wasn’t consoling them. This is a life lesson I can’t control. I can only hope to add enough input to perhaps be useful at a later date. Maybe there was a greater scheme to Hammie’s lonely, cage bound, tumor ridden life.

I had to write a note to Charlee’s teacher - Charlee’s request. She wanted everyone to be aware of the horrible event.

Alex mulled around, upset that Hammie never really allowed him to interact and become ‘real’ friends. I tried to explain that maybe it was because of the tumor... maybe he was just too uncomfortable to be handled. We’ll never know.

Alex stayed true to his pet. Never allowing me to take him back to the pet store for a healthy replacement. He wanted to make sure whatever life Hammie had to live, that he was cared for and given the best. Not sure that was going to happen at the pet store. More likely Hammie would have become snake food.

So Hammie’s passing had made it a sad day in the Lopez household.

Hammie leaving us has also stirred another issue. You see, Charlee has always been upset that Alex got to have a furry pet and all she gets is fish... which keep dying. She is now left with one lone guppy and lots and lots of snails. This is not acceptable to her. She wants a ‘real’ pet.

To make matters worse, all of her friends have ‘real’ pets. Her very best friend, Lauren, just got her third dog! Yes, that is not a typo. Three! They are all small dogs... this last addition a long haired Chihuahua. Charlee went nuts! Every day since the arrival of Cheyenne she pleaded with me, begged me, crying with real tears... then got other people to try to sway me as well. During a sleep over at Laurens, Charlee cried to Anne Marie - Lauren’s mother - about the injustice she was being put through by not being allowed to have a pet. The next day Anne Marie tried - in vain - to hearten me into getting a dog.

So day after day this was the dialogue. "It’s not fair! Alex gets to have a hamster. Lauren has THREE dogs. Olivia has TWO. Jillian has ONE. I have NOTHING! Just fish that DIE! It’s not fair!!! Why can’t I have a DOG! I want a Chihuahua!" This was my wake-up call, my nightly go to sleep lullaby, my any time, at any given moment, daily exchange with my clearly disgruntled determined child.


Even after spending a week in the hospital from a dog bite, she did not alter her desire. In fact, the next day, while the exhausted adults slept, she called up Olivia and set up her own play date.

Maggie, Olivia’s mom, had to convince me that her two HUGE dogs would NEVER display any aggression... especially with a child. Her dogs were family members, and that family included small children. Children that poked ...and pulled ...and climbed ...and stepped on ...and chased and laid on ...and... the list of Shiba’s and Isaiah’s endurance’s and acceptances went on and on.

It was just so hard to wrap my mind around it. You see Molly, the dog that bit, did so out of nowhere. Charlee didn’t do anything to provoke what happened. In fact, she had just got finished asking if she could pet the dog. Image everyone’s surprise when Molly wouldn’t let go. The scene has replayed in my minds eye over and over. Step by step, bite by bite, scream by scream, agonizing second by agonizing second. Now she wanted to go to see Shiba and Isaiah?!!

My little daughter has taught me so much from this situation. She was a pillar of strength throughout, with the exception, of course, of the actual horrible moment.

Forever a sweet soul

I made the difficult decision to allow the play date. Not so much for Charlee but for me. It was I that needed to get back on the horse. What was I going to do, keep her away from animals for the rest of her life?! "Mommy, don’t be scared. I am not. It wasn’t Olivia’s dogs that bit me. It was Molly! Not Sheba or Isaiah... they would never hurt me. I’ve been with them sooooo many times... Not all dogs are like that. Something was wrong with Molly... I don’t know what, but something."

Charlee had her play date... I survived with Maggie’s help. Charlee was remarkably unfazed by the canine species and still determined to get a dog.

Back to the daily dialogue... then throw in a dead hamster... and Mommy is starting to fold. I am trying to figure out which would exhaust more energy, these daily assaults ...or a dog?

Meal times were now discussion time... ‘Why do you want a dog? What would you do with a dog? What if it chews up your favorite toy? It could pee in your bed! You’ll have to pick up poop!’ On and on. Every question was meet with either a solution or a "What would you want me to do?" response.

Okay!?! I’ll think about it!

Now my own husband was in on the parade. He too was prodding me with ‘What about a dog’ scenarios. Traitor!

This past weekend was our first non-crazy weekend. I agreed - even set it up - to go to the shelter to ‘look’ at dogs. To see how each family member interacted with dogs. There have been a few trips to the pet store to look at cats and Charlee’s reaction was to recoil from them... Alex’s was to break out in hives... apparently a hereditary gift from Daddy, he was covered in hives as well. We discovered and all agreed that cats were out. My plan was to have the same outcome ‘visiting’ the dogs.

The rules were when and if the day did come: A young dog... but not too young. A medium sized dog, not too small, not too big. I also preferred something that didn’t shed too much... Charlee’s request was only that we did not get a Springer Spaniel. We all nodded our heads in unison. But this was not happening today. Today was just testing the waters...

Charlee was so excited getting in the car. As far as she was concerned we already bought her perfect dog. No matter how many times I explained that we weren’t coming home with a dog, she just shook her head yes - indicating that she understood... then went right back to talking about her dog and what’s going to happen when we get it home.

The drive was long. It was raining and miserable out. We couldn’t find the place, mostly because we couldn’t see anything... particularly street signs. There was a sign for a shelter which we thought was it. We navigated to their front door, only to find that they were closed. Didn’t make sense, I checked before we came and they were supposed to be opened till 9 p.m!

We had to get real close to the sign to see that we were at the wrong shelter. This dark rainy night is really not helping our plight. Charlee is trying to hold herself together. I told her if she cries at anytime this night, we would not do it again. Thank goodness for technology and cell phones. I made a call and found out that we were only streets away from our destination. It only took a few more minutes, but they felt like forever.

Frank let us out at the door. So nice of Daddy to park the car for us. ...don’t kid yourself, he couldn’t stand the company any more. It was easier getting rid of us all.

Alex, Charlee and I went inside. The energy felt like that of a horse getting ready to lurch out of the starting gate. We rounded the corners, following the sounds of the barking dogs. Charlee could barely see over the half-wall ledge. However, Alex could see the kennels ahead and narrated what he saw. Charlee attempted to see by standing on her tippy toes, but that only slowed her down.

Thru the glass doors and we were there. Dogs were lined up kennel after kennel. Charlee was filled with glee... "Oh, Mommy! Look at this one!" Stepping to the next, "Oh, Oh... look at that one." She was surveying her self-proclaimed choices. Then she got to the German Shepard cage. This dog lunged at her, fiercely barking his warnings. Thank God those gates are strong! Charlee’s body was sent up into the air and back against the opposing wall, just like a cat. When she realized she was safe she said, "MOMMY! We are NOT getting THAT one!!!" I laughed in relief. "No, we’re not!" This - I thought to myself - is what she needs to see... not always the bed of roses... huh!?! My plan seemed to be taking shape...

All of the dogs were too old in this area. We followed the maze of kennels till we got to the young dogs and puppy section.

Charlee ran into the room straight to the cutest, and noisiest thing she saw. "OHHHHH! Look at this one! Isn’t she CUTE!?" "Forget it Charlee! It’s not happening. Not now, not ever!" Of this I was sure as I looked at the Pit Bull tag. Besides Mommy doesn’t like noisy things... she’s lucky I let her live in the house with me.

On to the next cage. I looked at a little Black Lab. Very cute. I asked to have the dog put in a little room so the kids could interact. It took a few moments for the staff to set the room up. Soon Alex and Charlee were playing with an adorable little puppy. The "ohhhh’s" and "ahhhhh’s" were boundless. I was focused on the dogs hips. Something to me did not look right. I questioned the staff, who told me ‘nothing was wrong... other than worms.’ Hence the huge belly. Sorry, guys. I am not buying problems, especially if I can help it. We’re putting this dog back in its cage. Lets look at some others. Frank soon appeared urging me to come with him. Apparently he had found a dog he thought we would all like. The kids, and then I, followed quickly, back through the maze.

There she was. This adorable White Lab. She had tan freckling on her ears and about her eyes. A staff member was taking her out of the cage to clean it. As luck would have it, since I was right there, she asked me to watch the dog. They did not put the dogs down on the ground in the hopes of avoiding unnecessary germs. She was placed on the counter, the staff lady didn’t want her to fall. So there I was, caring for this little beauty... with my kids "ohhhh’ing" and "ahhhhh’ing" galore.

Frank purposely stood off to the side to make me have to interact with her. He thinks he was swift, I knew what he was up to. It’s now reach the level of mutiny!

After a few minutes I asked if Toots (her name) could be put in the room for the kids to interact with. I was told ‘No.’ As I stood there explaining that I would never get a dog unless I was sure... especially with young children .... especially since my daughter spent time in the hospital from a dog. The staff member just shook her head ‘No’ again.

We stood there for some time. Another staff member came by, actually I think she was one of the bosses. She started talking to us about what to do for Toots when we get her home. I stopped her and said ‘We’re not taking her, we’re just looking... and besides we can’t even really interact with her since we are not allowed to bring her into the ‘room.’ The woman turned around and ordered another staff member to go set up the room. Then she continued telling us how to take care of Toots. Charlee was all ears. I began to wonder if Charlee and this woman were in secret cahoots!?

Soon enough we were in the ‘room’. The first staff member - the "No" girl - was standing guard. Staying true to form, and I guess protecting her job, she told us "Nobody is allowed in with the dog!" I was in the process of my "What is the point of that?" speech when the "Boss" Lady stopped by. She wanted to see how we were doing with our new dog. The mutiny is spreading fast!$&*#! She heard the conversation "No" girl and I were having... and responded merely by opening the gate and escorting Charlee and Alex in. Toots immediately kissed Alex and when Charlee knelt down, she rolled over so Charlee could rub her belly. Everyone ohhed and ahhed, including Mommy. The "Boss" lady continued to delve out advise, and Frank continued to stay back.

We spent an hour playing with Toots. The "No" girl stood watch the entire time. I went back to the cages to look at the full grown dogs to see what I was in for. I realized where this situation was heading and grumbled endlessly about the pending size. Then I remembered, this was supposed to be a look night. We are not, were not, supposed to come home with anything at all.

I went back and said we were going to pass. Everyone just looked at me in horror. I felt like Shit! Capitalized! This night was not going as I planned. The whole drive home I had to endure more pressing dialogue... more like therapy from my 7 year old. She wanted desperately to fix whatever my problems were we could go back and get the dog. Her little round face was flushed and her eyes were like dripping wet black glass. She remembered clearly that I said ‘no tears.’

I was so torn. That night was not easy. Not knowing what to do, being so stuck in the middle of a decision and my family members was wearing me down.

I woke up at 3 a.m. unable to sleep. All I could think about was this dog and how good her disposition was.

I had asked at the shelter if we could put a sign on the cage to give us - meaning me - a moment to think. We were told ‘No.’

I would have really appreciated a moment to think... I had to wait till 3 a.m. for this to actually happen. Only problem was now I was alone with no one to bounce my thoughts off of.

By 6 a.m. I decided that Frank had enough sleep and woke his snoring being up. The thought that was circling my mind was the family at the restaurant... the one with the disabled child. How sad the circumstances are for some families. I’m sure they live their life happy and to the fullest of their potential... and full with joy... but all I could think, am I? Are my kids? I am sure they have their hands full... and I bet they had a dog.... What is wrong with me!!!??? I am overwhelmed with guilt.

They have been consistent with their pleas for months. Now they had Frank on board. I was the only one holding this back... and from a puppy that - from what we have seen - would be perfect.‘Frank! Wake up! Frank...’ I shook him as he snored. ‘Frank... are you awake?!’ ‘I want you to go back and get the dog.’ I shook him again. This time he rolled over. ‘Did you hear me?’ He opened one eye to look at his assailant. ‘Can you go back and get the dog before the kids wake up? I don’t want them to know in case she’s already adopted.’ He now had both eyes open. ‘What time is it?’ ‘Its 7. If you get there by 8:30 you’ll be the first in line before they open at 9.’ He was finally moving... ‘Okay, let me just take a quick shower.’

He was out of the house within minutes.

As I had hoped, the kids didn’t realize where he was going. As far as they knew Daddy went food shopping. I made them clean and organize, if they had any homework that had to be done as well. Everyone had to get dressed and ready to go. This was confusing for them, since it was the weekend and usually we don’t rush on the weekends.

Of course, the questions and pleading about the dog were still going on. I just kept turning their attention to the tasks and chores they needed to complete. Then I said ‘If all your chores are done by the time Daddy gets home, we will go back and look at the puppy again.’ This sure focused Charlee, didn’t do a bad job with Alex either.

Now they were wondering why Daddy is taking so long. Mommy was too.

Turns out that when Frank got there it was too early. They wouldn’t open the doors until 10. Of course, when they did he was the first inside. The dog wasn’t in the same spot, so he raced around to find her. This I know because I called him during his race, only to have him chase me off the phone so he could focus.

When he did find her, there was a note on the cage with the words ‘Interested.’ Are you kidding me!? That better have been for us!!! Frank removed the note and went directly to the adoption counter to start the paperwork. After everything was completed and a few phone calls, more like interrogations, were made... the puppy was ours.

Meanwhile, I was home and still trying to avoid my kids increasingly pressing questions. Now knowing that the dog was ours I said ‘Lets take a trip to the pet store. Maybe we can pick out some things just in case we do get a dog... that way we will be ready. When we get back Daddy should be home.’ They were thrilled. We mulled around in Pet Supply for some time. Frank called periodically with updates. When he was nearing home I rallied the kids. We needed to get home. ‘Daddy is on his way.’

I knew they would be too excited to eat after the dog got here, so I made them a quick lunch. Once done I ordered Charlee to go potty... ‘Daddy should be pulling up in a few minutes.’ She ran around getting ready ...potty, wash hands, put jacket on, grab stuffed puppy dog companion... ‘Okay Mommy. I’m ready.’

As planned Daddy came in to announce that he ‘didn’t think the dog would still be there. But if were going to do this, lets do it. Hurry up. Get in the car.’ Out the door they ran...

Waiting in the front seat of the van was our new family addition. Toots. She has jet black eyes that overly contrasted her snowy white fur. I could see her eagerly watch as people approached the vehicle.



Alex was the first to see her. He said nothing... clearly he was too busy computing what he was seeing. Charlee didn’t see her until she got up to the door. Then she didn’t know what to do. Wha...?’ She looked at the dog then me. ‘Is that a dog?’ She looked back at the dog in the window. ‘Am I dreaming?’ She looked at me. ‘AM I DREAMING?!’ Now more demanding and more pointedly. ‘No Charlee. Your not dreaming... you got your puppy.’ Now she was smiling from ear to ear... still clinging to her stuffed animal, that will no doubt soon be relinquished to the toy box.

We let Toots out of the car to meet her new family.

I am hoping I made the right decision. Right now it feels right. Real right.

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'Am I dreaming?!'

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'This is REAL?!!!'


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Alex jumped for joy!



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Charlee was 'drunk' with happiness

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Poor Toots - She was pooped!

Forget about 'A man and his dog' ...its all about 'The Girls'

Alex did not go up to Toots... Toots went to Alex!