I buried Hamee the Hamster today. You may wonder about the spelling; my daughter Rachelle was only eight years old at the time we acquired the little rodent and spelling wasn’t exactly her trump card. She still has his name written all over the little closet/room in the basement where she stores her crafts and we store our wine. And it’s my fault that he’s not around with us today. Whenever Rachelle brings that up, I tell her that hamsters have a very short life anyway.
Actually, I’m not only responsible for the death,in which even I, ahem ,admit to a small involvement,but also when I did find the little critter’s remains I initially swept him up and deposited the wee lad in the garbage can. In truth, I am not as evil as my daughter believes. My wife Brenda and I were busy cleaning out a storage nook in the basement and we found the tiny, ugly skeleton under an old box spring.
“Ewwww-it’s a rat”, Brenda exclaimed.
“No, it’s Hamee,” I countered. At least I hoped so. We’d never had so much as mice in the house before. I felt a little guilty about Hamee’s present condition, but just as Senator Mike Duffy can excuse himself, I too have my side of the story as well.
Ever since she was a little girl, Rachelle wanted a pet. A kitten, a puppy, a baby bird, it didn’t matter. She even asked about giving a home to the live lobsters she saw in the tank at Produce Depot. We finally compromised by buying a package of those sea monkeys from Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, the toy store. I remembered them from way back in my youth, advertised on the bank cover of comic books, right beside the X-Ray glasses, which promised you the power to see right through girls’ dresses. The pictures made the so-called sea monkeys look like seahorses, but our purchases never fulfilled their promise. Just like the X-Ray glasses.
“When are they going to look like monkeys ?” Rachelle asked, after peering through the increasingly murky water at what looked like tiny tadpole amoebas.
“Never,” her brother Adam enlightened her. “The Scottish Screamers had some. They look like that forever.” The Scottish Screamers were three little girls born in Glasgow who lived down the street. They were an excitable bunch, hence the name. “Their mother eventually flushed them down the toilet when the water got too murky.”
Rachelle started to cry and I had to assure her that I would never flush her pets down the toilet. I didn’t say that I would sweep them up into the garbage can instead. Despite my careful housekeeping, I still get accusatory glances from time to time and reminders that, “You killed Hamee !”
I never meant to. Hamee was an active little guy, very cute, and Rachelle would spend a lot of time holding him in her hands as he struggled to get free.
“Let’s buy him one of those clear plastic balls that you put him in and he can roll through the house,” I suggested. “That way he can see things.” I was tired of watching him climb up the sides of his cage, swinging from one little paw like a rodent Tarzan, as he tried to chew his way through the bars to freedom. I might be an accused killer, but I’m a soft-hearted one.
The ball lasted a couple of weeks but it soon suffered from wear-and-tear. I’m a libertarian at heart and I suggested that since we had no cat and our newly-acquired dog named Jasper seemed to be afraid of hamsters, we could let Hamee run free for a few minutes every day. “No problem,” I assured everybody. “I’ll keep my eye on him and just scoop him up back into his cage at the end of his run.”
Hamee was a little bit dense at first about finding hiding places and so my job was easy. But as his rodent-like cunning improved, he soon learned how to navigate going down the carpet basement stairs. From there he found a small opening beside the staircase and slipped away. I couldn’t find him.
“What if he gets outside?” Rachelle asked, distressed.
“Don’t worry- Hamee’s too smart for that,” I assured my worried daughter. “Something will eat him if he gets outside.”
Not the smartest thing to say. I quickly tried to recover. “We’ll put out Hamee’s food and some water every night in the lid of a jam jar and he’ll be okay until I can sneak up and catch him in the middle of the night.” My plan was foolproof. I didn’t tell my daughter that the chances of a near-sighted 185 pound man sneaking up on anything in the middle of the night were quite remote. But I did continue to put out the food and water. It did continue to disappear.
“We’ve got rats down there,” my wife accused me one morning. “They’re coming in through some tiny hole now that it’s getting colder and eating the hamster food.”
“Don’t be silly,” I sneered, trying to look a lot more confident than I felt. I did continue to distribute the food after everyone had gone to bed, but now I kept a wary eye out for giant rats that I may have nourished into super size.
Hamee never appeared again. When Rachelle would mention his name, which was often, I would tell her that he was happier being free in the basement than trying to escape that cage of his. Maybe, I continued, he even found a girl hamster living in one of those bags of outgrown hockey equipment that we had yet to throw out. And then I would quickly change the subject.
So on garbage day I did go through all the bags in the can on the front lawn trying to re-find his tiny skeleton. The neighbours are used to me doing things like that. And let the record show that I was successful.
Hamee is buried out back, well away from the spots where our dog Jasper usually pees. Rachelle and I are content that Hamee lives on in Hamster Heaven, free from cages, predators and musty basements. After all, he did show a lot more personality and spirit than many humans that I know.
Rest in peace, Hamee.