Hamster Tales

Part 2: In which I try to bond with a hamster

When I had mentioned getting a hamster to my book group, a friend commented, "I couldn't do that. I couldn't confine a pet to one of those little huts." I didn't think this would be a problem for me. I was right. It wasn't a problem since I immediately caved in and gave the hamster free range of my linoleum-floored office by making a cardboard wall across the doorway. The hamster stopped scrabbling at the walls of its hut and now scrabbled at the walls of my office -- when it was not occupied with leaving hamster droppings and making food caches in odd corners.

That this was not a workable arrangement, I found out on the day that I got up and trod on its foot. It gave a squeal that stopped my heart and I looked down to find it nursing a bloody foot. It quieted down while I disintegrated into guilt and hysteria.

Ted found a nearby vet in the phone book, and I scooped the hamster into its plastic roll-around ball with a glob of peanut butter to distract it. (Incidentally, transporting the hamster to the vet was all the plastic ball was good for. The one time I put it in there to play, it immediately and literally had shit-fits and then tried to claw its way out.) The plastic ball rolled on the seat of the car, full of hamster, blood, peanut butter, and hamster shit mixed up together, while I careened up and down the main street of Felton. I was so distraught that I forgot the address.

When I did locate the vet's office, he had just left for lunch. An assistant looked at the hamster and said it didn't seem to be suffering and that nothing could be done until the vet got back. She couldn't even give me a sedative. I did get in to see the vet at last, who wiped off the peanut butter, flexed the foot, and said there seemed to be no broken bones. Even if there had been, he pointed out that there really wasn't a way to a splint a hamster foot (not to mention the difficulty of teaching it to use crutches). He sent me home with a bottle of antibiotic to apply three times daily to my now $38 hamster.

We did not bond over the incident.

We did not bond...

The hamster web site had advised: "You must get your hamster used to being handled." This, I found out, was to shorten its response time. At first, when I picked up the hamster, it looked around in a puzzled way, squirmed for a few seconds, and then bit me. By being persistent in handling my pet, I found that no time at all elapsed between my picking it up and it biting me.

Go back to Part 1
in which I discover
the grandmother gene
Go forward to Part 3
in which a hamster
shows its mettle