I have had this song called Hello Neighbor stuck in my head for the last three days. My lil’one loves this song and I admit, I like it too. It’s a little morbid but so am I. It reminds me of this time when I was a kid where I tried to kill my hamster.
Now before you start judging me to be a psycho let me explain. My first hamster was a grey and white one who I named Silly. I LOVED Silly, as you can imagine but Silly needed a friend so I got her a friend but this friend did things to Silly and before I knew it, Silly was having litters of lil’ hamsters.
I did not know that hamsters could just pop out babies every week, or so it seemed. And not just one at a time, several at a time. They were nasty looking too but they grew and the hamster cage started to smell really bad.
My parents never messed around when it came to responsibilities so it was my responsibility to keep the cage clean and free from the strong smell of ammonia. THEN I had to do something will all those hamsters. Every couple of weeks there were several more that I had to clean up after and feed.
I used to taken them down to the local pet store. Keep in mind that I was only about 10 years old at the time. The store owner would buy them off of me for something like five bucks. One day she told me she couldn’t buy any more. Something about some laws so that was that.
I didn’t know what to do with them all so I left them all in the cage for Silly to take care of. Then something happened that I didn’t know about. I didn’t know about hamster cannibalism. I woke up one morning and made a gruesome discovery. There were baby hamster skins in the cage but no hamsters to fill them and blood splattered around the glass like the scene of a violent murder mystery.
At first, I thought maybe they just deteriorated or something because what does a ten year old know about the dark side of these cute little creatures? Nothing. Nothing is the answer. My crazy little mind immediately blamed the Cutie Pie. That’s what I named the male counter part. HE was a light tan and white hamster that I also really loved but unfortunately started to hate.
Things were good when it was just the three of us. Cutie Pie was supposed to keep Silly company. I just imagined that it must be lonely to be in a cage all day because I was a lonely kid. Still, this was madness and it made me upset that someone was killing the babies and leaving the little hairy hides behind for me to clean up.
Eventually Silly got sick. I don’t know if it was simply age or if she pushed out too many babies or if Cutie Pie was now trying to take her out too. Who knows these things. I found Silly one morning laying on her side. She was still breathing but it was like she was half dead.
Half her body was hard and cold while the other half was still soft and I could see her breathing but it didn’t look right. Like these short little breaths that I would later learn is called labored breathing. I told my dad about it and he said that she is dying and I needed to put her down.
Like no! I can’t just kill it because it is dying BUT my dad convinced me that it was the right thing to do. Still, there was no way I was going to do that with my bare hands so he told me to take her out to the woods and let her go. That IF she had a chance, it would be out there. So I did.
I wrapped her up in a cloth and put her in a box and cried on the entire journey out to the woods. I carefully took her out of the box, poked at her hoping that some miracle would happen and she would spring back to life and I could take her back home and forget anything ever happened but no miracle took place.
I laid her half lifeless body on the ground, said my goodbyes and waited a while. I imagined an Eagle swooping down to eat her or ants devouring her body or some other forest creatures coming to rescue her and she would live happily ever after.
All these years later, I really doubt she ever had a chance and I probably should have put her to sleep. When I think about it, we were poor and my dad was a clever guy. He knew darn well that it would cost a lot to take her to the vet and have her put down in peace. I also don’t think he, himself, could have the heart to kill her himself let alone have me do it. That’s just crazy.
On my way home, my sadness turned to anger and I blamed Cutie Pie again. It was all good until HE came along and ruined everything. He made cleaning up hard, my poor Silly was used for breeding and Cutie Pie forced her to eat her young. Did I leave that part out?
Yes, apparently, when there are too many young to take care of, the mother eats them. It’s a real thing, look it up. I found out the hard way though. I mean, I actually caught her eating one so…
When I got home I decided that Cutie Pie and I were going to have a talk. I first tried to be cool. Reason with him, tell him how bad he was to do that to Silly but the more I spoke, the more pissed off I got. Then I started yelling at him and telling him how much I hated him. Before I knew it, I was squeezing him.
I don’t know what I was thinking but I just kept squeezing, harder and harder until his little beady eyes popped out of it’s head and then I stopped. I was really hurting him. I wanted to punish him, yes but I didn’t actually want to kill him. Or did I?
See, I don’t know what I was thinking. Grief turned to anger, anger turned into action and in that action I saw what I was doing and I let go. I don’t know what it was, maybe the feeling of squeezing the life out of a living creature was a terrible feeling. Maybe it was the idea of seeing it’s eyeball completely come out of his head that grossed me out that made me stop. Maybe it was empathy. I don’t know.
What I did know is that I couldn’t do it. Ugh. What if I had? Would that have changed the course of my life? Who knows because it just wasn’t in me to do. All I felt was more grief and I begged Cutie Pie to forgive me. What was I thinking? I felt so horrible that I never harmed another creature again. Not a fish, not a bird, not a dog, not a cat.
I spent the rest of his short life trying to make it up to him. I took him everywhere and took the best care of him until that day came when I went to check on him and he had passed away some time in the night. Then I took him to the woods and buried him.
I never told anyone but my husband about that. To look back on that is sorta of creepy. Maybe a child psychologist would say something like, it was a learning experience. Maybe they’d even analyze parts of my childhood and reason that I reacted the same way I was shown by my parents. Maybe they would say that because I couldn’t do it, it meant that there was a deeply caring person inside me who learned a valuable lesson about fear, grief, anger and forgiveness AND about hamsters in general.
Many years later I grew up and became an animal nurse. I worked as an office manager and veterinary technician at an animal hospital in Arizona where, as it turns out, my best quality wasn’t drawing blood or checking blood and poop smears looking for viruses or other infections. It was TLC.
I was the only person who could get in a run with a Doberman named Roxy who showed you her teeth and lunged at the door every time someone walked by but I had to make sure she was fed and her cage was clean. I spent hours every day just waiting it out with her, doing woo woo shit trying to earn her trust and she did eventually trust me enough to let me in and even pet and hug her. The owners say that I am the only person that she ever let do that.
Looking back on it. I think that the most important lesson I learned besides the fact that I could never hurt another creature ever again, was that love takes a lot of patience and understanding and is forgiving. I am not perfect at it by any means because love isn’t perfect but it is what can reach even the most aggressive soul including my own.