Juniper Files: Hamster Heartbreak
Watching my 15-year-old daughter play with her little black hamster reminds me of the time, way back, when her and my younger son got their first ones.
The anticipation lasted for weeks.
I promised the two of them if they passed the 4th grade, I would get them each a hamster. For her, this was just an incentive to help her through the end of the year. For him, though, it was an attempt to pull him out of a rut. I am happy to say the both pulled it off.
And so the reward….
We headed to our local Petco and surveyed our options. We compared prices and the kids decided it would more cost efficient to purchase hamster kits that come with the cage, wheel, food, snacks, toys and bedding. (Proud frugal mommy moment). Then, they began The Great Hamster Decision. My son went first, carefully considering all that was available before choosing one who was mostly white, with a splattering of color on his back and face. My daughter took forever to choose one. She has a difficult time when presented with too many options but the clerk was very patient. Her first choice, a chunky one, turned out to be a biter, so she went with a smaller one who she named Buster.
At home, the kids fell in love right away. They spent hours cooing at their little buddies before they began to gently handle them. As soon as LeBella began to handle Buster she noticed one of his ears was crusty. I called the pet store and told them I thought maybe he had an ear infection (do hamsters get ear infections?) and they told us to bring him in to see their vet.
The next day we took Buster in to see Dr. Paul. He assured us that hamsters rarely get diseases so it was probably nothing. He set about cleaning the area and found a few scabs that he gently removed…until the last one. Apparently Buster had some untreated fight wounds that had infected the skin against his cheek pouch. When the vet pulled the scab the side of the poor things face came off, exposing the pouch beneath it.
My daughter was in the room because, honestly, we didn’t expect anything major. She was horrified, we all were. After a lot of tears and discussing our options, she decided to return the hamster* to the store where they would take care of his medical needs and to pick out a new one.
The next two days were awful. Yes, she got a new hamster who is a complete sweetheart. And she fell in love right away.
But she was racked with guilt and she was sad because she had already been attached to Buster. She would be playing with Sasha (the new one) and burst out in tears. When I asked what was wrong she would say “I forgot about Buster, I was loving Sasha and just forgot!”Click To Tweet
The first night she woke up four times! She kept saying that she missed him, that she was a bad pet owner for giving up on him. It was so hard to see her so distraught and quite frankly? I am a bit nervous. I mean a hamster has a life expectancy of what, three years? How will she take a loss then? Will she be mature enough to handle it? What role does her illness have in her response? Would an atypical child have had this strong of a reaction?
She mentioned Buster less and less and she did so well with Sasha. I’m excited for the things that pet ownership will teach her. She made more efforts to keep her room clean, so it was safe for Sasha. And she showed greater responsibility by checking her food and water daily as well as maintaining the cleanliness of the cage.
What other lessons have you kids learned from having pets? How have you handles the loss of a pet?
Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy,
*It bears mentioning that the final decision to replace Buster was made after he bit her…