Despite the veritable circus of animals i have lived with or adjacent to in my life, i have only once had a pet to call my own: a hamster, obtained from my sixth grade biology teacher. I remember that the event was quite a big to-do in my house at the time, although now i don’t see what was so incredibly unusual about keeping a rodent locked up in a tidy Habitrail cage. He wasn’t much of a pet, so much as i recall, except for that he had a hamster’s typical penchant for escape artistry, once sneaking out in the dead of night only to make a nest behind my door and another time squeezing out just to wait on my pillow for me to return home. I’m not sure why i didn’t play with him that often, other than that i was always afraid of being bitten and that i had a penchant for seeing him more as a proto-beanie-baby than a living breathing pet. An indeterminate time after i brought him home he died; one morning my gloved hand curled around his teddy-like body to find it stiff and unrecoiling.
Lindsay has a hamster downstairs, Mimi, who is either named after a character from Rent or Drew Carey depending on who you ask. To wit, she fits with both: loud, proud, and rather large. In fact, most visitors to the house estimate her to be much closer to guinea pig than hamster, and some even recommend that she has enough body mass to aspire to ferret size if properly stretched.
The most important thing about Mimi is that she is just about the best pet ever. She’s low-maintenance, eating only one full dish of food each week – which would seem to indicate that she has the most obscenely low metabolism known to man or mouse, as she has no trouble maintaining and increasing her near-free-roaming-pet size. She’s very docile, especially for a breed of animal who typically moves and sniffs as though its being electrically prodded from behind for even a moment of pause. She’s smart: smart enough to have outsmarted the typical hamster proofed roof of her cage as well as the lid to her ball. Her only fault, really, is the noise she makes at night; hamsters are, of course, nocturnal creatures, and she has a string of nightly exploits that include chewing on parts of her cage, running at a higher speed limit than her wheel is built to contend with, and generally moving things around in a rather noisy fashion.
I can admit that i was jealous of her, especially seeing as at the time i was the only housemate who didn’t own a pet. So, when Elise decided to take a day off for comparative snake-shopping, i half-heartedly began examining hamsters as we progressed from store to store. None of them were cute enough for me until our last store, hit upon as a bit of a lark, where after giving up on a rodent so belligerent that she couldn’t be picked up by an employee to a tiny scurrying doll that – after some contention – has become my pet hamster Stoli.
At night she has taken to gnawing on the tiny evergreen bars of the front hatch to her cage to fulfill her requisite noisemaking quota, and although it’s probably some animal escape-instinct at work on her part to me it is just the evil clicking-of-death at 4am. And 5am. Though, sometimes as early as 2:30am. I’ve learned that the only way to avoid these untimely wake-up calls is to engage her attention before i go to bed; i let her crawl around on my desk while i’m catching up on the day’s news, and then i find a nice clear surface for her to really run off some stream on before i head to bed. Tonight i took her out into my entirely bare sitting room and watched – bemused – as she careful sniffed across the entire space one square-hamster at a time. It seems to have worked, as she’s gone from recklessly leaping off the side of my chair three consecutive times thirty minutes ago to sitting quietly on the floor of her cage contemplating the hatch as i type.
Or maybe that has to do with the extra-whitening toothpaste i spread all over the front bars of her cage, the touching of which usually sends her scurrying back to her hidey-hole to wipe her hands off on stale food and cedar chips.
So, if you’ve been wondering why i haven’t been blogging all week despite having my classic AM timespot uncharacteristically freed up, now you know: i’ve been trying to wear out my hamster.