All Hampsters Go to Heaven (I Hope) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Phoenix, AZ
Having pets as a child is a rite of passage; they teach us how to love and care for a life other than our own. The problem is, everything dies eventually and, unfortunately, pets go pretty quick. It is at such tender moments when parents feel that in order to console the weeping child in front of them, they must find a replacement -- fast. I was a victim of such parental desperation, although looking back at the many pets I went through, I’m not sure I should be given the title “victim”.

It all started when I was about four. One Easter morning my brother and I awoke, rushing out to the living room where we expected to find the usual baskets, but instead there was a small cage. We tentatively looked inside where we saw a tiny brown ball breathing rapidly in the corner. My brother was less then impressed. He had his own pets, this one was just another addition. I, however, was too ecstatic for words. I immediately reached in to grab the seemingly innocent little creature when it whirled around and bit my finger. This was the most rebellious hamster of our generation. We christened him Twister due to his ability to destroy anything in his path. He was capable of chewing straight through his plastic confines and escape without detection. I lovingly called him “My little Houdini” after hearing my mother not-so-lovingly scream it when she found him burrowing into our living room couch. Sadly, these all-too-frequent joyrides came with the ultimate price: Twister had been missing for a few days and we had all but lost hope when my neighbors gave a solemn knock on our door. Apparently their son had been riding his Big Wheel in the street, when he ran over what he believed to be a large rock. Twister’s run had ended.

After two long weeks of depression over the tragic loss, my parents found it necessary to correct the situation. They purchased a “replacement rodent,” and the moment I saw her all thoughts of Twister vanished from my head. I named her Sandy after the lead in my new favorite movie, Grease. Soon, to my mother’s relief, we discovered that Sandy was nothing like her predecessor. She was a couch potato in every sense of the word. She was too fat to exert the energy required in the art of escape that Twister had mastered. Despite her bland demeanor, she was definitely my favorite. I suppose it could have been her laziness, but she never bit me, never even attempted it. And while Twister’s manic running regularly kept me up at night, Sandy converted the wheel into a tidy bathroom which made cleaning her cage so much simpler. In the end, Sandy’s death was about as exciting as her life. She passed while lying on her ceramic couch and we put her to rest in the garden, next to Twister and about a dozen fish my brother had “accidentally” killed.

The next hamster in line would be my last. I got her while going through a very empathetic phase, wanting to help everyone I could. So, naturally, I chose to buy the smallest and most sickly looking hamster I could find. She was so unbelievable tiny, I named her Mini. Mini was a hybrid of Twister and Sandy, choosing to use the wheel frequently as possible, but hardly ever doing anything more. You would think that with her starting weight and constant exercise she would stay the miniscule thing she had been, but that wasn’t nearly the case. Mini ate, constantly. To keep up with her never-ending demands I installed a feeder that could have probably kept a horse satisfied. It soon became clear that the name Mini was no longer appropriate, so Mini became Maxi. Maxi spent the last few weeks of her short life doing what she proved to be her biggest talent: eating. Ironically, she died in her food dish, topping off our cemetery which ended up being the burial site of: 38 fish, 5 hermit crabs, 2 parakeets, a lizard, a rescued pigeon, and 3 hamsters.

Nowadays, the only pet in our lives is our 7-year-old spazzy cockapoo, Lily. My mother, who has never pretended to be a pet person, is practically counting down the days until Lily will join the others in our own private Arlington. And no matter how much I beg, she swears that Lily is our last, cruelly pointing to my less-than-stellar record in the pet-ownership department. While I resent it, I won’t, I can’t, argue. After single handedly, yet entirely unintentionally, killing off almost a dozen pets, I have come to the conclusion that for the sake of small furry creatures everywhere, it’s best if I just stick to my Zuzu.





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