This article, entitled "The Inconvenient Hamster Truth," comes from Annie Payne, MomsEveryday blogger from Western Colorado.
Replacing a dead pet with a live one without the kids knowing is not as easy as it sounds. Here is our story…
Parenthood and pet ownership go hand in hand
When our kids got it in their head that they needed a hamster, we did all we could to prepare to be conscientious pet owners. We read a manual, created a lovely habitat, and bought all the accessories and accoutrements needed to make our new addition comfortable. Just like many expecting parents, we even gave our hamster a name ahead of time: we named it Penny.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
On the way home we noticed that Penny was different; Penny had red eyes. It made her look a little evil and rat-like, but it didn’t matter. We were already in love with our odd little hamster.
As the days went on, her oddity became more serious. It turned out that Penny had a major drinking problem. She would finish a whole water bottle in one day and completely soak a corner of the habitat with her waste. She also was very irritable. You would have to be willing to take a bite from her if you wanted to pick her up. The red eyes, excessive drinking, and anger management issues didn’t make for an ideal pet.
A month later we noticed she was shaky and reclusive. We went out for the evening and when we came back she was dead, most likely from liver failure. We knew this day would come. Hamsters, like goldfish, aren’t known for their longevity.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
My husband and I had already sent the kids to bed, so they had no idea.
I dreaded telling them. My husband was going out of town the next day and I didn’t want to have to deal with the death of a family pet on my own, so we concocted a plan to replace her with an identical one. We wanted to give Penny a proper burial in the backyard fit for a beloved pet, but being afraid that the sound of digging a grave would wake the kids my husband unceremoniously wrapped her in a paper towel, put her in a box and threw her away.
The next day, I micro-managed the whole morning so the kids would not look in the habitat and notice Penny was gone. Then I dropped them off at my parent’s house and went to the pet store.
Finding a proper replacement was harder than I thought. Although the hamsters were similar they were not identical. I picked one whose fur I thought matched the closest.
So I took Penny No. 2 home and put her in the habitat. This hamster ended up looking a lot different than the first one. My kids noticed right away.
“Mom, Penny looks different. She is fatter and her eyes aren’t red anymore.”
I made the excuse that she was going through a “life change.”
“Hamsters are a lot like people. When they get older they change. Just like your cousin. He is 13 now and he is changing, too.”
They completely accepted that answer: It didn’t hurt that they idolize their older cousin and think whatever he does is cool. After that explanation, my kids never questioned for a minute that it wasn’t the same hamster.
Fast forward three months. I leave town for the weekend and my husband decides it’s time the kids know the truth. I was about to go on a cave tour with a group of friends when I get a text message on my phone that said, “I told the kids the truth about Penny.”
What?! Why in the world?
He told me that he wanted them to understand how fragile hamsters are. After a day of handling and mishandling, Penny No. 2 was looking a little dazed and confused. He said they needed to know the reasons why we have so many rules to protect her. According to him they took the news about their first hamster really well and said I was concerned for nothing.
Penny No. 2 has outlasted No.1 by eleven months and that was the end of the line of Pennies. I knew I couldn’t get away with the old switcheroo again. They would have started recognizing me at the pet store. Perhaps, they’d notify PETA of the apparent hamster maltreatment or quit selling them to me all together. They’d see me coming with my empty box and say, “It’s that woman again. Quick, hide the hamsters!”