I learned the meaning of humility a few years back when I took our hamster to the vet. We sat between the owners of a Persian and a poodle, and I thought the cat, the dog, and their people were all eying me and my shoebox a little smugly. Especially the cat. Maybe it was just curious. Or maybe it was just hungry.
I held my shoebox closer and tried to look mean. I wanted to say, “Back off and leave me and my pet rattlesnake alone.” I’m glad I didn’t because they would have known it wasn’t a pet rattlesnake as soon as the receptionist called for Hamsty Rosby. That’s when I decided to name our next hamster Black Widow.
When you have a pet, you commit to care for it ’til death do you part, which explains why I left the clinic that day with two kinds of medicine, one oral and one for soaking Hamsty’s foot twice a day for TEN DAYS! I wasn’t sure which one was going to be harder. I’m still not sure which one was harder.
Hamsters are small, so it follows that their mouths are also small. My son held the hamster while I tried to pry his little jaws open wide enough to squeeze in a drop of medicine. It was like trying to pierce a hummingbird’s ears.
We also had to convince Hamsty to stand still with one foot soaking in a bottle cap full of medicine for TWO MINUTES!Keep in mind, hamsters run ALL NIGHT on little hamster wheels. The only time I ever saw our hamster sit still, he was sleeping. And he didn’t stay asleep for long when I picked him up and stuck his foot into a bottle cap of medicine. But then,neither would I.
In the unlikely event you ever find yourself in this situation, I suggest, you distract the hamster with a snack, say a walnut or a piece of macaroni. I also suggest you not be too hard on yourself when it doesn’t work, because it probably won’t.
Hamsters have short life spans and despite our best efforts, Hamsty eventually went to that Great Hamster Wheel in the sky. He was soon replaced, because we already had the cage, and I still didn’t want a dog.
But alas, after several healthy years, hamster number two developed a skin condition and also needed medical attention. I was happy to find the waiting room empty this time, because I had forgotten to name our second hamster Black Widow, and Bobo is not likely to earn much respect from the owners of Siberian Huskies and Doberman Pinschers.
There was a mixed-breed dog in the waiting room on our way out, but he was too excited to pay any attention to my shoebox. That was fortunate, because one look of contempt from him or his owner and I would have pointed out that, unlike the dog, Bobo was a PUREBRED who was, at least at that moment, behaving very well. Of course, he was also sound asleep, being nocturnal and all.
I left the clinic with a bottle of medicated shampoo and instructions to bathe Bobo every day. Giving a hamster a bath is no way to inspire its loyalty, even if it is for its own good. Hamsters are self-cleaning mechanisms, much like cats and ovens. Their cages are not, but they are, and they have every intention of staying that way.
I should also point out that hamsters are tiny animals with GREAT, BIG TEETH! Bobo had never once bitten the hand that fed him, but the hand that fed him had never before put him into a bowl full of water, shampooed him, and towel dried him. Talk about humility.
Despite that, Bobo was a peaceful hamster to the end. Sadly he never recovered from his illness and is probably right now running with Hamsty on that Great Hamster Wheel in the sky. And after a suitable mourning period and much contemplation, I’ve decided to name our next hamster Humility. Or Viper.