R.I.P., Buddy the Hamster

We’re in mourning at our house. Daniel’s pet hamster passed away yesterday.

When Daniel was getting ready for bed last night, he noticed that his little friend was very still and called Mom and Dad in to check on Buddy the Hamster. He had, indeed, gone to the big hamster wheel in the sky.

I don’t mean to be flippant about Buddy’s passing. He was a family pet and part of our household for the past year. He had gotten accustomed to crawling out of his little shelter when he heard someone call his name. I have no clue how much the little rodent understood or if it was just a trained to response to a human voice.

I have to admit, Buddy was an endearing little fellow. I never, ever wanted a hamster in my house. They look too much like other varmints that I don’t want to see scurrying around my home. But after Daniel did some research on the care and handling of dwarf hamsters, I relented.

We purchased Buddy with the idea that he would become another 4-H project for Daniel. My son picked out a cage with a running wheel, ramp and second level platform. We found a little igloo shelter for him and stocked up on hamster food – seeds, carrots, sliced fruits and corn. He also had some chewing sticks which apparently hamsters need to keep their teeth pared down.

Buddy also had a hamster ball which allowed him to meet the other furry residents of our home. Buster, our small dog, was very interested in that tiny whirling ball. He followed it down the hallway, curious, I’m sure, as to how it was traveling by itself.

Toby, our old retriever, was less interested. He’d look up from his bed when the ball bumped into him, and then go back to sleep. As long as it wasn’t a squirrel, Buddy had nothing to worry about from Toby.

Daniel was worried that Buddy’s death may have come about because of something he did or didn’t do. We speculated that maybe he got too cold or too warm. Eventually, we wondered if he might have been lonely. In recent weeks we had contemplated getting him a roommate. I assured Daniel that there was likely nothing that could have done to save the little hamster. He was very active right up until yesterday, spending hours racing on his wheel or climbing across the bars of his cage like it was a jungle gym.

It’s hard to lose a family pet, regardless of size or shape. They become part of our lives and our routines. They look to their humans for food, water and shelter. And we look to them for companionship and unconditional acceptance. There’s an old saying that – “Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.”

I’ve been through the death of several pets, mostly dogs, who have lived long and wonderful lives. And it’s sometimes surprising how we grieve when those dear friends leave us. It makes the house seem so empty and dark.

Buddy will be missed. This cute little furball with the whiskered nose even grew on me. This morning, we found a nice place in the backyard and gave Buddy a proper sendoff. Daniel brought out a decorated stone to place on top of the burial site.

Our two dogs sat by the back door and were waiting for us as we came inside from the impromptu funeral. Both dogs followed Daniel through the house. When he sat down, Toby put his head in Daniel’s lap and Buster jumped up beside him to lick his hand. That’s just what he needed.

And to think some people call them dumb animals.