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Hamster Tales

The question: How fast could your child's hamster actually run if they ever accidentally got away from you?

The answer: Like a bat out of hell.

Here's the culprit: Honey, my 12 year old daughter's long haired Syrian hamster.

Honey was a birthday gift for Mad this year. She's wanted one forever, but I wanted to wait until she was old enough and responsible enough to care for it 100% on her own. She was ready by the age of 10, but I kept putting it off because my own track record with hamsters is, well, sketchy.

Can I share a deep, dark secret with you guys and you won't judge me too harshly? Okay, here it is: I'm a hamster killer. For real. Stone cold, killed it dead, am going to hell, should probably have a tattoo of a tear drop under my eye, hamster killer.

Here's what happened. I was nine. My mother had gotten my sister and I a lovely little female hamster named Chrissy, probably after Chrissy Evert, the tennis player, whom our mother adored. I loved that little thing. She was huggable, never bit, and I could tell her all of my nine-year-old woes, of which there were many.

One fateful day, I came home from school and ran upstairs to see if Chrissy was awake. Since hamsters mostly sleep during the day, my mother sometimes covered her cage with a towel. The towel was on, but I thought I heard her moving around. I tippy-toed up to the cage, whipped off the towel and yelled, "SURPRISE!" The poor thing leaped in the air and was dead by the time she hit the shavings. I scared her to death, literally.

There's a lot there that's blanked out for me, my poor brain's way of trying to protect me from the trauma of being a Garanimals-wearing killer. I don't remember what happened afterward or what my mother did with Chrissy—none of it. I do remember that there were never any more hamsters. The "incident" was never brought up again by anyone in my family, but they probably didn't want to remember it any more than I did.

So when my own sweet daughter began asking for a hamster, I had serious doubts. But Mad is a careful, gentle kid, great with animals and very responsible, and in the end I gave in, and we brought Honey home from PetSmart.

She's adorable. Mad has hand-trained and tamed her completely on her own after scouring the internet and reading books on how to do it. Honey was only a few months old and had never been held other than to move her from cage to cage at the pet store. The two are now firmly in love with each other.

So a couple of nights a week, Mad spends the night at her dad's house and I, Honey's grandmother, am on babysitting duty. Honey is terribly spoiled now, and as soon as she sees you walk in the room, she demands treats and tries to climb out of the cage to get to you. I've watched carefully these last few months, and Mad never seems to have any trouble keeping Honey near her when they're playing on the floor. Honey kind of toddles around (FAT) and doesn't seem like she'd be the type of critter to try to make a break for it and get away. And while I always pick her up and hold her, I've never had need to put her on the floor for any reason without Mad there.

Until tonight. Mad is at her father's house and when Honey woke up around 7:00 pm (nocturnal my butt; lazy is more like it), I went in to give her some wake-up snuggles and to get her a snack. I scooped her up held her against my chest and walked into the kitchen. I one-handed the fridge open and grabbed her one pea pod which she immediately began munching contentedly and then we made our way over to the pantry to get her a Cheerio.

Somewhere between the fridge and the pantry, the hamster lost her damned mind. She raced up my neck, over my shoulder, and down the back of my shirt. I had horror-filled images of the hamster falling out of my shirt and landing on the hardwood floor. So holding the shirt against my butt, I raced over to the area rug in the living room and slowly, slowly, slowly got down on my stomach and lifted my shirt for the little rat to crawl out.

She dove off my hip and before I could lever myself back up into a sitting position, she was off like a shot. I mean racehorse in the last stretch of the Kentucky Derby, Michael J. Fox in the DeLorean leaving tracks of fire.., GONE.

Her fat little body was a brown blur as she made her way out of the living room toward the girls' bathroom and bedrooms. Secretariat over there was like the wind. In a panic, I grabbed the closest thing—a puzzle—and tore the lid off. I raced ahead of her and tried to scoop her up but she saw me coming, turned on a dime, and went back for the living room.

She was headed for the couch, or under it, and I tossed the box lid like a frisbee—whizzzzzzzzzzz(yes, this seemed like a good idea at the time)—trying to block the three or so inches that would allow her to get beneath the couch (and from there into the adjacent base board heater...ayieeeeee).

Fatty veered to the right just as I caught up to her and I grabbed her. Snatched her little body up and marched her directly back to her cage with my heart pounding. And do you know what that little turkey did? Popped the remainder of the pea pod out of her mouth and sat there munching just as happily as you please. Not shaken up in the least. That was a fun little jaunt as far as she was concerned.

I, on the other hand, was ready to stroke out at the thought of something happening to yet another hamster on my watch. How in the name of all that's holy would I explain to my kid that I was the Ted Bundy of hamsters?

She had me fooled, guys. Fat, docile, hug-a-bug-fluffy-butt turns into Dale Earnhardt, Jr. if given the opportunity. I'm pretty sure that she'll be spending the rest of the weekend safely in her cage until Mad gets home tomorrow. On the other hand, should there ever be a hamster Olympics, we're bringing home the gold.

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