Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We Have Loved!

It was a little over 4 years ago since we brought our first pet into our home.

Sonny came back one day with a hamster in a cage. It was his Primary school class project about caring and responsibility. Sonny had volunteered to care for the hamster during their one week school holiday.

Wifey was apprehensive when the hamster first arrived. She never had her own pet before, most probably because she had childhood asthma, so animal dander was a no-no. She warmed-up to and was taken by it because of its massive cuteness factor.

It turned out to be such an interesting and wonderful one week we had as a family with our "foster" pet.

By the time the week was up and Sonny had to return it back to his classroom, we felt sad parting with it... watched as the cute little creature left the house.

Until today, I am not sure whether that class project was ever successful at all in teaching the students as intended. Coming from Sonny, his classmates lost interest to care for it after a few weeks when the novelty wore off. One time, someone left the cage door open and the hamster escaped and was nowhere to be found until a day later.

By some unknown, cosmic reason, Sonny's teacher decided to give it away. Not many students wanted it, the ones who did, did not pass their parents' permission.

Sonny got to bring it home for good. We were thrilled to receive the hamster back into our home. From that day onwards, the internet and library were our prime sources of information of its breed and tips to care for it.

We named our first pet Russian Winter White Dwarf hamster, Puffy, assuming it was female from whatever new knowledge we picked up from the sources to identify its gender.

Somehow, Puffy seemed lonely. We collectively agreed that she should have a friend. With Puffy in her cage, we brought her along to a pet shop in Marine Parade.

After several matching sessions, one was an immediate choice by Puffy herself. She accepted her new friend without putting up a fight. It was the first time we saw how a cute hamster could become aggressive.

We learnt from the pet shop owner that Puffy was indeed female and she selected a male to be her new buddy while rejecting the rest. We named her new buddy... well, Buddy.

We had lots of fun loving our pets. The two were the centre of our attention putting the TV down to second spot. Our TV was turned off for many nights; an achievement of sorts. And instead, we watched our pets' antics and had fun playing with it. We loved it!

I noticed that Wifey was the happiest among us. She had the most time with Puffy and Buddy since she was a stay-home Mom. I also believe it was like she was given a chance to finally own a pet and enjoying the experience.

Many happy months passed and then came an unexpected surprise. It was nice to see Puffy well and happy, and even puffier than her normal self. We thought we overfed her, but only to realize that she was in fact pregnant when she gave birth to 8 liters.

We were even happier to receive the babies and were oblivious to a creeping nightmare. It was rather an interesting experience to witness the birth of each baby and saw them grew-up fast through the weeks under the mother's care.

All was well until the babies grew up to be young hammies themselves.

The parents started rejecting them and became aggressive towards them. So too were the young hammies with each other, especially during meal times. We soon learnt that they were territorial and needed their own space.

Before we could effectively separate them into the same gender, they procreated like wild fire. Inbreed was the prime concern then, but those we thought we separated into the same gender in one cage turned-out to be not so accurate after all.

More pets and bigger cages but soon the population exploded before we could figure out a way to contain it. It was totally out of control. At one point, we had a whole "village" of them we called HamsterVille.

At its peak, we had a population of 57 hammies segregated in 13 or more cages in our service balcony, separated between genders as far as we could correctly identify them as possible.

It took us 3 to 4 hours just cleaning all the cage every other weekend. It was hard work. Lots of money was spent too on their expensive food and bedding, but it was our labor of love. We also had to fork out bigger sums of money for veterinarian care of between S$20 and S$80 at at time when there were sick ones.

It all became too much to bear, to upkeep. Too many little cute ones to handle, so we posted the hammies for adoption in the local Pet Lovers website. We instantly received text responses from across the island. After filtering through the genuine pet lovers from novelty-craved youngsters to our best instinct, we gave most of the hammies away a few at a time over several weeks.

Each time a hamster left our home with its new owner, our heart sank. It was painful to see them go. It was like giving away our babies that we have been attached too for some time. Yet we knew the hammies would be better off and cared for by their new owners.

When the adoption period was over, we were left with 27. As much as the sadness we felt during the adoption period, it was even more painful to experience our first death. Puffy died. The night before she died, Puffy stayed really still in our palm looking at us with her bright eyes. She kept looking at us and remained at the cage door even after we placed her back in. It was a strange incident we thought until the next morning. She had passed.

Due to their short lifespan of about 2 to 3 years, we witnessed each of our hammies die. Each death was as painful as the last one. It was quite devastating to experience such moments too often, but death is part of life.

Yesterday, marked the end of many such sad moments when our last hammie we called May, died in the morning. It was a day after the other one called Annette died. Annette was probably the longest surviving hammie of all. She lived more than 3 years.

May's best friend. She had to follow her friend.

Sonny buried his last hammie last night. Under the same water-apple tree where her sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents were buried before... a place we called CemeTree, over-looking our bedroom window, May was laid down to rest.

Wifey had her last cleaning too. Instead of setting the fresh bedding, the last cage was flattened and put away.

"Feel something is missing whenever I'm at the Service balcony." Wifey quipped suddenly tonight. Standing at the doorway... talking to me, but her mind was somewhere else...

"We should have gotten a parrot!" Sonny exclaimed after appearing out from the kitchen, "Parrots live much longer."

Me, I understand that we deal with sudden loss in our own way, at our own pace. Time will heal and set things right again and we will go on with our lives.

We now have more weekend times to spend outdoors and with each other. Heck, we can now take longer vacations without worrying about our pets anymore.

Nonetheless, the experience was wonderful. We have loved all our hammies. Though lots of time and care were taken away from us, but it was worth the journey we had with them.

"I don't want anymore hamsters," Wifey said, "they live short lives and it hurts when they die."

I have to agree with her. It was painful every time that happened, many times. Yet, it was worth the pain when we compare it to the fun and funny times, the love we gave and felt with each one of them. We will love them forever.


  1. That was so sweet and cute and sad all at the same time. I'm very sorry for your loss, but happy because those hampsters got to live a great life and they were loved and cared for.

    I do hope that you guys do okay, and who knows you might be able to get another pet someday.

    Have a good end of the week

  2. What an interesting story. Wow, how did you ever take care of so many? No WONDER you adopted some of them out!

  3. We used to have many cats- many years ago. I swore then I'd never have another pet. So far it's staying that way. Hard, though, with 4 kids begging for one. :)

  4. It's good to read the history of Hamsterville, Imran. I'm sorry to hear that you have said good-bye to May. You and your family will always remember your hamster friends.

  5. Better to have lived and loved the hammies than never to have had them at all.
    I look every evening into Elliot's cage and breathe a sigh of relief that he is still with us.
    They do have such short lives...

  6. Hello Everyone.

    Jess | It was all that. The good and bad, the happy and sad times we had with our hamsters. Yes, probably we'll get another pet... but this time, one that lives a much longer life.

    Donna | At 57 hamsters, it was a total nightmare especially when it was time to clean all those cages. But we get the satisfaction once all the cages were cleaned and the hamsters seemed happy with their fresh surroundings.

    Andrew | I'd get a cat as a pet in a whim, but Wifey is not a cat person and we do not really want to change any of our furniture as of yet. Scratch poles can do so much.

    I had cats as pets before when I was growing up in my village. When it was demolished for development, my parents fed as many as 30 cats twice a day when the neighbors abandoned them when they moved. A very sad sight when we had to move ourselves.

    Mompoet | We will always remember them. We have almost all of their photos when they were in the babies and prime. It brings such good memories as each hamster was named after their distinctive antics.

    Ellen | It is always fun to watch the hamster react to the environment in their cage. I saw Elliot in your video and remember all the fun times we had playing with our hammies. These are beautiful creature with a 1000% cute factor.

    Thanks all for stopping by.

  7. Oh what a wonderful story. I know it was a difficult labor of love, but it taught all of you lessons about death in many ways, and of how hard it is letting go of those we have loved. What a long line of hammie families! That you were kind and loving enough to care for them so well, name them and grieve their loss shows us all what enormous love you hold in all your hearts. Yes, I am sorry for your losses ... and humbled to know such a kind soul as you and your family. There will be something missing in your lives for quite awhile, even though it will give you more freedom to seek out other avenues for yourselves. Those were some lucky hammies! And you've still got Virtual Buddy!
    Best to you,

  8. that hamster is soooo sweet. you are nice people

  9. I still remember all your lovely "heartfelt" posts about your beloved hamsters. I felt all your joy and all your pain. What a journey you all had..and what a wonderful journey the hamsters had also. Bless you all!

    I've had my cat since she was 6 weeks old. She is going to be 7 years in April. Tomorrow I have to take her to the vet..she seems to have a bladder or kidney infection I'm not sure. First time she's ever been sick all these years. Wish me luck that she will be okay. I love her so much my "Lizzie" and she is the only little family that I have.




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Muhd Imran
PAL Blogger