Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

The Tell-Tale Hamster

"Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth…How, then, am I mad?" — Edgar Allen Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart"

After launching a successful campaign consisting of much begging, a considerable amount of whining and periodic bouts of pouting, my daughter has acquired a hamster. I really think this furry bit of fluff is going to drive me to madness.

When archaeologists of the future sift through the layers of our lives to try to understand how we lived, they will undoubtedly be baffled by our penchant for raising rodents. I was puzzled by this myself as we drove home with our new pet: a golden-hued hamster my daughter affectionately named Sunset. Without any evidence to the contrary, she decided that Sunset must surely be a girl.

I paid a pretty penny for all the paraphernalia necessary for today's hip hamster — a colorful, multilayer habitat with towers and tunnels and a state-of-the-art wheel, lush, pine-scented bedding, an igloo to sleep in, an exercise ball, vitamin drops and chew sticks.

Next, Sunset will no doubt be demanding deed restrictions to keep rodent riff-raff out of her neighborhood and a complete schedule of social activities.

Before we even got the ungrateful creature into her luxurious new digs, she made a bid for freedom, scampering across the kitchen and under the refrigerator. This sent our dog, Ebony, into paroxysms of excitement. Ebony went wild — barking, howling, pacing in front of the fridge and repeatedly trying to shove her nose under there far enough to actually open her mouth and consume what she apparently thought was a special treat we'd brought home just for her.

Pet brain size must be inversely proportional to body size. While the much larger dog worked herself into a frenzy, the little lab rat stayed serenely in place, no doubt enjoying the chaos its presence had caused. If you looked under the fridge, you would probably see beady black eyes shining with satisfaction.

We had to put Ebony in the back yard and were finally able to coax out the reluctant rodent, who was covered with additional fuzz from the underbelly of the fridge. Sunset was placed in the deluxe-model cage, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But I soon came to wish she had remained under the refrigerator.

First, there is the mess. Despite living in a spacious Hamster Hilton, Sunset spends large chunks of time shoving the bedding out of the cage and onto my floor. She apparently also invests a great deal of creativity in figuring out how to distribute her waste in as wide an area as possible. She must press her furry little bottom right up against the cage and aim for the walls. I find poo pellets in places that no poo pellets have any business being.

Then, there's the noise. Someone forgot to remind me that hamsters are nocturnal. Sunset likes to party hearty all night in her exercise wheel. Initially, this wasn't a problem. But then, the worthless wheel began to squeak. And squeak. And squeak.

In the middle of the night, I will awaken and hear it squeaking. I tried putting cooking oil on it. I caught the horrible hamster licking it off. I tried moving the cage to another room. Still, the squeaking.

One night, hearing the high-pitched noise grow louder and louder, I was reminded of Poe's short story — "The Tell-Tale Heart" — in which the narrator is driven mad by the sound of a beating heart. I wondered if I faced a similar fate — my sanity assailed by the incessant squeaking caused by a tell-tale hamster.

I set aside a shoe box to be used for a quick burial and began to look forward to the day the sun would set on our rat-like pet.

Alas, though, the rodent lives on. And my daughter for some reason loves it. So I will bide my time and invest in some earplugs. But I'm saving that shoe box.

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2007, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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