Back in my senior year in college, I was broke as a joke, but since I had a three year old, it meant a lot more than I couldn’t buy Ramen or another 30-case of Pabst Blue Ribbon, it meant that I could barely afford Christmas gifts for him.
I should have known better than to accept a second hand hamster, but there I was, nodding my head stupidly “YES” to my classmate when she offered me her rejected hamster, citing that she didn’t have time to play with him anymore.
How could I pass this up?
I’d owned various hamsters and assorted small rodents when I was a child, only to watch them meet their untimely demise at the jaws of my cats.It’s a fucking wonder I’m not more twisted than I am.
Where’s Sid? AAAAH! There he is! DEAD! NO! And NOT NANCY TOOOO! NOOOO!!
Sometimes, the hamsters would even eat their babies before I could stop them, only adding to the macabre situation of Rodent Gloom and Doom in my house.
Anyway, I’d remembered loving them before, well, they died and figured that Ben would too. He’d play with them, help clean their cages, and feed them little bits of his dinner just like I used to do!
Problem was, though, that Ben couldn’t have given less of a shit about the hamster, who he’d named Joey. This wasn’t one of my brighter ideas, considering Ben preferred planets to people, but we managed.
Joey lived a peaceful hamster life until one day he chewed free from the plastic house he lived in. I assumed that he would get lost in my parents house, possibly finding all of the skeletons of his contemporaries and didn’t give it much thought beyond feeling sort of sad for a moment.
I’d been down this road before, I knew that looking for him was useless, I mean it wasn’t like I could call him by name and he’d come running for me. And since he was approximately the size of a cotton ball, he could literally be anywhere.
One day a couple of weeks later, I was hastily plugging out a blog post on my father’s laptop when I heard some squeaking. Assuming the radio was tuned to some weird NPR program about ancient Siberian squeaking, I continued blogging. Eventually my bladder tapped me on the shoulder and I got up and headed for the bathroom.
It was there where I saw my two kittens, Finnegan and Atticus playing with something in the corner. Upon further inspection, I realized that it was a puff-ball that looked remarkably like…Joey.
Shit! I thought as I grabbed his little body up. Fuck! They got the hamster!
Now, just because I didn’t go on a Hamster Finding Mission didn’t mean I wanted him to die like that, so I carefully put him back in his cage on a heating pad offering a prayer up to the heavens that I hadn’t just killed another hamster.
What I had done is turned this sweet puff-ball of a hamster into a raging asshole. Walk by his cage and he would throw himself at the bars, punching at you. If you stood near his cage for too long, he’d start to fling his poo at you.
Oh yes, the new Joey flung poo.
He’d also bite the shit out of your fingers if you were stupid enough to try and touch him, leaving large puncture wounds where your skin had been mere seconds before. He liked the taste of blood.
Joey the Adorable Puff Ball had turned into Joey the Mean Hamster.
His brain had been re-hardwired to hate.
I dutifully changed his litter, gave him food and water, and frantically googled “dwarf hamster life span.” The relief I felt was palpable when I learned that he was nearing death.But no. Not Joey.
Joey not only got outlived the top end of his expected lifespan, but he doubled it. He graduated college with me, got married with me, followed me through 3 different moves, and he even managed to somehow place a voodoo hex on the two cats that mauled him. Because those kittens? Died before he did.
Joey The Mean Hamster lasted until right after Alex was born, torturing guests at my baby shower by pelting food and poo at anyone who stopped to say “What a cute hamster!” His fur became sort of grayish white, his nails approached Howard Hughes lengh, and he got pretty dilapidated looking.
But he was alive and you weren’t going to forget it for a second.
He died one night shortly after, and you know what? For all of the pounds of my flesh he ate and liked, I was kinda sad. It was like losing your own personal Archenemy. Maybe I wasn’t his friend, but it was really hilarious to have someone hate me so much.
Something that hated me that I had to take care of.
Rest In Peace, Joey The Mean Hamster. Gone, but never forgotten.
No matter how hard I try.