A few months ago Monika went to get a haircut with her godmother. I had finally found an evasive parking space and they had already gone in to the salon. As I walked toward the salon, a young girl and, presumably her mother, exited. The young girl was carrying a critter ball that contained what looked like a guinea pig. She was in tears as her mother admonished her for reasons I wasn’t aware of.
I entered and was immediately accosted by Monika who loudly declared that she wanted a hamster. I nodded and said she would have to talk about that with her dad.
“You’re okay with hamsters?”she asked incredulously.
“I’m okay with a hamster, sure. My brother and I had them when we were your age.”
In previous attempts in asking for a pet, it usually involved a cat. Don’t get me wrong. I love cats and had one as a teenager, the bestest cat in the world, Leopold. Leo never meowed unless on the way to the vet. Leo was not a lap cat. Poldie was not affectionate. But he liked to be in the same room as the humans and occasionally graced us with his presence on the couch as we watched TV. And I loved that about him. Pold actually ruined me for other cats because now I can’t stand cats that always want to be on my lap and meow relentlessly. I’m also ruined for cats because it turned out that I am horribly allergic to them. And I’m a terrible housekeeper.
If I were better at keeping house, sure, I’d love to have a cat. But. I learned this horrible “teach kids responsibility” thing from a co-worker (whom I actually loathed, but no matter, it’s still a great idea): if the kid wants a cat, the litter box goes in the kid’s room. This is genius. Evil genius. The stink and the mess will eventually get to the kid. The kid HAS to clean the litter box.
This didn’t go over well with Monika, so she quietly gave up her campaign to have a cat.
Then she wanted a fish. She had a fish once. Which she named Fishy-Poo. She’s not the most original when it comes to naming her animals. All her stuffed animals have some adjective in there that describes their texture or color. “Snowy” the baby harp seal, “Fluffy” the pink dog she also uses as a pillow, “Pinky” the over-priced pink cat with sound effects.
I digress. Sorry, I do not know how to edit myself in some cohesive way.
Anyway. She had a fish once. That her grandmother fastidiously took care of. Which Monika admired when she happened to notice it (once a month) next to the television set. It seems the fish’s bowl was being cleaned one day and Fishy-Poo was in a temporary habitat next to an open window. In winter time. Fishy-Poo departed for warmer climates. Oh well. He had a really tiny bowl so I hope he’s swimming in warmer, larger and open waters in heaven.
I should add that Monika’s mother gave her a pet fish for Christmas. The fish is pink and she calls it “Sparkles.” So because she has a fish at her mother’s house, she wanted one at home with us. I reminded her of her track record of fish. She tried to convince me that she was terrific at taking care of fish.
“But, who takes care of Sparkles when you aren’t home with your mom?”
The silence was deafening.
Which brings me back to Monika’s just-begun campaign for a hamster. As I was saying, a girl with a guinea big in its transport ball had just left the salon in tears with her parent/guardian. Monika’s godmom, Lily, told me that the mother was looking for someone to adopt the guinea pig. Apparently the guinea pig had escaped one too many times and mom had had enough, the rodent had to go.
I find it rather strange that Monika’s campaign for a hamster was stimulated by such a sad and negative event.
Later on with her dad, we discussed the possibility of getting a hamster. He was not keen on the idea, but the fact that hamsters are small was appealing. They do not need to be walked so long as they have a wheel and a hamster ball. They don’t really need a litter box. Yes, they pee and poop everywhere but the hamster will spend a lot of its time running in its wheel.
So it was a go with the hamster as a pet. But Monika had to face the trial. Which her father initially set for one week, but I told him he was out of his mind. This was an animal dependent on a human for food and water, we needed to be sure she would take proper care of the hamster.
One shoe box, some shredded paper and a stuffed hamster later and the trial began. Marbles were the “food.” I even had yellow shredded paper to represent the pee. Once I took the hamster out of the shoe box and put him in a corner behind the door and called Monika to change the “hamster’s food”. She came out of her room, hands clasped tightly together, “Umm, Emily, uhh. What if something . . . OH!” She scooped up the escapee and put him back in his shoe box.
After a month long trial, Monika and I went to the pet store to select a hamster. We had looked at Dwarf Robo hamsters in previous weeks and decided upon that particular breed. They are pretty small–I’d say about the size if not smaller than a large chicken egg. After much excitement on her part, excited squeals and clapping: $102 dollars later, we brought the fluff ball home with the hamster accoutrements necessary.
So here is Squeeky Rhino:
The name was inspired by the guinea pig/hamster/gerbil rodent of some type from the movie “Bolt.” That’s where RHINO comes from anyway. As for SQUEEKY, this is what she pre-ordained him three weeks before we actually purchased him. This poor thing’s name is an oxymoron.
Squeeks’ cage has a wheel that sits on top of the cage, but is fully enclosed. He climbs up a tube/slide to get into the wheel, and the wheel itself not only spins, but the thing as a whole rotates. I hope he enjoys the change of scenery. He’s not terribly bright, however. He started dragging bedding and fluff into the wheel. And food. What had briefly been a quiet hamster wheel now clinked and clanked with all the stuff that he had dragged in there–and yes, it hits him in the butt and has occasionally bumped him enough that he needs to stop.
We thought Squeeks’ cage was great. Until we noticed that bits of seeds and droppings were actually escaping from the wheel. Air holes, you see. Which we now cover with tape. Don’t worry, he still has holes on the side of the wheel that give him plenty of air–not to mention the hole for the access tube.
Squeekers likes raw pumpkin seeds. This is what I’ve been luring him with to sit in the palm of my hand. I think he has gotten used to me because now he scurries across my forearms and has gotten onto my back somehow. He did bite me once. (Note to self: get tetanus shot.) I will admit I was teasing him with a pumpkin seed and I don’t think he liked that. There was no blood, but it freaked Monika out. So she’s now afraid to pick him up.
And as a result: guess who’s really taking care of Squeeky Rhino?
Well, okay. I don’t really mind. That much. He is awfully cute.