The tagline for this site is “Four kids, a dog, and a squeaker in the San Gabriel Valley.” It goes without further explanation that the four kids are my four children, the dog is our Golden retriever, and we reside in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. But what is the squeaker?
The answer is simple. The “squeaker” is Sami’s hamster. The hamster does change from time to time, as their lifespans are fairly short. Since the inception of the blog five months ago, there have been two hamsters- Almond Biscotti and Peppermint Mocha. Both Syrian hamsters of the genus Mesocricetus, they are what you’ll typically find at any pet store. Our hamsters are always from the PetSmart in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena.
The hamster stories are rather unremarkable, except that Sam seems to choose hamsters that end up developing a bit of personality, perhaps in keeping with their Starbucks-inspired names. Almond Biscotti liked to rest atop her terrarium, wedged between her water bottle and the lid. She also had free run of the house during our week-long trip to Disney World last year. We were standing in line for Jungle Cruise when I received a call from our neighbor’s son who was watching the pets for the week. My first worry was that something had happened to our dog Owen, but no. Almond had escaped and was nowhere to be found. We arrived home at the end of the week to find a couple of clever hamster traps, a bathroom littered with hamster droppings, along with a hammy-shaped gap in the bathroom door she created to either get in or out of the room. I suppose at least she kept her mess in the bathroom…? And go figure, I found Almond in a corner of my bedroom the night we got home as I was about to turn in for the night. After ten minutes, moving the heavy wood dresser, and two shoeboxes, the husband and I caught Almond. He woke Sami to show that her hammy had been caught and placed back in her home, and all was well. Until a few months later with I found that she had been hiding inside a chest of Ikea Alex drawers in the girls’ room. She had made herself a little nest, which explained why she seemed to be able to disappear when our neighbor would come to check on the pets.
But our favorite hamster was Chestnut Praline Latte. Her time at the Haas home extended one year from early 2016 to 2017. This hamster was special, a really sweet creature who never bit or squealed, but had a penchant for escaping. And hiding in the most interesting places.
One morning before school, the kids for whatever reason decided to have Chestnut run around in her ball. She was left rolling about the house in that ball as I made the carpool rounds. I returned home to find an empty ball and no hamster. A thorough search of the house and the faint sound of scampering lead me to the most difficult, worst possible spot to access: behind the refrigerator. Our fridge pre-kitchen remodel was wedged in a space created by an old cabinet and an awkwardly placed wall dividing the fridge space and the washroom on the other side. To move the refrigerator forward enough to access the back required shimmying the appliance between that wall and another awkward cabinet, with a maximum of three inches total to work with. Shimmying completed with the help of a friend, sure enough, Chestnut was having a ball in the disgusting confines of the bottom of the refrigerator. This became her favorite hiding spot up until the kitchen was remodeled and the old fridge with a cardboard backing was replaced with a hamster-proof LG side-by-side with a metal back. Post-remodel, we found her hiding with Sami’s stuffed animals after returning home from the Sierras, in the linen closet with the blankets, and inside a Longaberger basket.
But for all the crazy hamster adventures, Chestnut was probably the one Sami bonded with the best. Sam would take her out and play with her for hours. This hamster was also the first pet that she had actual charge of. She had to feed and water her, play with her, and make sure that her bedding was clean and dry. While Sam couldn’t quite clean the terrarium by herself, she was able to initiate the process. In short, Chestnut Praline was instrumental in beginning the journey of helping Sami to learn responsibility. She was also the one to give her the first lesson about grief. Chestnut Praline finally passed away in 2017. We noticed that she was not her typical active self, and seemed to be struggling, though she had been fine earlier in the day. Sami tried to feed her and warm her up, but to no avail. Chestnut would pass later on in the evening. Her ‘funeral’ would consist of a decorated shoebox with a Tsum Tsum friend and some food with her older brother playing Taps on his trombone as she was taken to her semi-final resting place, and many, many tears.
Today, Sami has her Peppermint Mocha, a sweet gray hamster we picked up just a couple weeks ago. I do feel that it is good for her to have a pet of her own. The lessons on responsibility, along with lessons of love and care are ones she can carry with her. And hammies are just too cute!