In January of 2017 I got my son a hamster to avoid getting him a bird. I don’t have anything against birds, I just don’t want one to live in my house for the next 30 years. Seriously, birds have a surprisingly long lifespan that I had no idea about until I googled it. We went to the pet store and discussed how cute and fluffy the littler hamsters were, and omg look at him on the wheel! I bet he’s so soft! Look how cute he is when he eats! It was an easy sell, to be honest. We got the fluffiest little hamster, a cage and all the accessories, and my 6 year old animal lover was on cloud 9 about having his first pet to take care of. He named him Mr. Furball, or Furbies for short.
The irony of our hamster purchase is that VERY SAME NIGHT after we got home, a bird flew into my house and got lost and flustered in the entryway where the ceiling is at least 25 feet high. It took us a solid 30 minutes before we finally caught it and set it free. It’s the only time it’s ever happened, and I truly believe my son conjured it from the universe because he wanted a pet bird so bad. Some kind of kindergarten witchcraft over here.
When I bought Furbies for a cool $16 at the pet store - actually my son would correct me and say HE bought Furbies, which is true - I wasn’t anticipating the hamster funeral in my future. I was just excited I wasn’t buying a bird. Again, I’d like to reiterate that I don’t have a problem with birds as a species. I like meerkats too, but I don’t need one as a pet. Furbies lived a full life with us with regular exploration excursions in and out of his ball. We protected him from the cat, who on more than one occasion tried to knock down his cage. We gave him a voice and a back story, as you do with pets. His voice sounded like Batman – low, raspy and with a steadfast sense of purpose. Naturally.
His favorite treats were yogurt treats. If you held one out for him between your index finger and thumb, he would slowly bite it out of your hand and grab onto it with his tiny hands to chow down. He lived alone in his hamster mansion, but he wasn’t lonely. He liked exploring his tubes and burrowing in his hut. Sometimes when he was feeling brave, he would climb the wire cage on the inside all the way to the top. He regularly knocked his water bottle off the side of the cage and waited impatiently in his water corner for us to notice.
And there was that one time he escaped while we were on vacation. He took a little vacation of his own, it seemed. We discovered him in the kitchen under the fridge, presumably looking for food. Maybe hiding from the cat. Can’t be sure.
During the tornadoes that ripped through Dallas this October, I herded the dogs and cat into the closet under the stairs with us and ran upstairs to get Furbies. My son would have gone, but I wouldn’t let him because I’m a responsible adult who won’t let her kid get sucked away by a tornado. I brought his whole cage downstairs and put him in a bathroom separate from us, because cat. He was a loved member of our family.
Last weekend we discovered he had reached the end of his life after nearly 2 years with us. He was loved and well cared for, and lived a great hamster life. Now we have the tiniest of graves in our backyard where Mr. Furball is buried. On Saturday we held a hamster funeral, which quite frankly I wasn’t prepared for as a mom. My son dug a hole for his grave. I offered to do it, but he said he wanted to. We put the paper sack holding Mr. Furball into the grave, and then my son covered it back up. We marked it with a wooden stake, and said a few words about how sweet Furbies was. It was a small ceremony, and then we celebrated his life by going to Ihop.
In all seriousness, I really wasn’t prepared for the level of devastation felt by the loss of Furbies. Sadly, my son has experienced loss already when he lost his stepdad, Jason, in 2018. We also said goodbye to Mia, Jason’s dog, in July of this year. With each loss, we talk about how it’s important to cherish every moment and work to be good, kind people who live good lives. We talk about Jason and the pets regularly and remember the happy moments. We may or may not get another hamster, but if we do it won’t be for a while. He has his dog Shelbee as his pet, who we rescued in July. Shelbee is the most perfect dog for him – playful, cuddly and sweet – and he loves that Shelbee sleeps in his bed. His new favorite thing is buying Shelbee clothes – check the highlight on my Instagram for a dose of dogs-in-people-clothes cuteness.