Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pets-How NOT to Damage a Child for Life Part Two

There have been very few times in my life when I have been at a loss for words. Quite often my responses are not very intelligent, but I still come up with something. Here are two examples when my brain and mouth abandoned me:

Many years ago (pre-hamsters) I took my kids to the pet store and let them each pick out a fish. My son chose a black one and my daughter chose an orange one. I told them they could pick out names for their fish, and with no hesitancy (and little imagination) my son shouted out “Blacky!” My daughter’s face was blank, so I asked her if she knew the difference between people names and pet names. She replied “I think so.” A few hours later, she came up to me with a big grin on her face. I asked her if she had a name and she said “Fluffy!”

So, Blacky and Fluffy lived together in a fish bowl in my son’s room. One day, while the kids were at school, I was doing some last minute cleaning before the bus dropped them off. I was coming down the stairs and I noticed some spots on the entryway floor, which was odd because I had just cleaned it an hour before. I bent over and picked up a piece to examine it closer. It was less than an inch long, thin, almost like paper, black, and had lines through it. What the heck, I thought, as I picked up another piece. This piece was similar to the first, except it was orange.

OH…MY…GOD!!! I was holding fish fins, and still remaining on the floor were two fish tails! Then I noticed the puddle of water, and little wet footprints on the stairs. I followed them right to my son’s room, where an empty fish bowl sat, the screen cover on the floor, and water everywhere. Apparently, cat met fish and fish lost. By all indications, Blacky and Fluffy had put up a valiant fight, but they didn’t stand a chance. I hadn’t even bought them a little castle to hide in. As I stood there, still holding the last remains of my children’s pets, I heard the school bus. In a frenzy, I mopped up all the water with a towel, gave the remains a burial at sea (you know what I mean) and jumped on the couch and grabbed a book. My head spun as I tried to think of a way to tell them that their beloved fish had been devoured by their beloved cat. They walked in the door, laughing and smiling. I watched with dread as they went upstairs. Minutes later, my son called down…

”Mom, where are the fish?”

Fishing season ended in our house, and hamster season began. Hamster number three for my daughter was a cute little Golden named Peaches. All was well with her, until one day we noticed a bald spot on her back. We didn’t get alarmed until more bald spots showed up, and her bare little hamster skin looked red and irritated. My daughter was adamant, “Mama, she needs to go to the vet.” Apparently, a hamster patient was rare, because we got a whole lot of attention when we brought her in. The vet was wonderful as he performed a thorough examination under the watchful eyes of my daughter. We left with no definitive diagnosis, just a bottle of drops, and some skin cream. He also provided me with rubber gloves to wear whenever I handled her. Over the next few weeks, I donned the gloves three times a day, picked Peaches up, administered the drops, and gently applied cream to her sores. All I can say is patient and nurse developed a strong bond.

Unfortunately, her condition continued to deteriorate. One day, when there wasn’t much life left in her, I picked her up and she bit me. The plastic glove was no protection, and she left me with a little break in the skin. “It’s okay, girl, I don’t blame you” I told her. By the next morning, we found her under her bedding, her bright little hamster eyes never to open again. I was devastated. Laura was sad, I was devastated.

I called the vet, with my daughter by my side, to tell him Peaches was gone. When I mentioned I had been bitten, he got very concerned. He said that rabies was not common in hamsters, but there have been cases. I asked him what I should do. He told me that the hamster needed to be tested, and I should bring her in. “Sure, I can do that.” And then he said five words I will never forget. “I only need the head.” I froze as these words sunk in. Stunned, I hung up the phone. My daughter looked up at me, all big-eyed and innocent, and asked…

“What did he say, Mama?”

NOTE: Of course, I couldn’t chop Peaches’ head off. I wrapped her in a handkerchief, zipped her up in plastic and placed her into the cryogenic chamber in my kitchen. I delivered her the next day, in one piece, to the vet’s office. And no, I didn't get rabies.

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