I was planning to do a happy post on my work trip to Barcelona to meet the mathematicians I’m collaborating with, but when I got back home last night my hamster, Pumpkin, was really ill. Really, really ill. She had nasty looking lumpy scabby things on her face and then I noticed them elsewhere. Her fur had lost it’s shine and when I picked her up I could feel every single bone in her body. She had lost so much weight, and she was burning up. I then found an even worse one on her belly, and given everything else, guessed at cancer.
I let her out of her cage and she had a run around in her ball and I played with her a bit and took photos. I also did what any person would do and looked for things on the internet and got hold of the out of hours vet. They were too far away for me to get to at that time of night so I decided I’d take her in in the morning, if she lasted that long. Hamsters are so small that when they take a turn for the worse, they go downhill rapidly.
Pumpkin was still alive in the morning but she barely came out for food and took a lot of convincing, even for cucumber. Being about two years old, I’d been expecting something sooner or later, but dammit, not now, please not now.
I took her to the vet’s first thing this morning, and yeah, it was cancer. The vet found a lump about the size of an olive in her abdomen, and while she was doing ok and was still fairly active this morning, I’m going away on Friday. She might’ve had a day, she might’ve had more, but I wasn’t going to be around to see her through, and coming home to a dead hamster was not something I could face. The hamster I had when I was nine or ten died in my lap, after a day spent not moving. But oh god, I feel awful for taking her to be put down. I left her at the vet’s too because there’s nowhere really to bury her. There’s a patch of grass at the front of our house but I’m moving out in a month, never to return, so what would be the point?
Pumpkin’s kept me company for the better part of two years, and the story of how I ended up with her in the first place is one of serendipity. I’d decided when I moved to this city and got my first ever flat on my own, that I wanted a hamster. There weren’t any pet stores nearby that I could get to on public transport but I happened to be in an RSPCA Charity Shop and so I asked them if they knew anywhere with rescue pets to be rehomed. They didn’t but another lady in the store joined in to say that Michelle who works at the local Waitrose had a hamster she was looking to rehome because her daughter wasn’t interested. Mum and I traipsed down to Waitrose and left a message with another staff member, and a few days later Michelle got in touch! We arranged a date and she dropped Pumpkin off, complete with cage, food, bedding and toys, and wouldn’t take a single penny for her, saying that it was enough to know she was going to a good home.
Pumpkin was terribly shy at first and hated being handled, which I guess is the reason the daughter wasn’t interested, but with a bit of patience and lots of bribery, Pumpkin started eating off my hand. She didn’t like being picked up much and she wasn’t at all adventurous but she loved being in her ball and running around my flat. One time the lid came off her ball and she escaped under my wardrobe! I realised I hadn’t heard her bashing into any thing in a while and thought maybe she’d got stuck but when I found the lid off the ball I realised what had happened. I tempted her out with food and caught her within a few minutes but I was much more careful after that.
She was a bit odd, was Pumpkin. She had a wheel in her cage but instead of running in it, she would climb up the inside of her cage, rest one back paw on the horizontal bar and then run with three paws on the wheel. Regularly she’d loose her footing and fall down surprised, despite it happening a thousand times before, but she always got back up. She used to do the monkey bars too, hanging upside down from the roof of the cage, though I never managed to get a photo of her doing it. Pumpkin loved clover flowers and dandelion leaves, and carrot and cucumber and her mix of ‘hamster muesli’. She could demolish a dried cob of sweetcorn in under two days, hiding her treasure in a corner of her home. She would never jump from height and never tried to go mountaineering over my shoulders, unlike Squiggles, who once jumped out of her cage from a height of about 4ft to land unscathed, an intrepid explorer of the dining room. Pumpkin entertained my guests and was spoilt rotten by those favoured friends who looked after her for me over the two Christmas holidays she saw.
She was my dearly beloved pet and she kept me company through some very rough patches. I hoped she would see me through to the end of my PhD, but alas, it was not to be. Pumpkin died at 9.30 this morning, the 10th of July, 2013 after two happy years. She will be sorely missed.