June 2004- October 2005.
It is with enormous regret, sadness (and some sense of repetition) that the Harlot family writes to you with the news that Mike White the dwarf hamster passed peacefully from this earth sometime last night after Joe gave him his nightly sunflower seed. He leaves behind his shelf-mate, Wanda the fish and his watcher, Millie the cat.
I must apologize for the lack of photographic material for Mike. While he was deeply loved…he was under-documented.
Mike was a good hamster and performed all of the duties of his species admirably. Cuddly and fun-loving in his early days, Mike led the life of a hamster prince…enjoying a huge cage, a pretty good looking pink running wheel and most of all…the joys of a plastic ball in which to roam the house. Mike (although he certainly lacked the brain size to know it) was also blessed in being the first hamster in this house to have never been “bowled” down the hall or stairs by a toddler while in his ball. (It was this hamster terrifying hobby exacted by numerous family toddlers that resulted in the sad but necessary hamsterless years from 1999-2002.)
During the last months of his life however, Mike withdrew from his hamster-human relationships (using fast jaws and sharp teeth), choosing only one special person with whom to have a relationship.
I’ll admit that no-one was more surprised than I was when I learned that my husband Joe was spending some time each evening after the family was in bed, visiting with Mike, talking with him and training him to hang from one paw in exchange for a sunflower seed. This took months. Months where, after his visit with Mike, Joe would slip into bed beside me and say “I got him a little closer tonight. Third rung of the cage. He’s a pretty good hamster you know.” It took so long, that if you think of it in terms of a dwarf hamsters lifetime….learning to hang from one paw for a sunflower seed may have been Mike’s life’s work …..his hamster opus.
It is only fitting then, that when Mike finally learned to do this thing, that Joe called us all into the room and showed us, beaming with pride and human-rodent friendship. Joe and Mike somehow, despite the fact that Joe is a record producer, pretty bright and human…and that Mike was, well…a hamster, despite that (which does seem like a fair bit to overcome) Mike and Joe were friends.
As Mike grew older and his hair began to turn grey, Joe worried about his friend. Mike was less willing to climb the cage for seeds, and Joe began lowering the seed a little over the weeks. Joe asked me one day if I thought that Mike minded getting old, if I thought it bothered him that he couldn’t do the things he used to… you know, run on the wheel really fast or hang by one paw.
I stared at Joe, and then I made a mistake. I pointed out that I didn’t think it bothered Mike. Not at all. Not even a little. I told him that I thought that the chances that Mike was churning with existential angst or the mysteries of the passing of time and the autumn of his lifetime were just about zip. Zero. Nada. Why? Why don’t I think that it would bother Mike? Because he had a brain the size of a LENTIL, that’s why.
Joe was crushed. He informed me that I didn’t spend enough time with Mike. That I really didn’t know Mike for the hamster that he was. That I didn’t know that not only was Mike smart (smarter than I could imagine) but that he was also charming and funny. (By funny, and I know I have mentioned this before…but by funny, Joe does not mean that he finds the hamster amusing, but that he believes that Mike has, I kid you not….a good sense of humour.)
Mike leaves behind Megan his owner, somewhat inured to the loss of hamsters (the burden of experience), Sam who was the first to notice that Mike’s wheel had gone quiet, Amanda, who at 16 probably won’t notice that he is dead for 2 weeks, me – who is happy on a practical level that Mike died before the ground froze – since I hate having to keep hamsters in the freezer until spring thaw….and his best friend Joe….
Who will actually really miss him.
Services for Mike White the Hamster will be held at the family hamster cemetery in the backyard under the locust tree today after school. Joe has requested that instead of flowers or cards, we convince that children to get pets that live a little longer.