January 2, 2009
My favorite dwarf hamster is the Roborovski hamster, and not just because of the name. Roborovskis are the smallest of the hamsters, and they're quite a bit different from their cousins. They live about twice as long, they don't mate as often, and while they are much more active and twitchy, they are also much friendlier than other breeds of hamsters. I've never been bitten by a Roborovski hamster. They're not very cuddly except with each other and don't really like to be handled, but they are otherwise very sociable little guys and I just love 'em.
There is a special mutation that has recently been bred in Roborovskis that results in white-faced hamsters, and when I found one and brought it home with a normal Roborovski mate, I was as happy as I could be. The brown hamster I named Tristan, and the white girl Isolde. I quickly came to call her Izzie.
A few months after she came home with me, I found Izzie one morning, lying on her side in her cage. Her eyes were open and she was alert, but it was clear that something was terribly wrong. She could barely walk and dragged herself on one side. I was heartbroken. Strokes are fairly common in hamsters, and there's not much you can do for them when they strike, except just make them comfortable. I didn't know what else to do for Izzie; I certainly wasn't going to try to put her out of her misery. I mean, how would you do that, anyway? So I watched her sadly, and I waited for the end that seemed sure to come.
Over a year later, I'm still waiting.
This isn't the story of a poor dead hamster; she's still around and still kicking. This is the story of a pretty little thing that suddenly became a twisted, skinny little scrap with bugged eyes and a funny walk. Izzie didn't die, and while she didn't exactly get all better, she did figure out how to walk around fairly quickly, and how to keep herself steady when she drank from the water bottle. Tristan became very protective and nurturing to her, hardly ever leaving her side, and so for the past year or so, I've watched these two hamsters, named after famous but doomed lovers. They've written their own story, however, and so far, it's been a happy one.
Every day, I go to their cage and I find Izzie sleeping, curled up grotesquely like a dead bug, her eyes half open. She looks dead every time, and so I remove the lid to the cage and blow gently on her. I can't help myself. And every time I do, she pops up, rudely awakened, and looks up at me with her bulging eyes as if to say, "Dude. Fucking quit it already." She is unmoved by my concern.
Izzie's not a metaphor for some larger issue, as tempting as it might be to try to turn her into one. She's simply a tough little hamster who refuses to die like she was supposed to, and her fat little mate seems to love her without limits. Every day I watch them, and I wonder about this world in which it is the broken and the seemingly forsaken that fight the hardest, for an existence that the rest of us take for granted. So I don't know. Perhaps she is a pretty good metaphor.
She still hates it when you blow on her, though.