[Mr. H / Mom Ham the very first day we got her. She looks just like Señor Cuddlepuffs]
Señor Cuddlepuffs was the most recent Fancy Russian Dwarf Hamster addition to the MacKenzie Clan.
When I was a freshman in high school we received two of the FRDHs from a friend of my Mom's who originally told us that they were either both male or both female. They were supposed to be a gift to my little brother but he wasn't really interested in the cleaning part, just the watching them run amuck part. So I took over the cleaning and designing of their cages. I used to do some elaborate stuff with the plastic tube cages...until one fateful Christmas Eve we discovered Mr. H was really Mom Ham.
Mr. H was a little mean after the first batch. She got meaner as time went on and I can't say that I blame her. Within 24 hours of giving birth, Russian Dwarf Hamsters are capable of conceiving again and will be pregnant the next 6 weeks. If you do not separate the males from the females immediately before or after the birth, the cycle will continue. And they don't discriminate, either; incest is something that is definitely on the table.
Dad Ham was really cool. I used to carry him around in my cargo short pockets and he would just sleep in there. He would sleep in the cubby (originally meant to hold jewel cases) on my desk, in the pockets of my t-shirts, and would play with the girl that I tutored way back then. Then just short of his second birthday, all the Fritos and Cheetos I fed him finally did him in.
Their family line went on for awhile. I'm not going to lie, we had more hamsters than most people have pets in their lives. It got to the point I didn't know what I was going to do with them. We reached saturation point with giving them away so I called Clark's Pet Emporium
over on Menaul and asked if they would take them from me so that they would have a safe place to live. Well, the woman misunderstood me and bought them for $12 a piece. Opened my first checking account after the first visit if that's any indication.
Well, as time went on the cats got more clever and so did the hamsters. One of them chewed their way out of the plastic cage. One fell to his death, the other one hid until the cats found him. And for some reason I was the only one not entertained by the fact that my hamster died because the cat was throwing him up and down in the air. But for the fact that that cat was born under my bed...
Anyway, Mom ham died a little later; probably because she didn't have anyone around anymore. We had separated her from the boys but after they died she checked out, too.
Then we got Stewie. Originally his name was going to be Ryan but I started working with a guy named Ryan shortly after we got him so we renamed him Stewie. Stewie literally ate himself to death. I didn't think it was possible until this hamster did it. He ate so much that he wasn't able to unpack his pouches. They scarred over, he went blind in one eye, then died of what I can only imagine was an infection. My mom called to tell me this at work and I was ripped up inside but it's not like I could cry about it there. It was me and, well, Ryan. I did talk about the story of Stewie with Ryan, though, and that did make me feel better. But I cried the entire way home.
When I got home, I was hoping to say my good-byes to the furry little creature that eluded every dog and cat that we own. He was a tricky one and he used to play dead--A LOT. I would walk by and it wouldn't even look like he was breathing so I would pick him up and he'd get pretty ticked at me. The dogs were a little afraid of him though Faye wanted to eat him (probably has nothing to do with the fact that my older brother and my dad taught her that treats were good and that hamsters were treats [and I better never find out if they actually fed a hamster to her]). The cats were always vigilant waiting for us to drop them but Stewie was a master of the drop. He'd fake fall and they'd spend like ten minutes looking for him.
But when I got home, I reached down into the cage to hold his lifeless body and there was this furry contraption launching at me! It was another hamster. I didn't even get to pet Stewie one final time. They buried him in the backyard and bought me a new one in the hour it took me to go from the phone call to my front door. I was CRUSHED. My parents better not die out of reach from me because the reaction I had with that hamster proves I wouldn't be stable enough if that happened with someone close to me.
After a few days I calmed down and accepted the new addition. I wanted to name him Bo and Mom said it was stupid so she rejected it. Not that I've ever been allowed to name any of my pets (save the Beta fish that died within 6 months of purchase) but after the sleazy way they went about replacing Stewie I figured they might throw me a bone. WEll, this new hamster kind of looked like a mobster. The way he used to curl up made me think that if he had a hat from the 50's and a cigar hanging from his mouth that he could totally be an old-style Italian-American mobster. So I wanted to name him Bogart. Again: Rejected. But then my little brother stood up and said, "I'm calling him Señor Cuddlepuffs because no one can decide on a name." And it stuck. From then on, he was 'The Señors'.
He loved to run. If you can imagine a more euphoric state for him--there was none. We got him one of those metal wheels and he would run for hours on end just running and running and running! It wasn't long before the wheel developed a squeak and we were all taking turns adjusting it at night.
But just like with Stewie, the more we cleaned out his cage the more he got worried about his never-ending food supply to feed the giant pile of food he put in the corner. Granted, it's instinct and as people we can sometimes reason our way through this. But Stewie's and Señor's response was to pack in more in the cheeks to keep it where they knew they could hold onto it. It wasn't long before Señor developed the same ulcerated pouch as Stewie and we thought that we were going to lose him a few months ago. Miraculously, though, it seemed to heal over the pouch and that he was going to pull through.
Then, yesterday, Mom just oh-so-casually mentioned that he probably wasn't going to make it through the night. I don't see much of my pets when I'm house sitting because, well, I'm not at home. I had seen him on Saturday and he was fine but by yesterday he was a gonner. I had tossed salad at him earlier that day and rolled him out of his ball so that he would eat (sometimes he played dead or wouldn't eat like he was on strike or something) and when I actually looked at him I realized that there was a reason he didn't get up. I pulled him out of the cage and his little body had already ran cold. He was breathing through one lung with all the force he could muster and it just broke my heart to see him that way. In three days the pouch on his side had hardened over and was just one necrotic mass jutting from his side. I held him and petted him and tried to keep him warm to see if it would help but it wasn't enough.
Señor Cuddlepuffs took his last breath at 1615 27 May 2008 in my left hand. A small service in his honor was performed at Cuddle Cove located in the former Bala Bayou of our backyard pond. He was buried with his favorite cotton fluff and his favorite sleeping ball so that he can rest in death the way he did in life. If GOD truly does exist, Señor Cuddlepuffs is up there koosh-kooshing on His shoulder and running around in a tiny yellow wheel going nowhere--just the way he loved it. May the powers that be hold and keep you forever and may your pouches be ever-expanding.