November 3rd, 2010:

Hamsters, etc. — Heaven & Hell

A wee hamster feasting

The craziest critter episodes in my life concerned my son’s hamsters. Before we got a dog, we bought a female hamster Hansi named Peaches (because of her color). She was too lively for her cage and wheel and soon broke one of her delicate legs. We took her to the local vet who recommended she be put down since hamsters cost so little. In a noble gesture, we paid the $90 for the amputation. She thrived a few months more and nearly lost another limb before she finally succumbed for good.

The next hamster had babies. A couple of them escaped their cage and headed for the kitchen. I was hosting a dinner party when several of us heard munching noises and deduced it was the missing little beasts. One of the guests suggested bringing the mother close to the dishwasher where the hamsters were roosting. That did the trick.

I discovered the hamster damage the following day when I ran the dishwasher and the kitchen flooded. Those darn critters had chewed a big hole in the water hose!

My daughter Heidi had a hamster briefly, until the Siamese cat I’d adopted snuck into her bedroom one night. The clever pussycat managed to open the cage and the noise of munching woke Heidi up. She and her brother grabbed our cat away but it was too late for the little hamster.

Dogs aren’t always the perfect pet either, especially when your kids leave the Halloween candy out. Our cockapoo, Cockles, had a feast, which included the foil wrappings on various chocolate goodies. My kids discovered a sick dog after school; since I couldn’t get home, they had to carry our cockapoo down a hill and a few blocks to the vet for a stomach pumping and an overnight stay. I wish I had a photo of that journey.

My friend Joanie lives in a mountainous area of Temecula, south of LA, and I enjoyed a weekend visit not long ago. She hasn’t lived so close to the wild before and told me how her beagle, despite her advanced age, was still spirited and eagerly chased after a coyote when they first moved in. Afraid for her dog’s health, a barefoot Joanie chased her for almost half a mile before the beagle had had enough fun. As I was dropping off to sleep on the first night of my visit, I heard two creatures chasing each other right outside my window. One set of footsteps was heavy, the other set lighter. They scampered by so quickly I didn’t get up to look out the windows. I was convinced it was probably a mountain lion chasing his midnight snack. I shivered a little and went back to sleep.

Probably the cutest encounter I can relate concerned Mama Duck and her five wee ducklings. Enjoying the apartment pool with my neighbors one summer not long ago, we all stopped to gawk at a mother duck leading her little ones right into the pool for a swim. We all got out to enjoy the scene. Mama led them around, directed them all to get out and then had them all jump in again. My landlady, being a more practical sort, got out a broom and shooed them out for good. No duck crap in our pristine pool!

Some years ago, I had an animal trainer for a neighbor. Jules Sylvester and his wife lived in the apartment above me and we got to know him quite well. His business, Reptile Rentals, was a flourishing occupation for the movie business. Not long ago he appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno; he’d brought a python. But that’s an entirely new story for a later time.

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