Our hamster, which the boys lovingly named Ralph, after Ralph the ferret of Stuart Maclean fame, turned out to be the perfect pet!
He was gentle and inquisitive and loved to roll around in the plastic ball ($13) to explore our home. Smooch did a great job of feeding him daily and helping to clean his cage every week. I think Alan and I played with him more than anyone (being that he is a nocturnal animal).
I did notice, however, that he seemed to hoard a great deal of food in his sleeping quarters...and, come to think of it, he was losing a bit of weight too!
I chalked it up to the new, fancy-schmancy hamster wheel his cage included.
Unfortunately, despite now owning a cage that cost well over $100, Ralph developed wet tail.
Ignoring my nursing efforts (which included feeding him pedialyte from an eyedropper and cutting up one of my facecloths for bedding) Ralph died, in his bed, just shy of 2 months from the date we bought him.
I didn't realise, initially, that Ralph was dead. I heard the boys prodding at him to wake up and wondering why he was so tired. When I peered into his cage I was struck by a sick feeling. He looked a little too "relaxed"...in fact, his foot was in an odd, unnatural position.
I told the boys that Ralph was, in fact, feeling a little "under the weather" and that I was taking him to the vet.
Alan and I then spent most of the day driving around the city, trying to find a medium-sized all-grey hamster.
You would think this would be an easy feat. Nope.
I found one grey, short-haired hamster in Calgary. It already had wet-tail, so I passed on buying him.
I lay awake all night worrying about how I would explain the concept of death to Smooch. How would he feel? Would it hurt his little psyche?
I waited until he came home from school the next day and gently told him that Ralph did not make it (but that the vet said he looked very well-loved and cared for).
He cried, I cried, we talked about all the lovely little things we liked about Ralph and cried some more.
The next morning Smooch came into my room and announced that after a very difficult night of missing Ralph and feeling sad...he was ready for a new hamster! Even better, he'd decided on a new name for his new hamster - Reepicheep (of Narnia fame).
Kids are so resiliant.