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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Great Hamster Infestation of 1999.

Back in 1999, Husband and I were living in sin in a cheap apartment in Natomas, just outside of Sacramento. We were working at Applebee's - he as a bartender and I as a hostess - and we were newly engaged.

When we moved out on our own, we began acquiring all the things newly-independent young adults need:  cheap silverware from Walmart, furniture from thrift shops, and a shaky line of credit.  Since we were young and dumb and nowhere near ready for a baby, we decided that adopting pets would be the next logical step in building our life together.

First, we went to the SPCA and picked out a dachshund named Nala and a kitten we named Mona.

Nala hated kids but she loved us.  And barking.

Mona was the cutest kitten I'd ever seen or have seen since.  She was a fluffy white with an orange tipped tail and ears, with blue eyes.  It was apparent as soon as we got her home and she began passing blood that she was not healthy.  We took her to the vet, who said he could do nothing to help her, and she died within a week.  It broke my heart.

To ease the pain of Mona's death, we decided to replace her with two dwarf hamsters.  At the time, the idea of having baby hamsters seemed really exciting, so we picked a male and a female, a small hamster aquarium and supplies, and we placed them in a safe, high spot in our living room.

Before too long, our dreams of becoming grandparents to a bunch of rodents came true when a small litter of gross, pink, bug-looking things appeared in the corner of the aquarium, nestled into a little space burrowed out of the wood shavings.  As the five or six little guys grew, it became evident that this family was quickly outgrowing its home, so we bought another aquarium to add to the mix, along with some plastic tubing so that they could get back and forth.  We put the whole condo on the floor of the guest room since we didn't have a table that would fit it, and kept the door shut so that our dog wouldn't eat/spook our prized pets.

I don't know why rabbits are the only fluffy animals with a reputation for procreation, because hamsters are out of control.  It wasn't long before another litter of tiny pink hamsters appeared.  And then another.  And then another.  Suddenly, the offspring were starting to look a little fishy.  One had only three legs.  We named that one tripod.
Tripod.  Sorry it's blurry.  1999.  Disposable cameras.


We tried to keep up with the demand for square footage by adding on more and more rooms, more and more tubing.  We improvised where need-be with coolers and such.  Cleaning the thing was next to impossible.  I have no idea how many we had, but I want to say that we were up to 30 or so when we realized that they were starting to escape.  Husband and I were sitting in the living room one evening watching television when we saw something dart across the hall and into the kitchen.  We'd chase one around and put it back, only to find ourselves chasing another one an hour later.  It was stressful and exhausting.

But, how were they getting out??  The walls were high where the tanks weren't covered.  Were they climbing on one another's shoulders?  Could they jump really high when we weren't around?  Did they have elaborate, Mission Impossible-style plans of escape?  Were they tiny little magicians??

Not one of ours.  As far as I know.

We never figured it out, but eventually we gathered up the hamsters we could find and took them to a pet store where they were sold to other young, stupid, unsuspecting couples.  Then we moved.

Years later, I was feeling nostalgic and decided to look up our old apartment complex online.  As I scrolled through the resident reviews, I came across a woman who complained of an out-of-control rodent infestation.  I would like to say to that person, and to anyone else who happened to be terrorized by my errant one-time pets, I am very sorry.  I apologize from the bottom of my heart.  I know that my apology won't bring back the boxes of cereal and crackers that you lost to these adorable pests, but I hope that you can forgive me and Husband for being so dumb as to think that we could handle a family of circus creatures by ourselves.

It feels good to get that off my chest.  Phew.
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