Nothing quite sends your emotions into a tailspin than when you hear your son sobbing uncontrollably. And when he tells you that his beloved hamster had just died.
That was the scene yesterday evening, after we had just come home from dinner. Sue shares what happened in her Facebook post mourning the loss of our beloved Nibble.
"Goodbye, our sweet Nibble. Your passing was too sudden - we had just gone to the vet yesterday and started you on a new course of meds for your ringworm and skin abscesses.
Poor E burst into heart wrenching sobs when he found you lying still when we came home. I had already been concerned for the past few months because you were losing weight and spending more time sleeping, though we knew you were in your senior years for a hamster. Nothing prepares you for the loss of a pet and as parents it is doubly hard watching your child go through the grief."
|This is a picture of how Nibble will remain in our memory - always curious, always inquisitive, and always looking for food!|
Nibble was a pandemic pet, adopted just before the first Covid lockdown last year. I remember Sue was worried about what the impending Circuit Breaker would mean for the boys, especially since we were so used to going out as a family, and staying at home for hours without end seemed like a nightmare in the making. And so we rushed to take home our first two pets, Nibble and his brother Harry, one for each of our boys.
|Nibble and his brother Harry, not long after they first arrived.|
And the little creatures brought so much joy to the family. The kids looked after each animal tenderly, ensuring that they had food and water each day, and that the enclosures were kept clean, with the bedding changed regularly.
As for me, I was constantly reminded of their presence each night when I was in the living room doing work or writing. There would be the constant sounds of the hamsters sipping water or running on their wheels, and for some strange reason, these sounds brought comfort to me, as though there was someone accompanying me as I stayed up late into the night. Over the months our pet "collection" continued to grow, and as of two days ago, we had 6 hamsters, 2 terrapins, 2 vampire crabs and 1 fighting fish. It seemed almost like we were putting together our own menagerie.
|Always getting the last bite. Nibble had always loved to eat, and often tried to snatch at food before Harry.|
|Nibble and Harry sharpening their teeth together.|
There was even a time when Nibble got lost for three days, and I wrote a short poem on Facebook to commemorate the moment:
I was lost.
Three days a-wandering.
But now I am found.
And there is great rejoicing.
Yet the inevitable happened, as Sue writes:
"Nibble passed away peacefully, and we all remember the sweet, mild natured hammie he was, with the cutest face and brightest eyes. He lived up to his name and was our greediest one, the first to come out the moment there was food.
In his earlier days his cheek pouches were so full of food they were constantly bulging. Even yesterday the vet noticed there was food in his pouches. He was so fat, he waddled around like a slug, and once his scent gland was blocked and we were told it was because he was too fat to clean it. His favourites were tofu, sunflower seeds and freeze dried chicken."
We all miss Nibble. There was no dry eye as each one of us mourned the loss of our dear pet. Poor E almost poured fresh food into his empty enclosure, even as he was feeding the rest of the hamsters. And he wanted to express his grief on Facebook, announcing the death with a picture of Nibble and the following words:
Grief is a difficult companion to walk with. For me I really don't do well when anyone or any living creature suffers; and for that reason I have tried not to keep any pets in the house, for I know my emotions will take a dive whenever a pet dies. Over the past year alone we have had a number of deaths - praying mantises, spiders, a terrapin, a rainbow crab, and a colony of ants, and I was sent into an emotional tailspin each time a pet died.
|Nibble during happier days, engaged in his favourite activity of eating.|
I was processing this with Sue, and said that I was terribly upset years ago when my grandfather's dogs died, and I told her this made me not want to have any pets myself. "Why do we have to get our hearts broken time after time?" I mused. "Isn't it easier not to have any pets and not to experience grief and loss each and every time?"
My wife turned to me and wisely replied, "I was there to witness the death of my dog. It was horrible. But we cannot let that stop us from having a pet. There's so much joy in the living; and while we grieve in the death of our beloved pets, our lives are so much richer because of the time we have spend with them. God loves each creature big and small, and we are also able to enjoy our time with them, even though it's hard to see them go."
We then talked about how important it is for our kids to experience such precious life moments, and about our role as parents in helping them deal with difficult times, even as we grapple with our own emotions.
As we ended the night, our dear E asked to pray, and he asked God to comfort Mummy; and for her not to feel bad for being too tired to examine Nibble this afternoon. I know that he is still grieving in his heart, but that as a family, that we are all going through this together.
As Sue writes:
"We will miss you, darling Nibble. We can't walk past without remembering you, chilling out on your wheel, which was your favourite spot in recent months. You were our first hamster acquired just before the pandemic and you have given us so much joy and laughter. We are glad you are no longer dealing with itches and scratches and are at peace, but we will miss you terribly. "
The night is young. But the dawn will come once again.
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