Animal House, Part II
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See Animal House Part I to get the whole story.

My son Danny had a guinea pig, of which I grew rather fond. Before going to bed one night, I was checking on the boys and noticed the guinea pig stretched out in its cage. Something was not right here. I stuck my hand in and poked it. The guinea pig didn’t move. I prodded it a bit more, but it still didn’t move. Uh-oh. I woke up my husband. “I think the guinea pig is dead,” I whispered urgently. “You’d better come and check.” He got up, and we went into Danny’s room. He poked the guinea pig, but it didn’t move. He prodded the guinea pig, but it still didn’t move. Finally, he picked it up and it was clear the guinea pig had met its maker. The guinea pig was removed temporarily to the garage.

It was a restless night. I kept thinking about Danny and how I would have to tell him his guinea pig was gone. The morning came, and I broke the sad news to my son. “What? What happened?” he cried, shocked. I told him I didn’t know. He went to tell his brother, and I could hear him crying. The boys came back, looking for more details on the guinea pig’s demise, but I could offer none. “I gotta go play Tony Hawk Underground,” Danny said and headed for the PlayStation. He seemed to have bounced back quickly.

Later that morning, Jimmy called to me to come upstairs. Danny was in his room, heartbroken over his guinea pig. I asked him if he wanted to get another guinea pig, or perhaps a hamster. Danny nodded tearfully. So I took him to the pet store where he chose a red-eyed fluffy white hamster, named it Snowball and we took it home.

I was on the telephone and the email simultaneously when my son came to me and whispered in my ear, “Mom, I think I got the wrong hamster.” I gestured to him that I was on the phone and he went away. A few minutes later he was back, tapping me on the arm. “Mom, I think I got the wrong hamster!” I held a finger up to indicate that I would be off the phone in a minute. He came back a little while later and sprawled on the floor beside my chair. I hung up the phone and turned my attention to him.

“What is it, Dan?”

“I’m hungry,” he said.

“No, what’s the matter with the hamster? Why are you saying you got the wrong hamster?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Danny. “Because it keeps doing this,” and he proceeded to make all kinds of snarling, spitting, hissing and growling noises. Alarmed, I went to his room to look at the hamster. “Snowball” had dug out all the bedding out of the corner of the cage and was crouched there. I went to touch it, and it reared up on its hind legs, hissing, snarling and trying to bite, and I swear its red eyes were glowing. It was like something out of “The Omen.”

“Stay away from that thing,” I warned both boys, who were looking in wide-eyed amazement at the hamster. “Don’t touch it. That thing is Lucifer and I have to figure out what to do with it. Stay away from it.”

“We will,” my sons said, as they backed toward a corner of the room.

Well, I didn’t know what to do. The other hamster we have never did that; she’s a good, normal hamster who sleeps all day and spins in her wheel at night (all night long). I jumped back on the email where I was having a conversation with my cousin Liz and told her about the hamster. “It sounds like a rat,” she emailed back helpfully.

In desperation I emailed my husband. “I think the poor animal just needs to get used to its new home, and it’s scared,” he replied. Big help he is. I have Cujo in the other room and he’s sympathizing with it. I turned to the one person I knew could help me: my wacky friend Christine. “Don't make any sudden moves,” she advised via email. “Arrange cloves of garlic in a circle around the cage. Then fashion a cross out of two sturdy sticks from the backyard. Use cornhusks to tie the ‘x’ part. Then dip it in toilet water and shake it on the little bastid while chanting, ‘May the power of cripes compel you.’ Whatever you do, don't turn your back on the cage. Buena suerte.”

I can always rely on Christine.

I decided to take a practical approach to the problem. I don’t know much about hamsters, so I went to my computer and typed in the search words “vicious hamster.” There were a couple of hits, actually. I learned that hamsters have very poor vision and rely heavily on their sense of smell, so I guess they can freak out if they sense danger but can’t see it. Okay. That’s helpful. I’ll have to think about this.

That afternoon I took Danny with me to get an inspection sticker for the car. My son Jimmy called me on my cell phone. “I just want to tell you the hamster’s okay,” he said. “She’s spinning around in her wheel.” Maybe there was hope after all. I warned him again not to touch Satan—I mean Snowball—and told him I’d be home in a little while.

After several hours, the hamster appeared to have settled into its new home. It stopped growling and hissing and baring its teeth, but I still have my doubts. For one thing, it stumbles around its cage in such a way that leads me to think it’s blind. (You have to take pity on a blind hamster; you can’t just let it go into the woods or anything like that. That would be wrong. And what kind of example would you set for your kids?) For another thing, it knocked its exercise wheel over, and I had to stick my hand in the cage to right it…and the little rodent bit me.

Stayed tuned for our final saga coming soon.

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