When I was just 8 years old I went to see Born Free at the drive in. I was very impressed with the film and the message that it carried. It was worth the risk, the effort and the time to ensure the lions were able to live freely. Could anything be more important? Not in my young mind.
My mother was soon very sorry that she had taken me. Anyone who has had a hamster knows that they seem to spend their entire time trying to break free; from chewing the bars, climbing the walls and forever running that wheel in an effort to get somewhere. After having watched the movie I found it hard to watch the efforts. I decided that my hamster needed to be “Free”. I would close my bedroom door and open the cage. Seemed very innocent until we discovered that Peanuts had chewed through the bottom of my dresser and climbed up into my drawers, making a nest of my lovely lambs wool sweater. My mother was not impressed.
Before long a room did not seem to be enough. I let him come with me into other areas of the house. Unfortunately, I lost him for a few days. My mother was much less than impressed to realize that he had chewed his way into the couch and was living in the cushions. I needed to think of something else.
Surely hamsters were entitled to experience the natural world! Fortunately even I knew that hamsters are fast movers and couldn’t just be let go. I fashioned a leash for him and took him outside, into the grass and the sun. I felt good being able to offer him the experience. Soon he was going many different places with me. I took him to the mall and have photo booth pictures with him and a good friend. Remember, I was just 9 years old and it didn’t seem unusual. You know there had to be a climax to these events.
I took music lessons. It required a bus ride, with a connection. Why did I honestly think I should take Peanuts with me? My mother never got a good answer to that question. I carried him in my coat pocket. All went well until I was nearly home. I put my hand into my pocket and found a chewed hole through the lining – Peanuts was missing!!! I was extremely distraught. My long suffering mother called the bus station and was happy to report that he had been found. The driver was very surprised to find a hamster on his bus, but impressed with how easily he could handle him, how social he was. He said that he was glad that he could go back to his owner, but was disappointed that he couldn’t keep him. Peanuts was quite the character.
Mom drove to the bus driver’s house to collect him. I was very disappointed not to go, but it was time to get ready for bed. In her urgency she didn’t think to bring a carrier cage. Where to put him to bring him home? Obviously a pocket was not the best idea. She put him in the glove compartment. Imagine her surprise to find him gone when she got home. It was very late so she locked the doors and hoped he would reappear by morning.
No such luck. Come morning, on further investigation, it was determined that there was an opening in the glove box that allowed him to climb under the dash. You could hear the rustle as he moved around. I was terrified that if the car were started he might be hurt. Fortunately, my brothers were mechanically inclined and we were able to get Peanuts back.
At that point, under unquestionable reason, my hamster’s freedom was curtailed and I began to learn the concept of reasonable compromise.
Cathy Seguin, DVM