It wasn't until after Christmas that she figured out how to make it happen. She'd received some money from our Canada relatives, along with a few gifts we could pack in our suitcases. "What will you buy?" I asked. "How about that Easy Bake Oven you've been wanting?"
"No-o, I don't think so." She furrowed her brows in concentration. "I don't know what I want yet."
About a week after we got home, it came to her. "I'm going to buy a hamster!"
I explained that Daddy would have to approve that decision.
"Oh, I've got lots of money," she said.
"Yes, but Daddy is the one who would have to take care of your hamster."
"I already talked to Daddy, and he said maybe."
"Well, don't get your hopes up," I warned.
I had to eat my words about two weeks later, when she and Daddy came home with a hamster cage complete with an exercise wheel, a tiny igloo hut, and a ramp up to the food bowl. Dancing with excitement, she hovered over Bill while he set it all up. "I bought it with my own money!" she exulted.
"Where's the hamster?" I asked.
Bill said we'd get it the next week, after everything was ready. It all looked pretty ready to me, but I didn't argue.
When Ethan got home that evening, Allyson showed him all the features of the tiny habitat. "Where's the hamster?" he asked.
"It's hiding," Bill said.
Allyson giggled, and I snickered.
"Is it really hiding? Can I see it?"
"You have to leave a hamster alone for a few days while it gets used to its new home," Bill said, his mouth twitching ever so slightly.
He turned to me. "Is there really a hamster in there?"
I shrugged and gave him the same answer I usually give to inquiries about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. "What do you think?"
Ethan looked pretty suspicious, but a little part of him wanted to believe.
Bill carried on the charade all week. "Shh, you'll scare the hamster.... Ethan, why don't you go clean the hamster cage?"
"Come on, Bill. There's no hamster in there... is there?"
The Big, Not So Big Day
I guess he'd figured it out by the next Sunday, when we all headed to PetSmart after church. Allyson looked at every rodent in the place before settling on a Russian dwarf hamster. The young man who helped us patiently waited for her to point out which of the identical thumb-sized females was the perfect one. When she finally chose one, he gingerly maneuvered it into a cardboard tube and then gently dropped it into a little box that seemed ridiculously large for the tiny hamster.
|Can You See Why Allyson Named it Fluffy?|
When we got home, Bill eased Fluffy back into the cardboard tube and lowered her into her new home. She made a quick tour of the facilities and retired to her igloo house, burrowing into the nesting material for a nice long nap.
All through the rest of the day, we kept an eye on the cage, which appeared just as empty as it had the day before.
"Remember," Allyson explained, "hamsters are noct-TURN-al. That means they like to sleep in the daytime." It seemed that Fluffy had not read the hamster book, though, because she slept in the evening, too.
"Do you think she's alive?" I whispered after we'd tucked our sorely disappointed daughter in for the night.
"Hopefully," Bill said.
Look at Her Go!
We were halfway through our Netflix movie when we noticed a very unusual noise, a sort of squeaky, rattly thumping that was somewhat rhythmic but also intermittent. At first we thought it was part of the video, but when Bill paused it to tell Allyson yet again to settle down, the strange sound continued.
Bill leaned over the banister and peered into the darkened living room. "It's the hamster!" he whispered. "Ethan, Allyson, come look at the hamster," he called quietly. "I think it's running on the wheel."
We all crept down the stairs and held our breath as we stared into the semi darkness. Sure enough, Fluffy was running madly.
"Wow, she's fast!" Ethan breathed.
"Look at her go!" Allyson exclaimed.
"Shhh, Allyson," the rest of us whispered.
Fluffy stopped running and stood stock still, her tiny nose twitching. She took two steps toward the safety of her house, but the lure of the wheel proved too strong. She did an about-face and climbed back on, running faster than before.
"It's such a strange sound," I said, wondering how I would describe it on my blog. "It sounds like something I've heard before, but what?"
"It sounds like coffee percolating," Bill said.
"Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like," I said, a little let-down that it was Bill who had found the perfect simile. (Coming up with similes and metaphors is not my strong point as a writer.)
We could still hear that coffee percolator when we climbed in bed a couple of hours later, and we've heard it every night since then, well into the wee hours of the morning.
"Crazy little thing," Bill muttered one evening as he turned up the volume on the TV.
Despite our occasional annoyance, we all love to gather around the cage and watch her. It's astonishing how fast she goes, legs all a blur. Sometimes she gets going too fast and goes upside down, landing in her paper nest with a muffled thud. Other times, she manages to go all the way around and just keep running.
I think the funniest thing is the way she periodically walks the few paces back to her house, goes inside, and immediately runs back out to the wheel. She seems to be thinking, "Oh, I'm tired.... Nope, not quite ready to sleep. Think I'll go back outside. Oh, look, is that a running wheel?"
Around 7:00 in the morning, when we all come down for breakfast, she usually has a bite or two from her tiny bowl, slides down the ramp, and retires to her house for the day.
In the evenings, Bill and Allyson lift up her house, making gentle clucking sounds to wake her. They gradually coax her into her pink exercise ball, where Allyson can pet her. She then runs all around the hardwood and tile floors, bumping into every obstacle in her path.
|Fluffy's Claws Scratched Allyson Through the Cracks|
Yesterday we tried something new: letting Fluffy run around in the bathtub on a towel. Allyson crawled in with her and tried to convince her to crawl onto her hands, but Fluffy was having none of that--until today, when she crawled all over Allyson's lap. When she ran over her bare feet, Allyson shrieked with terror and delight. (Her reaction was much milder than mine, years ago, when a mouse ran over my foot in the pre-dawn blackness. That was a different house, thank goodness.)
I never dreamed we'd own a hamster, let alone have so much fun with it. What's next? A rat, if Ethan has his way. He's saving up his money now. Oh boy!