Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

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Weekly Column: The Great Escape

A hamster in a gilded cage is still -- well -- a hamster.




SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


When hamsters came to my house, my only big worry was that one would get out. Those little guys could hide in nooks and crannies all over the place, and if you’ve seen my house you know I’ve got a lot of nooks and crannies.

Call it self-fulfilling prophecy, but … yeah.

The pet stores sell little plastic balls that you put your hamsters in, so they can run merrily all over the house without getting loose. Now, our hamsters have a virtual mansion, complete with running wheel, castle, slide, and even an extra little room one can go to whenever they have a falling out. As a result, we don’t usually put them in the balls except when their regular home is being cleaned. Even safely in their mobile homes, they get lost under furniture every now and then.
It’s also important to close the door to the basement while they’re out. I thought it would be kind of funny to hear the “thump-thump” of a rodent taking a ride, but the kids were of the opinion that the hamster wouldn’t think of it as an E-ticket at Disneyland.

Anyway, one day I went looking for the little guys (the hamsters, not my daughters), and found one of the balls resting against a wall, sans hamster. The lid had popped off, apparently on impact with the wall – something I had been warned might happen, I’m forced to admit. This triggered a panicked search, which was about as successful as panicked searches usually are. The hamster – Ranger, the one named after a slippery, hard to track character – was gone.

My daughters were very upset. I looked at it as a challenge, but before you congratulate me for my attitude, I should point out that I hate challenges.

After a time – a long time, during which I could have been doing more important things, like nothing – I glanced down between the oven and the cupboard and there crouched a tiny little white ball, as far back into the corner as he could possibly get without disappearing into the wall.
At this point I could have done a few different things, but I didn’t have a gun on me, and in my experience napalm is dangerously unreliable. So instead, I tried to entice the furball out with a handful of his favorite snack food, which looks suspiciously like shreds of colored paper.

Ranger instantly disappeared into the wall.

He’d discovered what I, in ten years of searching, had not – the hole mice use to get into my house every fall. It led behind the cupboard and from there to – who knows? A rodent superhighway, perhaps, or a mouseport, or a hamsterteria.

The next morning, I found a very old mouse carcass on the floor outside the hole. I’m talking mummified. Ranger had not only made himself at home in the former mouse house, he’d even dug up the cemetery.

Now what? Offering amnesty wasn’t likely to help. There is a homemade trap you can build, in which you make steps out of books that lead to a trash can. Water and food goes into the can, and once inside, the sides are too steep for the hamster to get out again. The problem is, Ranger is afraid of heights. Seriously. It took him a week to climb down out of the upstairs apartment in the hamster house. I had a feeling he’d never slide down into that can.

I was right. But a more immediate problem presented itself when he disappeared into that hole, and I heard him start squeaking.

Since we’ve had the hamsters, the only time they ever made any noise was when they were fighting each other. Every now and then they’d get into a quarrel over food, or who gets the best piece of trail mix, or control of the remote. Then they’d squeak like crazy until they were all squeaked out, and ten minutes later they’d be happily sitting together again. And yes, it did seem spookily similar to my daughters.

The conclusion was inescapable: Ranger wasn’t alone down there.

One day, my oldest daughter and I heard Ranger moving around behind the stove. A few minutes later we walked into the dining room, where we again heard movement. We’d been listening to the wrong rodent. There was the little white furball, huddled behind a bookcase that turned out to be an excellent place to trap him. I was never so happy to be a book packrat. Or is that a bookrat?

Ranger was none happy to be recaptured, and who can blame him? He’d had free run of the house, so it was like moving out of the Taj Mahal and into a one room trailer. He was in a foul mood, and proved it with a couple of knock down – drag outs with his old roommate.

Possibly he was also upset about having to leave his new friend. After all, later that day I saw the mouse trying to fit an entire soda cracker through its doorway. Eating for two? How friendly they were, I don’t know – can hamsters and mice cross breed? Am I in danger of being overrun by white mice, bent on freeing their dad? I’ve had a few disturbing nightmares since thinking that one up.

All I know is, ever since his brief escape Ranger has been awfully squirrelly – if you’ll pardon my rodent themed pun. I feel like I’ve separated Rangero and Juliet.
Tags: new era, slightly off the mark, weekly column
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