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25 May 2001, 01:00

I found myself in Walmart last weekend looking for a suitable bucket for my hamster. One large and spacious enough for him to have lots of space, but see-through enough for him to see what’s going on. Then, as I was pushing my cart filled with my compressed cedar shavings, dried, sterilized alfafa hay, gourmet hamster chow, and a cute ceramic little dish with a picture of a little rat on it, I stopped in front of the gardening supplies and wondered, “Whatthell? I’m trying to find the perfect bucket to keep a rodent happy?” I shook my head and searched the aisle for where they keep the plastic storage containers. Good god, do you ever get exasperated with yourself for some dumbass thing your doing, but you know you have to do it? I never knew it till that very second, but I am in indentured servitude to a bunch of animals making poo and whose breath smell like dirty socks living in my house. I was praying that I’d would die in a large anvil factory explosion before the day came when I dressed my dogs up in little booties and cardigans to take them to Doggie Daycare for a playdate with a poodle.

Everybody in my household is overweight, but I only claim responsibility for the guinea pig, the hamster, and the dogs. Whahizface has his own body image issues to work out. Although my rodents usually end up as dog mcnuggets, I endeavor to keep a set that won’t buy the farm in less than two months. So far, I’ve had six sets of rodents.

My first experience with rodents was when I was about eight. I got a set of hamsters, and I got a set of rats. Big rats. Apparently, I didn’t know a lot about rats. Rats have a tendancy to eat anything – rat chow, cashews, pizza, hamsters – just all sorts of things. And another bit of information I could have used is that a cage probably needs to be bigger than about a cubic foot to house two rats and two hamsters…. not that I knew the hamsters probably shouldn’t have been in there. I found this second tibit out when I came home from school, and checked on my vermin. Seems that the hamsters were hiding and wouldn’t come out. Well, I pulled one out of his hidey hole, and found out why. The rats were snacking on his leg. REALLY GROSS. But, salvagable, I thought. We must set the rats free. The two LARGE black and white spotted rats would be free. Free to roam the garage. Well, they zipped on into the garage – as a little kid, I didn’t know or think this would be a problem for my parents – as it turned out, since they didn’t know, it wasn’t.

So I beebopped back in the house, and put rubbing alcohol on my hamsters little nub and a couple of bandaids…

Another factoid that I found out that evening. Rats can climb trees like a mother fucker. I think I was watching the Flintstones, when I heard the nasty old bluehair from next door shriek in some deathly cackle. Both rats were crawling up her tree in the front yard in front of her picture window, one was carrying a small dead squirrel. I don’t rightly remember, but I think I probably got in trouble for that one.

Since then, I have always been fascinated with small furry creatures. The next set of rodents I got by accident. In the early nineties, I developed a habit, after partying at the bar till 2 a.m., I would go shopping. I would end up with some of the oddest crap in the world. One trip, I had gotten two gerbils and a gerbil condo with tubes, plus food, water bottles, two wheels and a year’s supply of gerbil litter. Needless to say I was suprised when I sobered up the next morning, but, I put togther my little rodent city while the dogs drooled on the carpet in front of the cage. Now. This was at the same time that I had no job – but I had savings and now I had rodents. This round of rodent roulette lasted about three weeks before the doggies got the poor little suckers. The three things I learned from this was 1) if you hold a gerbil by its tail, the skin will come off in your fingers… 2) Gerbils will answer to the name “mousey” and come when you call… 3) Always put the lid on the cage. This is where I developed my theory that they had brains big enough to recognize a sound that they knew referred to them, but dumb enough that you shouldn’t waste calling them by different names, one name was pretty much the extent of their capacity for self recognition.

Adventures in rodentia continued when I bought a Chinchila. I named her Lulu and she was a sweet thing. She would even go and bother the dogs just for kicks. Too cool. One thing about Chinchilas – they need something called Chinchila dust to roll around in. Its a messy little activity, but pretty funny. She even got to the point of answering to the name Lulu, but loved to run in the refrigerator alcove and chew on the power cords. So I would shake the fridge a bit, and she would run back from behind their to her cage. I drank a lot of pop and used to keep two liter bottles on top of the fridge – you have pretty much surmised where this was going, I bet. Poor Lulu. She lasted two weeks. She ran behind the fridge like always, and I shook the fridge a bit, like always – and good god, when she came running around the corner of a fridge, a Dr. Pepper bottle nailed her like a carbonated lightning bolt. Eeesh. I was crying as I picked her up – she was still breathing albeit stiltedly. She died in my hands and I buried her in the back yard. Hour later the doggies dug her back up.

Lately, I’ve tried hamsters and guinea pigs. The last set of hamsters we had lasted about two months. Poor Whahizface this time. The hamsters had gotten loose while I was at work, and whahizface had gotten a glimpse of where they were. He got one back in the cage, and was working on getting the other one which had crawled up into the washer. While he was moving the washer and piling clothes, little rodent killing Afga had snapped up the hamster and crunched on it, but not before Whahizface said the hamster let out the most horrible little rodent scream. Afga has a preference for the killing, but not the after killing. She dropped the hamster after the crunch, and Whahizface picked it up. It was still alive, but its eyeball had swollen up, and he thought it was dying. So. He put it in the freezer. I know – the idea struck me like that too, but, I guess it was the most humane way of putting it to sleep, plus it keeps it fresh and unsmelly until we could give it a burial by sea from the USS COMMODE. It had been about twelve hours, and I was in the kitchen, no, not cooking (are you kidding with that), when I heard noise coming from the freezer. Apparently, the hamster was all right, and the swelling had gone down – though he looked at me funny when we put him back in the cage. He lasted another two weeks after that before finally becoming a doggie treat.

Well. Lately, I have come to realize that my luck is not so much good in terms of the rodent situation, but, I still try. I’m doing better with the guinea pigs. They’ve last about two or three years. I had a tri-colored one (Brown Mousey) and a silver and white one (Mousey). I had two guinea pigs, but, through no big fault of my own, one of the piggies became blocked up with shavings and even though I had tried everything, even a little piggie enima, he had died in my hands. I think the other one thinks I killed it, but after a couple of weeks acting like he was clinically depressed, the little brown mousey has stopped running around the house looking for the other dead one. Although I do believe Brown Mousey has a bit of a sexual dysfunction. But I had taught it to stop humping other one on command, because I would whack its little winkie with a pencil and shout “BAD MOUSEY, NO HUMP MOUSEY” and he would back off into the corner of the cage and rub his butt on the bars.

But he got me in the end. I noticed that he was convulsing in his cage – his little body jerked back and forth as I yelled for Whahizface to come because I thought there was something wrong with him. As Whahizface was making room in the freezer, I had noticed that the Brown Mousey was pulling on something on his belly. I got closer to see what he was doing, just when he grabbed this little inch and half hot pepper looking thing between his legs with this teeth, gave it a big yank, and then ejaculated all over the newspaper. The many white stains in the cage on the newspaper, it turns out not what I thought, he was not vomiting. EWboy.

And, we got a hamster. Apparently a genius hamster, because it has gotten out four times, and all of the times, managed to allude the dogs. We thought he was a boy hamsters, but after a weeks, it was bleeding a bit, so I thought it might be a girly because of a girls you-know… (don’t make me say it).

But it turns out, it is a boy. It’s grown some big ole noogies.