Monday, April 30, 2012

Dealing With a Deceased Pet: Okay, We're Not Positve It' s Dead.

Are you a pet owner? I'll bet you are.

You've probably got a fuzzy mammal or two running around your house, chewing and scratching and scarfing and panting and drooling and occasionally puking and licking split-pea-soup-covered Tupperware lids.

But oh, so lovable.

My family is no different; we've got a couple warm-blooded four-legged furry things patronizing our inner sanctum, or at least, we did. You see, here's the problem:

The cat is accounted for, but we haven't seen the hamster for three weeks.

Yes, I'm afraid that Cotton the hamster, who'd barely had the opportunity to say how dee do, is missing and presumed dead.

At the risk of boring you, here's a little back-story: My twelve-year-old daughter has been badgering my wife and me for the past year to get her a dog. And let me tell you, this kid was locked onto the idea with the same vigor that that Secret Service Agent was insisted his two-for-one Groupon worked in Columbia.

She'd seen a TV ad where a kid prepares a PowerPoint presentation to convince his parents of the benefits of dog ownership, so my kid followed suit in a lower tech fashion, using single spaced college ruled notebook paper. Basic sales pitch of encouraging responsibility, health benefits from daily walk, yada, yada, enchilada.

After contemplating several factors—our child's work ethic, her departure for college in six years, her unwillingness to even examine the organic Almond Roca in our cat's litter box, my bride and I opted against the canine route.

Tears and yelling ensued for forty-eight hours until a compromise was reached. I felt like Lee Freaking Iacocca sitting down to negotiate with United Auto Workers; epithets were exchanged, accusations hurled, but finally the impasse shattered in the eleventh hour, the result of which is most likely lying dead under the house somewhere.

As I've mentioned frequently in the past, I live in Seattle. The city's bylaws include provisions against animal cruelty, such as mandatory sun shields for dog strollers and no-scalpel vasectomies for male pets rather than the barbaric practice of neutering.

We chose the Seattle Animal Shelter as our hamster adoption agency, since you could drive off the lot with your creature for five bucks. Oh yeah, I also had to sign some paperwork pledging to eventually have the little chicken cordon bleu checked out at an exotic animal vet.

Seriously? The thing cost five dollars and I'm going to take it to some vet who specializes in hamsters, gerbils and rabbits?

What kind of person does that? What little kid says, "Mommy, some day I'm going to be a healer of rodents"? I'm picturing a kid who then asked his Mom  to the homecoming dance.

Anyway, I signed the papers, we put the rodent in a little carrier, spent one-hundred-and-seven dollars at Petco for all the hamster swag, brought the little creature home and two weeks later she was AWOL.

My daughter was predictably despondent. She was great with Cotton during that fleeting honeymoon but I think she left one of the little cage doors unlatched. We've spent the past three weeks hoping she'll turn up alive, but now I'm attempting damage control with theories of large urban hamsters who grow competitively large and prosper in the wild after escaping.

Now it's time to welcome a new creature, mostly to get my kid to talk about anything besides hamsters. When my wife brought up her obsession, she replied, "Well, I can either talk constantly about hamsters or do drugs. Which do you prefer?"

Wow. Those are the only choices?

We'd like to go back to the same shelter for a new rodent, but we're not sure we've proven ourselves to be fit adoptive parents, returning only a month after acquiring the first one. I suppose we could claim that the animal succumbed to swine flu or our one of our pet bald eagles.

I'm not sure our fragile emotions could handle the scathing consequences of our honesty.

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