Schizo the mouse, I knew thee but a little more …

… than Chesney the dog, but not a lot. Schiz (from schizophrenic), a black and white female, was not a friendly mouse. She pretty much hid, no matter what. She never walked on top of the bedding in her aquarium; she tunneled through it. I’d occasionally see a little nose poke up, but that was it. The only time she came out on top was to run on her wheel at night. She was a fanatic about her wheel  — she ran on it pretty much all night long, and she was serious about it. No light run for her. She was all in, all the time on that wheel. If there was wheel-running in the mouse Olympics, she would have been a contender.

On the other hand, Lila, a dun-colored mouse, is so sweet. She likes to be held and petted. And she loved snuggling with her sister Schiz. When Schiz wasn’t running, they were pretty much a multi-colored mouse ball. They especially loved getting new food. For some reason, they would leap into the food dish and throw it all out, but Lila loved to be handed especially nice bits, like pumpkin seeds. She’s so cute standing up on her hind legs, holding out these tiny little pink hands. Schiz never did that. It was sad taking Lila to Schiz’ funeral in the side yard under the willow. Though I don’t think she realized what was in the plastic sandwich bag we buried. She just liked being out in the sunshine.

And who could blame Schiz for her schizophrenic behavior? She lived in a room with a cat and a snake. The wheel workouts must have been her way of training for the day when either the snake or the cat came a’calling. I can only imagine the horror she must have felt watching my daughter feed the little frozen mouse babies to Na’ala, the candy-cane corn snake.

At my vet’s office, I sometimes see them hiding grins when I approach the desk. I think they know me as that crazy woman who brings hamsters to the vet. They charge me next to nothing — the vet once amputated a hamster’s injured toe (caught in his wheel, we think) for 20 bucks. Did you know vets have tiny little anesthesia masks for hamsters? It’s so cute. Once I started to bury a hamster that wasn’t quite dead. It had had a stroke or something, and it was paralyzed with its eyes open. My daughter slept with Smoky on her chest, and in the morning he was cold and I couldn’t feel a heart beat. I put him in the 30-degree garage all day, and after school we all trouped out to the willow tree to bury him. My kids started screaming, saying they saw him move, but I assured them he was completely dead. Then I picked him up and started to put him in the hole, and he moved in my hand. I started screaming too, and we all piled in the car, screaming all the way to the vet’s office. I guess an entire family running into the office screaming might explain the hidden grins. Anyway, the vet assured us he was good as dead, in a deep coma, and the humane thing would be to put him down. So we did, and trudged back to our hole in the ground to finish the burial.

And there we were again, under the willow tree with another in a long line of buried pets: Midge, Chubs, Smoky, Cafe Ole, Nibbles, Bear. I should have been happy to have the pet count drop a little here in the Carter household, but somehow I found myself adopting another hamster for my son. We didn’t intend to adopt another hamster — we were just there for cat food — but Petco is really cool; if you can’t take care of a small pet, you can drop it off there and they will find it a home for $5 including cage. And Selena (as in Gomez — yeah, my son’s 13) is very sweet. She likes to be held and petted too. Nick’s hamster Joe, a long-hair white male, loves sweet-talk but just doesn’t like to be touched. And Selena looks like a tiny black bear cub. How could I say no?

And then my daughter thought Lila was too lonely and needed a new cage-mate. When the worker explained that two females in a cage would tend to be territorial and fight (who knew the relationship between Schiz and Lila was so special?), my daughter noticed this tiny miniature hamster. This thing, which my daughter named Big Bundy for no apparent reason, is so small, it looks like a perfect two-inch circle of white and brown splotches. It too works out on the wheel like a demon, and when it runs, its tiny stub legs are literally a blur. Occasionally she’ll get going so fast, she’ll get flung right out of the wheel.

So here I am, trying to reduce the pet count, and I’ve gone UP one.

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About alisaacarter

I am a writer of young adult novels, wife, mom of three, lover of animals, former magazine editor, reader of anything paranormal, and coffee fanatic.
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