Tag Archives: exotic vet

My hamster is starting to resemble Macauley Culkin

And sadly, I don’t mean precocious, crime-fighting, scream-while-aftershave-slapping Macauley. I’m talking about the ninety-eight pound, chain-smoking, allegedly-heroin-addicted Macauley. Scruffy-haired, thin and always jonesing for … well, let me back up a little.

You guys remember Herve, right? Vivien’s sweet little pet rodent who has actually become such an important part of the family that he’s appeared on not one, not two but THREE Christmas cards. Even Milo loves the little guy. (Fine. I’m lying about that last part. Milo is a cat. And you can’t tamper with the food chain, right?)

Anyway …. last month, something sad happened. And I haven’t wanted to write about it until now. On Christmas night, after we returned home from a long day of gluttony and family togetherness, I went to Viv’s room to check on Herve. And what I found there was a little disturbing.

I took one look at Herve and knew he wasn’t right. His head was upturned to the right, he was woefully unbalanced and he was manically active. I panicked. And I called out to Dave and Vivien. They both came immediately but Vivien was so upset that she fled the room in tears. Dave thought I was crazy for calling her in to see him in the first place. Honestly, I didn’t think Herve was going to make it through the night. And I knew she’d never forgive me if I kept him from her on his last day.

She was crying. And I was crying. Me. About a hamster. Honestly, I was as surprised about that happening as you probably are reading that it happened. It’s just that we all really care about the little guy. Not only is he adorable, but he’s one of the sweetest, gentlest little creatures I’ve ever met. He’s only nipped me once (pardon the pun) and that totally was not his fault. Seriously, what’s not to love?

The next three days were sort of touch and go. Viv and I both stayed close to home and checked on him often. Truth? I was so certain every time that I was going to find him dead that I made Dave accompany me … every time. But then he didn’t die. We made it through Friday, Saturday, Sunday and even Monday … and he was still wobbling around a lot but still going strong.

I was stunned. I had already stashed a small red box from one of my Christmas presents in the back of my closet in anticipation of …. well, you know. (I still feel absolutely TERRIBLE about that, by the way.)

 When he was still with us on Monday morning, I decided it was time to take action. For those of you who have been around a while, you may remember that there’s actually an exotic vet in my neck of the woods. And, last summer, I actually took Herve to that exotic vet for a much lesser issue. So, needless to say, I called the veterinary office to explain what was going on with him. They agreed to see him that very afternoon.

Both kids came with me to his appointment. And, unlike Herve’s last visit, we all three got to go into the examination room with him this time. The doctor was great. It turned out she’s married to an old co-worker friend of mine. She was wonderful with our little guy. And she explained that, while it was possible that Herve was dealing with an inner ear infection, it was more likely that he’d suffered a stroke on Christmas Day. Exactly what I suspected.

We left the office with three different medications and special food that we were supposed to administer to him with a syringe. Were we up for it? Well, of course, we were. What you guys don’t know is that I had a diabetic cat named Toby who required two daily shots of insulin a day for EIGHT YEARS.

And how hard could it be to administer three prescriptions medications to a hamster, right?

Actually, it really was easy. Especially for one of the medications. The first  was for infection. He liked it okay. And now he’s finished with that one. The second was for imbalance. He liked it a little less than okay. But it’s also finished. And the third? The third is a pain medication. Notice I said “is” because he’s still on it. Think of it as a morphine drip of sorts. Something to “keep him comfortable for the rest of his days.” And he absolutely LOVES THE EVERLIVING CRAP out of it.

He knows when I’m coming in to give it to him. He runs to the door of his cage and jumps (read: stumbles uncoordinatedly) into my hand. He can smell it. Sense it. Already taste it.

Don’t believe me?


See those grabby, little hands?

That’s the pain meds at work. We never saw that kind of passion with the antibiotic. He’d take the whole syringe into his bulging cheek pocket if I didn’t keep such a a tight grip on it.

My poor little junkie.

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If You Take a Hamster to the Exotic Vet …


You guys remember Herve, right?

Well, the poor little guy was not feeling well recently. And even though he is a hamster … and even though he is now two years old (which is, like, 65 in people years … or something like that) … we brought him to the exotic vet. No, I don’t actually have an exotic vet. This guy was referred to us by our regular vet. (Milo‘s doctor.) And he was the bomb. Wanna hear about our experience? Well, why the heck else would you be here?

(Storytelling style stolen borrowed from beloved children’s author Laura Numeroff.  And my friend, Mel.

If you take a hamster to the exotic vet, you’ll probably meet a friendly squirrel.

If you meet a friendly squirrel, you’ll learn that he has his own Facebook page.

If you take a seat in the waiting room to look up the squirrel’s Facebook page, you’ll suddenly notice that you’re sitting right next to wiggling blanket that scares the crap out of you because you have no idea what’s under that blanket.

If you investigate the wiggling blanket because you’re concerned that a rabid badger might be under it poised and ready to kill you, you’ll discover that it’s actually just a spazzy chinchilla whose owner is not very friendly.

If you discover that your neighbor is just a spazzy chinchilla, you’ll realize that there is not a “normal” pet in the room.

If you notice that there are no normal pets in the room, you’ll want to take an inventory of the bizarreness.

If you take an inventory the bizarreness, you will find one social networking squirrel, one spazzy chinchilla, one stoic rabbit, one ailing ferret, one obnoxiously-egocentric bird, one suspicious-looking lizard and one unidentified, midsize, introverted rodent and you will start to feel less weird about sitting in the exotic veterinarian’s office with your daughter waiting for your hamster.

If you start to feel less weird, you will actually learn to embrace the eccentricity and decide it’s worth sharing on your blog.

If you decide to share the experience on your blog, you will start taking notes on your phone (which is probably a good idea because it will distract you from the murderous chinchilla/badger beside you).

If you start taking notes on your phone, the vet’s assistant will come out and tell you that Herve the teddy bear hamster has had a full battery of tests and everything looks A-OK.

If the vet’s assistant mentions “a full battery of tests” for a hamster, you will probably picture him running on a treadmill with those sticky electrode thingies all over his tiny body and the doctor telling him to turn his head and cough and you will fight the urge to crack up laughing in the assistant’s face.

If you fight the urge to crack up laughing, your face will contort into a weird expression that probably makes you look constipated but results in the assistant thinking you’re a complete idiot and speaking more slowly to help you understand her.

If the assistant thinks you’re an idiot and asks if you understand, you will probably just nod yes because, well, you know she’s not so far off the mark on this assumption.


Bet y’all didn’t believe me about the squirrel.

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