Please join with us as we mourn the passing of Thomas the Hamster. Last night she finally completed her life's goal of eating her way out of her cage, and she was found this morning lying on her back next to the cat food dish in the dining room. Jack the Cat was bellowing extra loud this morning, so to shut him up, I asked Jay to feed him and went back to my typing. Jay returned momentarily in tears, clutching the dead hamster in both hands. Her eyes were open, so I thought she was alive, and I didn't recognize her as our Thomas, so I thought Jay had caught a live, unwelcome rodent! I gasped and jumped out of my skin, Jay moving ever closer, trying to thrust the thing into my face, tears streaming down his little face. I said, "What is THAT?!?"
He sobbed, "Thomas! She's dead!"
So we think Jack did the dirty deed. Jay felt Jack should be severely scolded, and we allowed Jay to go ahead and administer the scolding. Then we explained to him that God made cats to catch rodents. I told Jay about our previous rodent escapades when he was a baby...live shrews, mice, moles, bats...gifts from Jack, let loose to roam freely through our house. And I reminded Jay that last week, we wanted Jack's help to catch the rat. So when Jack caught Thomas, he was just doing his job. That's how God made cats.
Even so, Jack did NOT get fresh milk in his bowl this morning.
I must admit, though, that Jeff and I privately celebrated the death of Thomas, who has long been the bane of our existence. We got her a new cage for Christmas and she began systematically to gnaw on the bars each night, which sounded like the ringing of a loud bell or the release of a giant metal spring. No one got any sleep at all for many nights. When she had successfully pulled two of the bars completely free, leaving herself a space almost big enough to squeeze through, Jeff went to work putting walls around her cage instead of bars. Then she started scratching against her new hard plastic walls with her little claws, so we still couldn't sleep. Last night, she got the bright idea to bite the edge of the plastic, piece by tiny piece, so when we examined her cage to see how she got out of it, we found it was littered with miniscule chunks of hard plastic.
We therefore used the hamster's untimely death as an object lesson about obeying the rules. We explained that while Thomas thought her cage was a prison, it was actually made to protect her. While she was inside the cage, she was safe from Jack. But once she got out of the cage, she wasn't protected anymore. She would have been wiser to stay in her cage and avoid the dangers lurking on the other side.
Just before Jeff carried Thomas away, I got one last look at her face. It seemed serene. Peaceful. Happy, even. I think despite her abbreviated liberation, Thomas was rejoicing. She died a free hamster.