It is with enormous sadness that I am making this post to say that our lovely, mad, friendly hamster, Herbie, has died. :( I wanted something to be 'there' in future blog books to mark his passing.
He was born on 14th November 2007, and became a member of our family when my brother drove to Surrey to collect him from a hamster breeder there. This was a few days before Christmas that year, and my brother had to keep him at his house for those few days until Christmas Day when he was to be given to the (not-so) smalls. They unwrapped a box on the day, only to find a hamster exercise ball, food, treats and bedding. I will never forget the puzzled looks on their faces as they looked at their Uncle, who then said 'that's a load of stuff for your hamster'. 'But we don't have a hamster' they replied, at which moment Uncle N clasped his hands to his face in mock horror and said 'oh no ... I'd better go and get one for you then'. :D He went upstairs and returned with a baby hamster all ready in his own cage. The kids were over the moon.
After a quick cuddle with their wriggly new pet, and watching him for a while, we had to decide on a name. There were many suggestions, but the final vote was, I seem to remember between Herbie or Percy. Herbie Hamster it was. The kids went off to their dad's later that day, and I'll always remember how I just laid in bed and listened that night, to the sounds coming from our new family member. He got on his wheel and ran, and ran, and ran for what seemed like the whole night!
It soon became clear that the kids and I weren't the only ones interested in what Herbie was doing ... as I have posted here many times before, another family member was fascinated by him.
Herbie proved himself to be a hamster of great character. He had a couple of daring adventures when he escaped the confines of his cage. The first was in January 2008 and detailed here. The second was in August 2008 and posted here. He never, ever bit the children. He did bite me once, but it was on the day we left our old home, and I think he was just a bit upset and unsettled (as were we all). He was fine again the very next day.
When he was younger, he would trawl round the whole downstairs in his little exercise ball. I remember once, he was enthusiastically running around in it, and doing a wee at the same time. The result was a sort of smelly, trundling fountain as the offending liquid escaped out of the 'air holes' in the ball. Others found that whole episode a lot more amusing than I did, but then I was the one who had to clear it up. I hadn't realised, before we had him, that hamster wee has such a strong odour. :-O
As he got older, he didn't go as far when he was put in his ball, which was every week when his cage was cleaned out. It has to be said that he became MY hamster, as it fell to me to do most of that cleaning out, and to feed him every day. I used to get him out of his cage and have a quick cuddle before his dinner every night. He soon cottoned on to the fact that after the cuddle, a peanut or something else yummy would follow. If I put a morsel of something he liked in my hand and lowered my hand into his cage, he would put his little front paws up on my hand and chomp at the food. Sometimes he would just hop right into my hand and sit and stuff his pouches there.
It wasn't long after Christmas this year that I told the kids I thought we should prepare ourselves for the fact that Herbie might not be with us for much longer. He seemed to be shrinking in his old age, and was going bald, bless him. He wasn't eating quite as much, but was still drinking plenty. In the last week of his life, I spent - quite literally - hours hand-feeding him bits of cucumber, nuts, grapes and other things to try to tempt him to eat. I also used to stand and hold his water bottle for him to drink water, as he seemed to not even have the energy to get over to the side of the cage where it hung. His little face had such a grateful expression.
I am very pleased that he waited until two days after my birthday to breathe his last breath. I would have felt terrible if it had been my actual birthday. The night before the day in question, his breathing became slower and slower. We kept going to check on him. He refused anything to eat or drink. I came down at 2.20am, and he was still with us; but when we came down at 7, he had gone. :(
Whilst the kids were at school that day, I went to the garden centre and chose a plant for him to lie under in the garden. It is a creamy white clematis, which will hopefully enjoy it's position climbing up the fence. That afternoon after school we had a little 'ceremony' for him - it was persisting down with rain, but the three of us stood outside and placed him, in a tissue paper shroud, underneath the new climber. We added a couple of new forget-me-not plants for their symbolism.
Georgie-cat cannot understand where he has gone. She keeps going and sitting where his cage used to be, and looking at us as if to say 'where is he?' Whenever I slice cucumber, I go to share a bit with him, and then remember. No.2 seems to have taken the loss in his stride, but No.1 has been very upset.
Rest in peace, Herbie. It was a real pleasure knowing you.