Several years ago I had two class pets, more specifically two teddy bear hamsters, named Mr. Dimples and Mr. Smirk. They were brothers and lived together in a ten gallon glass aquarium I had set up for them in the back of my classroom. Of course as a teacher my greatest concern was that a student might feed them something they couldn’t have or do something that could lead to the hamsters’ injury or deaths. So I was careful in every way possible to be certain the top was secured on the aquarium and that the aquarium was placed in a part of the room not easily accessible unless I allowed student access. However, as many of you probably know, things do happen regardless of the best-intentioned plans.
One morning in early October of that year I entered my classroom and turned on the lights. The room was a bit cool, so it was no surprise to me that the hamsters (nocturnal animals that they are) were buried in the deep cedar shavings of their glass home. First and then second period classes came and went, with students taking their usual glances and making their usual comments about the hamsters.
One comment, at the end of second period, didn’t set well with me. “Hey, that one’s buried his head in the shavings and his butt is hanging out.” As the students left class, I moved toward the tank and noticed the back end of Mr. Dimples hanging out of the shavings. At that moment, I remembered the years in college raising hamsters to trade to a local pet store for extra pet food for my other hamsters and guinea pigs. I had never seen a hamster do what this one was apparently doing. So I decided to quickly investigate.
After carefully lifting the top off (Mr. Smirk was nowhere to be seen and I didn’t want him to escape) I slowly reached for Mr. Dimples. Just as I feared, his little backside and feet felt cold. I either had a dead or hibernating hamster in the tank. Just then, Mr. Smirk poked his nose out of the shavings. He wasn’t hibernating from the chilly night in the classroom, so Mr. Dimples probably wasn’t either. What could I do? I began to lift the dead hamster from the shavings. It was then that I made the horrifying discovery; there was no front end to Mr. Dimples anymore.
Caution about hamsters! New factoid for those of you wanting to keep hamsters: they do eat other hamsters that happen to die in the cage with them. I suppose it’s a process to clean out the cage environment. I haven’t had a pair of hamsters in the classroom since that day. Mr. Smirk died just a month later, probably from something given to him by a student (I found a pencil eraser in the tank). Strange, but true!