Sweeney Snowflake
I do not own a pair of toenail clippers. I have never owned a pair of toenail clippers. Somehow, I have managed to have rather ordinary and never-ingrown toenails despite a lifetime of using ordinary scissors to trim them.

Fingernails, too.

And I don't cut "straight across," either -- that's one of those things that must be right up there with "brush straight up and down." (Can people actually do this? I understand the need to get that gum line invigorated, but I really don't feel like my teeth have been scrubbed unless it's back and forth and around and around, anything but up and down.)

So, "they" say that if your hammie's teeth become overgrown, you need to trim them with nail clippers, or go to the vet.

My dim memory of how nail clippers operate made me openly skeptical that I'd be able to trim Snowfie's too-long teeth. I mean, I know other people do it, but I'm pretty inept, and the danger of an unwanted gap-tooth smile seems all too great.

So I went with what I know: rose clippers.

Wow, you want to be so careful with these. Hamsters without tongues are routinely disqualified from nationally recognized hamster shows, so think, and think again, before snipping!

I thought and thought, and really it's not so much the tongue that gets in the way, but the wee paws signaling you to leave her the (*&^$ alone, for mercy's sake.

Swaddling is such a lost art. Practice some exotic ham-wraps first, then think, then think again, then snip.

And all was well. For that tooth.

As hamsters get older, those bottom two teeth seem to grow apart. Snowflake was looking not unlike a staple remover.

Unfortunately, I thought she had a handle on her dental needs, long (ahem) though her fangsies were. I knew she could still latch on to things (due to some experimental log-poking sanctum-violating exercises), so I trusted her to whittle those chompers down as needed, as she has done all 19.5 months of her life so far.

Alas, a few days later, which is to say today, The Black Spot appeared on her cheek atop a small but angry swell.

Oh Snowflake. :( And of course on a Saturday afternoon.

Not that I'm all too keen to take her to the vet. Frankly, I know he would put her down. She has that big pouch tumour, and that weird wet-belly disease that she passed on to her son, and she's massively diabetic, and she's scrawny, and she now has a tooth trying to come up out of her face.

I'm so sorry, Snowflake. I really thought we had a handle on this. I never expected it to grow so fast. I just checked it!

Even if he didn't put her down, and he would, he'd want to knock her out (standard procedure at that office, and it's the best office for ickle rodents), and I don't think she'd survive that. I could -- that's what student loans are for. (That, and paying off one's car because a Stafford loan's interest rate is so much better to have than one from Ford Motor Credit if you're going to be in debt, not that I would officially know.)

But it doesn't matter, not even if I managed to get away from student teaching long enough to work it out, because I know that anyone who didn't know Snowflake would look at her and say "put that thing out of its misery."

Snowflake, who once was "our prettiest hamster."

Well, this afternoon I was about ready to agree with the world and give up the cause. No way could such a long tooth be clipped with toenail clippers. What to do? What to use? We'd crossed the fragile "Quality of Life" line.

And when I say "what to use," I don't mean "instead of toenail clippers." I mean "instead of a brick."

I gave my poor girl a warm bath (wet belly = smelly, and yet it doesn't seem to be urine) and the comfort of a heartbeat and towel and a hundred apologies to each of her chastening glares. When dry, she returned to Log Central and I took a nap. And as I napped -- an awful dream about going in to do my "full teach" on Monday and having all new students -- I realized that I did have those hand-size rose pruners...

And so it was a snip, a struggle (re-swaddle! re-swaddle!), a confirmation that the rogue tooth-top had disengaged, and a confirmation that the blood was from said wound and not because someone accidentally caught a wee toe in the blades (I told you I can't clip nails).

And then it was another snip for the second lower tooth, another swaddle, another swaddle to the oompth power, and finally surrender as I determined that the upper teeth, while Not Good At All, are manageable for the weekend at least. I didn't want to continue because too much stress for a creature as small as an unusually small dwarf hamster might be worse than the cure, at least for the moment.

During these adventures, Snowflake discovered that the nicest place to be (should one be so rudely removed from one's comfort log) is right under my chin, propped up against the neck, where the warmth of the nook and the vibration of my patter must make the haughty post-surgical grooming experience somewhat more tolerable.

Tonight Snowflake has fresh sand. She has joyfully kicked it around with a look in her garnet eye that says I can do likewise to this "Quality of Life" crisis. In addition to a little peanut butter, and the cheese (a treat so lovely it had to be scurried off to its very own tube), she ate SEEDS for the first time in, well, in hamster years I'm sure it's more blue moons than you'd want to jump over. Good Snowflake.

(Note: I don't recommend peanut butter for hamsters at all unless you're certain they won't try to pouch it. It's really not worth the risk. Tofu or scrambled eggs are what's needed if your hamster requires soft foods. The moisture in the tofu is really good at keeping hams hydrated, too, especially if they are diabetic. I feel comfortable giving Snowflake peanut butter, knowing her as I do, but I wouldn't give it to my other hamsters.)

Tomorrow I will try to get the top teeth, and I am starting her on a course of antibiotics. (Supposedly still good -- they're from when Ambrosia's uterus fell out.)

Aren't hammies fun? Snowflake and I think so.

(Make no assumptions: clip early and often.)

03 October 2004 |

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