Of Squishables, Smoochables, and the Judith Miracle
Yesterday felt like a good time to change my Facebook profile picture. Not having any new photos of me (and not interested in taking any, although we do all seem to be mostly well around here again, so long as we don't talk about Mike's new broken tooth, when does it stop?), I decided to use a photo of our Judith.

It wasn't this one:

Ladybug and Sheep Squishables (and Judith)

You can hardly see Judith in that one, although it's not a bad view of our new sheep Squishable, with the ladybug Squishable behind it.

As mentioned before, I wanted a Squishable for almost two years before a coupon came up on Facebook that loosened the Visa card strings, and for most of that time I was particularly drawn to the sheep.

However, when the moment came, there was just something charming about the rooster; we got it instead. It was such a hit that Mike got the ladybug for my birthday, which proved to be every bit as delightful as the rooster. And so we seemed set.

Then, a few weeks ago, another coupon appeared on Facebook, and Christmas was sorted out with the arrival of three new Squishables: a rhinoceros, a snail, and - at last - the sheep.

That's a total of five Squishables, and having them all on the bed at one time takes me back to the days of cat ownership, in that there's not very much room for sleeping, but you're happy all the same.

As we have five hamsters, we decided to match one to each Squishable. I'm not sure if the hamster is the guardian of the Squishable, or vice versa, nor do I know if this is a permanent appointment or merely a lifetime one. (The fine print of hamster estate law is convoluted even when just dealing with, say, relocating a wheel.)

Judith was paired with the sheep. The sheep is one of the softest Squishables (we thought the rooster was unspeakably soft until we got the ladybug, then thought the ladybug was the softest thing ever until we got the sheep), and its white plush has a sort sheen to it, much like Judith's fur. Seriously, I'm not sure I've ever seen a dwarf hamster as shiny as Judith. (Completely unreflected, so to speak, in the photos, alas.) She is also winsome yet understated, much like the sheep.

Here is a better photo of her atop her Squishable:

And She Turns

So, I changed my FB profile to the photo above. It wasn't an hour later that I heard small cries coming from Judith's habitat.

What followed was ten hours of manual dosing, hand-wringing, and reconciliation with the grand inevitable.

Judith first showed signs of diabetes about six months ago. It's a common ailment in the Campbell's Russian dwarf hamster, and we've certainly had our share of afflicted critters. Mostly you just watch and supplement the diet, up the number of water sources, and hope you can keep up with the pee. (Judith is potty trained to two sand baths, which helps immensely.)

What happened last night, though, seemed to perhaps be a hypoglycemic episode. (Based on experiences with Mike's diabetic cat.) Mike fed Judith honey-water, and regular water, plus we made sure she had millet (tiny food, easy to open), tofu (good for dehydration/quick protein), and peanut butter (because it was there, we were desperate, and most hamsters love it). Somewhere in there we threw in a dose of antibiotics, too.

Judith stopped crying, but after that she had no energy. For hours we watched her periodically shuffle to a new space, as if she couldn't find a place to relax. She stayed utterly still out in the open, sometimes listing in exhaustion, not snuggled up into a hideyhole like usual.

Our spirits were very low. Mike went to have a lie-down and napped for two hours. It felt like we were just waiting.

Fourteen months is a few months shy of the far-left border for "average lifespan" in a dwarf, but it's not bad for a diabetic hamster. Still, we had been playing with Judith just that morning. She was frolicking! Where did this come from?

In the ten hours of vigilance and water droppers emerged a few flashes of hope ("She's hugging the dropper!" "She's gone into her cottage!" "She's pulled in some fluffins!"), but it was mostly ten hours of considering the statistics. I'd only ever seen one hamster recover from something similar before (Brian, who returned for a valiant two-week encore). The odds were not with us.

But ten hours later, Judith got into Mike's hand. She stood on her back legs. She looked around. She trotted over to see me. She shucked and calmly ate a big sunflower seed. JUDITH!

It's been almost a day now, and the important thing is that she seems to be comfortable, happy, and even normal. We dare not hope for more, but of course we do. Second chances are in the air, with no unpleasant monkey paw baggage, either.

Evelyn Gives the Sheep a Hug

Just as there is something special about Judith, there must be something special about the sheep, too. Above you can see Evelyn defecting from her ladybug to give the sheep a big hug.

Evelyn atop Her Ladybug

And here is Evelyn atop her own Squishable. The ladybug was a natural match for our "Gazey" - they both have the same friendly stare. (As always, not that you can tell from the photos.)

In the "hugging" photo, you can see the horn of the rhinoceros Squishable. This one probably called to me because my lit class just read Ionesco's play of that name. The kids handled the whole Absurdism unit quite well, and for about 48 hours I had grand plans to find plastic rhinoceroses and some baby food jars and make a commemorative snowglobe for each student. (Then I got hypothermia and other excuses.)

Mary atop Her Rhinoceros

The rhinoceros is perfect for Mary. Not only for their shared hues, but because both are a little scary and difficult to get to know.

I do have to wonder if rhinos like oats, though, because recently we discovered that Mary loves oats. No need to wear gloves anymore when invading her habitat, now we just rub oats over our hands, and we are welcome visitors. She is a queer, queer thing, that Mary... but content in her absurd rhinoceros ways.

Then we have Mary and Judith's sister, Heidi.

Heidi atop Her Snail

Or as I've started calling her, "possum face." Lilac hamsters carry the black gene that causes silvering, and the white markings now showing up on Heidi's face make me think of a possum. Except even if there was a possum Squishable, it wouldn't be right for Heidi, because she is just way too zippy and never plays dead. Trust me, if you disturb her outside of play hours, you better have a good reason why.

I've always liked possums, though, so to me, Heidi still has a sweet face, and the snail's face (not really visible here, so peek here) is what led Mike to say that this was next on our list of Squishable Acquisitions.

Faces aside, Heidi is definitely the snail. She stays in her shell for very specific periods of time. She might come out to leisurely nibble or fuss with a Milkbone, but this doesn't mean you're allowed to engage her yet. Expect a corrective nip, an offending jump, or just a very cross look.

When play hours start, though, she's a different girl. She hops in and out of the hand, runs around, runs up the arm, and is most agreeable to snarfling. Okay, so snails aren't speedy... unless you compare them to rocks. Which, I'm sure, is what snails are thinking as they do laps around pebbles. It's all very much on their terms, just like with Heidi.

Heidi on Mike's Hand

Above is a bonus photo of Heidi, caught in mid-run on Mike. (Mike, my original Squishable.) What you don't see in this photo, thanks to that photographic magic called "take a billion photos and throw out all the ones you don't like," is the enormous alien-sac of a tumour on her belly (old news), or the rash/fur loss on her neck that suggests some recent failed attempt at decapitation.

So, Judith is not the only one whose clock tick-tocks a little louder than we'd like, but Heidi seems quite pleased with the world (although maybe not so much with the antibacterial cream).

Koda atop His Rooster

Finally, we have Koda, and of course our one boy got the rooster. And of course, like Evelyn, he defected to the sheep. What is it about the sheep?

Burrow In, Koda

I think we have enough plush friends - synthetic and natural - for now... until I convince the Squishable people to make a dwarf ham product.

(Just imagine Koda there, but 100x larger. Pure snuggling profit!)

01 January 2010 |



Hamsters

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Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)