Neil, Not Hiding Very Well

I know I mentioned this a few months ago, but it's The Neil Story. He was an uneventful little hamster for most of his days, at first for sad reasons, and later for content ones, so when it comes to "What was Neil like?", this is the best way to tell it.

(It's either this or dumbstruck accounts of how much food he could put away in the last few months of his life. Like a machine.)

So, Neil was not getting along with Roy, and since at the time we had five opals together, separating them was a complicated dynamic. We did try to put Neil with other hams (first Paul, who'd already been booted out, then later Glenn, when we left the compound - Roy's social issues were covered already in his obituary), but Neil preferred to be solitary. Shy and shrinking, that was Neil.

Even after he got used to the security of life on his own, he respectfully avoided the Big Seedscatterers. It was disappointing that he wouldn't turn into the playful, outgoing hamster he deserved to be, but we were used to How It Was In That Family. Their early lives were spent so smooshed and competitive that their potential could only lie far beyond the foreseeable horizon.

Neil was possibly already two years old when we went to Alaska this past summer. (If not two, within a few months of it.) That is, of course, old under the best of circumstances for a dwarf hamster. It's a time when hamsters are usually quite slow, but Neil was already a sedentary thing who - despite having every possible toy, wheel, and saucer, and plenty of room for freestylin' - never ran and seldom came out. More of a rumour of a hermit of a hammie than a pet we could spoil. He had everything he needed, and alas, that didn't include hanging out with us. 

But that was okay, because he was happy. What can you do?

The day we came home from Alaska, we dumped the luggage pronto and literally ran to greet the critters. I stopped at Neil's hamitat first because he was the closest. This was more of a cursory check on his well-being as I couldn't imagine him being emotionally invested in seeing us after 10 days away.

I was wrong.

I came across Neil quickly (quickly?!) getting out of bed and trotting over to where I was, his little face raised up expectantly.

"Well, hello, Neil!"

I don't know what happened while we were gone, but we came home to a hamster who, while still quiet and retiring, was thereafter always pleased to uee us.

He even got into the hand sometimes. Neil!

We were increasingly close friends thereafter.

He aged: worn fur, hunched back, stiff joints, warty ears, a terrible tumour that claimed one eye. But, until the last few days, he still made his little nests, gobbled up millet and tofu, and calmly enjoyed the gentle, gentle stroke of a thumb over his back and he rested in the hand. I moved him to be by my end of the sofa.

Then he slept for a few days, and then it was Christmas Eve, and then he left, so he could spend his holidays in two places, as families do.

We miss him, as families do.



Neil Orders Millet From The Carhop


Adopted 26 November 2010.
Home for the holidays, 24 December 2012.

25 December 2012 |






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