That time I organized an escaped hamster posse

image That’s right, it’s time for Post Traumatic Sunday, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. What these posts aren’t about is venting or vindictiveness.

So what’s the point?

Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how: with humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each day to laugh for the right reasons.

Now, we can all look back on those years and share some laughs together…

* * * * * * * *

When you find yourself force-feeding Pepto Bismol into your child’s constipated hamster, you figure you’ve faced one of your greatest challenges as a parent.

But you would be wrong.

“Dad, I can’t find Squiggles.”

Those words, uttered just three nights later, transformed a quiet Wednesday evening into a full-scale hamster hunt. Within minutes, our team was assembled around the kitchen table for a briefing.

“There’s no telling how long he’s been on the outside,” I said. “There’s a good chance he’s already assumed a new identity — perhaps as a mouse or gerbil. Keep you eyes open.”

A collective nod from the team.

“We’re going to concentrate our efforts in the area between the guest room, hamster cage and attic,” I said. “It’s called cross-triangulation.”

“I see, like the Bermuda Triangle,” my wife said.

Ignoring her, I gave everyone their assignments, then dispersed the posse. “Let’s go do some good!”

Excitedly, our one-year-old broke from the group and rushed through the kitchen with his flashlight — then promptly sat in our dog’s water bowl.

Things pretty much went downhill from there.

What makes hamsters so hard to catch is that… well, they’re small. And they can make themselves even smaller just by thinking about it. They also have no bones and can run in excess of 70 mph. None of this is covered in the handbook, which portrays hamsters as funny, quizzical characters with special little pouches for storing food on either side of their jaws. What the book doesn’t tell you is that those “little pouches” can actually stretch to accommodate food items much larger than the hamster itself, similar to an anaconda’s ability to swallow the entire Budweiser draft horse team.

It was this thought that surfaced as I scooted belly-first through the crawlspace in our attic with a flashlight wedged between my teeth. I’ve never been keen on tight spaces, so when I caught the reflection of black eyes peering back at me from the insulation, I wasn’t thrilled to discover that my rear end — which had slipped forward through the crawl space with minimal effort — was now meeting resistance similar to an elephant backing into a shower stall.

In front of me, Squiggles was preparing his pouches for something really big.

“He’s over here!” I called out in a tone my wife mistakenly thought was a scream.

“Where are you?”

“Purgatory. Or the crawl space in our attic, I forget which.”

“Can you see him?”

“Yes, and he looks hungry.”

“Can you grab him?”

“Not exactly; I can’t move.”

“Why does this feel familiar?”

“Remember when I got stuck under the Honda..?”

“I was being rhetorical.”

“Oh good. Now, how about being helpful and getting me out of here?”

I learned a couple of things during our recovery mission. First, given a choice, hamsters prefer fruit rolls to fat rolls. And second, cooking spray is as effective as WD-40 when it comes to loosening grown men out of tight spaces. Because of these things, I’m still alive and Squiggles is back in his home.

Now, if we could just find the cat…

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)


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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

23 thoughts on “That time I organized an escaped hamster posse”

  1. **Nods Knowingly** Been there, done that, except Hammie, as he was called in our iteration, didn’t make it past the two cats. RIP Hammie.

    Very funny Ned. Even more so because of the familiarity and the happier ending for Squiggles. Yes, cooking spray has a myriad of uses. The best of which are a result of its edibleness (unlike WD-40, which in combination with duct tape makes up the most basic repair/escape kit). I’ve noticed, Ned, that your life seems to intersect the lives of many animals, often to your detriment : Squiggles, Nemo, Skippy the Rabid squirrel, Stanley, etc.Do you find that you have an affinity for our furred, feathered and finned friends? If so, you could seek out treatment, as it would seem that they tend to bring angst into your life.

    1. Ha! You know, Paul, I never made the connection between my life’s angst and the animals that are a part of it. I now see myself as a cross between Dr. Doolittle and Rod Serling.

  2. Ned, I am the tired single mother of a 13-year-old who adopts everything from the neighbors escaped ferret, (our dog found him soon afterwards and…. Well, let’s just say we had a nice memorial and the neighbors no longer speak to us), to bringing in a “family” of worms, (musta been a Greek worm family from the size of it), “because they will catch cold sleeping on (in) the ground”… He remembered this little nugget of wisdom from my many attempts to explain to him why we could not put the tent up in the backyard in January to camp. Never mind that he still to this day can’t remember to pick up his socks that smell like death and despair.

    I digress…

    I happened upon your blog while searching the web for hamster recovery tactics. My sons hamster, Katy, is MIA. As I sit here with tears running down my face from laughing at your experience, I have deemed you no help what so ever. However, at least I’m in a better mood. I’ll need it because just as I started writing this, I started hearing industrious hamster activity inside the wall. INSIDE the wall….

    1. It sounds like you may be raising another Steve Erwin! I’m sorry I couldn’t be of any real help. However, even though I know it’s the day after National Women’s Day, thank you for all you do as a mom. It’s a tough gig, filled with worms and runaway hamsters. But he will remember all you do for him. But probably not the socks.

      On another note, if you can find the opening the hamster got in through, try putting the cage nearby with some hamster food. When I was a kid, thanks to my mom, that’s how I used to get mine back when he escaped… 😉

      1. Hi Ned, I was pretty sure you would be sitting on pins and needles, waiting for an update on the great rodent escape…
        Katy the hamsters status has been demoted to rodent, as I had to clean up mounds of little bite sized pieces of the drywall she chewed off from inside the family room wall. She had worked quite hard to pile them in the corner of the kitchen floor like a construction site and intersperse each mound with little brown Chiclets, ( at least that’s what I’m going to say they are when I give them to my monster in law for Christmas… I mean dearest Mother-in-law).
        After hours of strategic surveillance with expensive equipment, (a bottle of wine and my sons iPad to play Candy Crush) , I finally heard rustling inside a lower cupboard. When I opened it, I was surprised to see it had been magically redecorated and transformed into ninja hamster barracks. There was a bathroom, a commissary full of dog food and a bedroom made of carpet, part of my sneaker and some of my carefully filed paperwork.
        Much like the picture at the top of this blog, she looked at me incredulously. I took offense to her obvious disbelief that I could crack her case, but I spoke with her soothingly till I was able to lift her out of her bed of half eaten tax papers.

        So, the wee fur escapee has been apprehended safely with no casualties. Our investigation was inconclusive as to how she got out. I’m considering renting her out as a consultant to prison inmates who are contemplating their own escape.

        Thank you for your support, Ned. I see you are a fellow Oregonian. May your skies be sunny soon! 😉

        1. That is hilarious! Yes, they seem so shocked when you discover their hidden lair. Kind of like walking into the Batcave unannounced. I’m glad everything is back to normal. Until the next prisonbreak, anyway. By the way, many years ago I was helping cleaning out my parents’ barn after some flooding and I came across a packrat nest. In it was a silver ring, some washers, empty peanut shells and a tiny picture of a cat from a magazine page. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen!

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