Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Tale Of Two Animals: 2. Misery

Quaver, the orange coloured Syrian hamster has just died, in the palm of my hand this morning. It happened at breakfast, when one of the children was sitting having a bacon sandwich and I had to try and mask the fact as best I could.

I could only withhold the information for so long and, rightly or wrongly, believed that honesty was the best policy and told her that Quaver was no more. There were floods of tears and a little voice said that she couldn't eat any more of her food, and would she mind if I drove her to school. She couldn't cope with the noisy school bus.

It was heart wrenching.

I felt a little shaky, too. It was not the first time that an animal had died in my arms. I once had a Labrador called Hector, who was run over on a busy road when he was out chasing the ladies. He lay fatally injured and held onto the last breath of life until I arrived. He recognised me as I held him, sighed, wagged his tail and died. It was a harrowing experience.

I never thought the death of a rodent would have the same effect, tugging all the emotional heartstrings. Quaver was a sweet little thing. When the children were away I used to look after her. She always sat on my shoulder while I fed her morsels of bread, raisins and celery tops. She would snuggle into my neck. When she was in her cage, she would hold onto the top wires like they were monkey bars and perform acrobatics like a trapeze artist.

She was a resilient little thing. My five-year-old cousin tried to murder her twice. Once he pushed her into the goldfish bowl to see if she could swim. I arrived in the nick of time to see a half drowned hamster clinging desperately to some weed. The second time, the little boy's curiosity got the better of him as he opened the cage door. As Quaver was half way out, he panicked and tried to force her back into the cage by slamming the door on top of her. I again arrived just in time, to find the hamster splayed between the bars like a grotesque toasted sandwich.

Quaver also survived the greatest adventure of her life. She escaped as a result of one of the children failing to close the door properly. I thought that was the last we would see of her. The next day, while watching television, she suddenly appeared in the middle of the carpet. She came up to us, far from frightened to say hello.

She was a remarkable creature.

So this morning I have been busy conducting the funeral. I found an old cardboard box which had preciously contained some wire wool. I lined it with sawdust and cotton wool, put some raisins and celery tops in and gently laid Quaver in it. I dug a hole in a quiet corner of the garden and laid her to rest, placing a small wooden cross on the newly covered grave.

As I knelt beside the grave, I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes welled up. Misery or sentimental old fool - you can take your pick.

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