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June 1, 2013

Teenhood Today: Bob, the Houdini hamster

The Daily Star

---- — My family is not pet-oriented, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t had pets. 

We have had multitudes of fish swim through our lives. We tend to own them in cycles. I had one when I was younger, but when it died from extreme old age, we didn’t replace it. Instead we inherited birds. Two of them. Erik and Arial. They lived out their lives, and somewhere in there we got more fish. 

As I said, we go through fish in a cycle. But during the next period of time with no fish, we got another pet. 

As you might have noticed, the extent of our animal kingdom adventures at home had been limited to things with fins or wings. This wasn’t exactly the lifestyle choice of my youngest brother, who could pretty much have an in-depth conversation with any zoologist by age 5. 

While the animals he so desperately desired were usually rare, expensive and most of the time poisonous enough to do harm when hidden in an older sister’s bed, we did break down and take him to the local pet shop for his birthday. He was younger then and we didn’t really trust him with a large python or piranha (we still don’t). But at the time we allowed him to be led to the back room and take a look at the store’s hamster collection. 

We were all very excited. There were so many hamsters to choose from! Some were a little larger, but most were tiny and adorable. They were all huddled in clumps of absolute cuteness. Except a large gray one in the corner. I ignored him. How could I pay any attention to such a boring creature when there were little bundles of multi-colored hamster everywhere? 

There was one in particular that stole my heart. It was a very, very tiny white one with caramel markings all over it. But it was my brother’s decision. I subtly mentioned the caramel one, smoothly pointed out the positives of choosing that one as the pet, and got down on my knees begging for my brother to take that one home. 

He chose the gray one.  

We were now the proud owners of a large, gray hamster. No cuteness. No fun colors. Nope. Just large and gray. The obvious name choices were Storm Cloud, Tear Drop, and Egg Carton. My brother chose Bob. 

We were now the proud owners of a large, gray hamster named Bob. There was so much excitement wrapped up in his description that I could only imagine the fun we would have in the future with him. I imagined him sitting in the corner of his cage, just sitting there. Being gray. Being Bob. 

In actuality, Bob turned out to be a Houdini hamster. He could get out of his cage no matter what we did! We tried everything to keep his cage fortified, but to no avail. He would always escape and boldly go where no hamster had gone before (cue dramatic theme song). I’m sure that if you were to ask anyone in my family, you would be able to get a Bob story out of them. Places we found him. Places we didn’t, mostly his cage and exercise ball. 

Bob lived longer than most hamsters, but his days escaping did eventually come to a close. We had a dramatic funeral for him and can now lovingly look out our kitchen window and see where his little body was buried. We will always remember our little Houdini hamster. 

But for now, our pet cycle is back to owning fish.

Miriam A. Thurber is a sophomore at Unatego Central School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at