Four-legged family members

Hamster picOur hamster died 2 weeks ago today. His name was Toughey.

The kids haven’t realised that THEIR rodent pal has died yet. I’m not sure how I feel about that actually…

On the day that Toughey left us, my husband had the grand plan to not tell the kids because he was just going to replace Toughey 1.0 with Toughey 2.0 as such. We didn’t end up following through on that plan so we continue to gaze upon an empty but well equipped cage day after day.

I didn’t particularly like him much for most of his life. Well, not him specifically but because I was always the one that ended up cleaning his cage which was a 3-storey mission of a mansion to disassemble and rebuild each time. My OCD tendencies do not allow for me to take short cuts, even as far as rodents are concerned so each component of his cage was thoroughly scrubbed, polished and dried before being put back together.

The kids only gave him real attention during the weekly clean. I mean, let’s face it, he’s a hamster.  They don’t do much during the daytime, and there is a limit to the human attention span and interest in watching a pet run on the same spot in a wheel.  I blogged a long time ago about the time I was reminded that Hamsters Are Nocturnal – kids don’t generally care what their pets, or anything else, are doing while they are fast asleep.

When I told my friends and family on FaceBook today about Toughey’s passing, my brother had something so true to add:

It really wasn’t Toughey that I didn’t like. It was his excrement.

(p.s. The pic of the hamster isn’t Toughey. We didn’t take any pics of him)

SebastianA totally different story: 3 years ago around this time we lost our beloved Sebastian to a head-on collision with a motor car in our typically quiet suburban street. It was on Old Year’s Eve and every detail of that sad night is still so vividly clear in my mind. His head was smashed in, as was his rib cage. We could hear that his lungs were punctured. My husband barely managed to carry him inside the house before he himself collapsed at the entrance to the house with Sebby in his arms.

Sebby was 8 years old and until he joined my family I have always hated cats as far back as I can remember.  I was even convinced that I was fatefully allergic to anything not-dog and avoided them like the plague.  It turns out that I was in fact allergic to houses that weren’t properly cleaned and dusted where animals lived – not necessarily the animals themselves…

It was a normal Saturday in Joburg. I lived alone at that stage, my fiance (now husband) lived in a different Province in South Africa so most weekends were spent roaming shopping malls, markets and stuff.  That particular morning I was in a centre that had a pet shop on the centre court.  As I walked past the pet shop towards my car I noticed a snake in a glass tank in the window.  The snake looked ill. It didn’t even scare me. I went inside the store and found more and more poorly animals (dogs, cats and fish specifically).

To cut a long story short; 1 visit to the vet and R2,000 in bills later – I arrived home with a kitten. It turned out that the vaccination stickers that the pet store owner had shoved in my face as proof of how well kept his animals were, was in fact fake. The animal was in such a bad condition that I knew I couldn’t just hand him back to the man who I now considered the anti-Christ himself.

Sebby and OzThree months later, Oscar joined our family as a brother to Sebastian.  We would take monthly road trips to the North West Province to visit their ‘dad’. Closer to home, we would spend afternoons in the park with roast chicken meals and bottled water.  Sebby loved eating mielies (corn on the cob) and in all the years he was with us, we never had a braai without having mielies again. If Sebs took a fancy to some sort of treat in the kitchen he would carry the packet or box to me and kindly ask if I would kindly oblige.

Sebs never forgave me for bringing Ozzie home with us from Pretoria.  They are completely different personality types. Sebby was wise beyond his years, and Ozzie – well, he was like a hamster on Speed.

Before Ozzie; Sebs and I would lie on the sofa watching marathon TV series over the weekends, often falling asleep midway.  I once tried to train him to switch on the radio for me but that didn’t work out so well.

Sebby looked like he was a cross between a Havanna Brown and an Oriental Black. Oscar is an Oriental Black. They are typical “lap cats” who crave affection and demand attention.  They are the best cuddle bunnies you could ever ask for.

For some reason, I always knew that IF I was ever going to own a cat that it would be a solid black slender cat. That was Sebastian to the T.

We still miss Sebastian.  We often talk about him too. He was buried with a freshly baked batch of mielies and his favourite blanket. We planted indigenous Olive trees at his gravesite.  We could never simply ‘replace’ him with another cat. In fact, thinking about it now – I’m not certain whether our grieving process has ended since his departure.

I think Oscar misses his brother too. He used to wait at the front door waiting for Sebbie to come home for weeks after the accident. He knows he had a good big brother who would protect him and keep him warm when he was cold, and who would come and call the adults when Ozzie got stuck in a rut.

I have never loved and missed a pet this much. Ever. Even with all the animals that we had growing up, I never had a bond with any of them as much as I did with Sebs.

R.I.P. Sebastian. And Toughey.


3 Replies to “Four-legged family members”

  1. oh man! how I resonate with this. Lost sooo many good cats, and a hamster called Darwin. I was as fanatical about the cage! Darwin is also buried in our back garden with and olive tree on his gravesite. C found Darwin 🙂 so no Darwin 2.0 for us, although I think C would have figured it out. A few weeks ago I hurt our spider! I was devastated. These crazy pets they creep into places in your heart we don’t know exist!

    1. We’ve decided to leave one of the cage gates open and stage a “oh my, who left the gate open? Toughey is gone!” act. We’re really stunned that neither of the kids have noticed that he’s not in his cage… but we’re not going to get angry. And, we’re also not going to get Toughey 2.0

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