Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cinnamon, 2014-2016

Yesterday the Hopper household suffered a loss. Cinnamon, Little One’s beloved hamster, was found dead in her cage.

Cinnamon was of the albino roborovski breed, and, being such, was of a fiercer, more independent spirit than your average hamster. Initially she was a biter, and you ran the oft-realized risk of a painful nip if you tried to pet her. However, over the months she became acclimated to us and allowed herself to be held, petted, and played with. Hand-feeding her helped greatly with that.

She enjoyed dining on sunflower seeds, and spent many hours sorting and categorizing her food in the “penthouse” compartment of her hamster cage. She also liked running in her transparent globe while Little One did the weekly cage clean.

Back in early February the girls came to me in distress: “Daddy, Cinnamon has a piece of food stuck in her ear!” We carefully inspected it and it seemed true. The wife and I weighed the pros and cons of trying to extract it with tweezers, but due to the animal’s small size and fighting temperament, we decided a visit to the vet was called for. So, next morning after a fresh snowfall, I drove Little One and her pet to the new vet office that had just recently opened in our town.

Turns out that wasn’t an ill-positioned seed: it was a tumor. Words that nobody ever wants to hear, whoever or whatever the patient. Apparently, cancer of the endocrine system is quite common in the breed. Surgery was required to remove it, and the vet informed us of the risks of sedating such a small creature. I acquiesced to the cost, since she was indeed part of the family.

Three days later I picked her up, and she seemed completely normal: energetic, curious, fussy, ever-in-motion. Unfortunately, we were heading out to my father-in-law’s surprise 75th birthday bash down in Washington DC and she’d be alone all weekend. Would Cinnamon survive? Of course she did – a couple of days of peace and quiet (she shares a room with two fish) was all that she needed.

Anyway, despite the vet’s cautious warning that a tumor could return in as short a time as a few weeks, Cinnamon thrived. For the next three months she gnawed on her cage bars, climbed up and down the tubing to her penthouse, and continued her exploratory ways. Then, in early May, we noticed her coat thinning out and darkening. She seemed to gain weight and became very lethargic, and developed sores on her belly. By June she stopped going into her penthouse and spent most of her time sleeping. I got into the habit of checking on her frequently just to see if she was still breathing.

Sunday night I walked past her cage and saw her foraging in her bowl for food. I slowly put my hand in her cage and softly petted her head. She returned a gentle nibble on the tip of my index finger. Sometime Monday morning she passed on to the great beyond. I discovered her yesterday before leaving for work; we woke the girls and told them the sad news.

Yesterday afternoon we wrapped her body in tissue and a couple of notes the girls wrote to her. We tucked in some pellets of corn and sunflower seeds, and buried her in a small hole in the corner of our backyard. We said a prayer and the girls each said something short about Cinnamon through tears.

Rest in Peace, little fella. May you be back in the arms of Little One in eighty or eighty-five years.

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