20 February 2009


I woke up this morning and realized that I had just dreamt about Joey, my beloved pet hamster.

Joey lived to a ripe old age of 3--which is already considered a geriatric age for Syrian hamsters like him. He was a gift given to me by my college friends in our junior year at the Ateneo. We were all sitting in our tambayan one nondescript day, and I was then surprised to see Julia carrying this little wire cage containing a hamster (who was looking a little motion sick from the slight swinging of the cage) and holding it towards me as the rest of my friends looked on excitedly, gauging my reaction.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. It was love at first sight, really. Haha. Joey was the cutest teddy bear hamster I've ever seen; it didn't matter that all teddy bear, or Syrian, hamsters looked alike anyway. He was still the cutest. Our group christened him Joey--named after our terror of a history teacher whom I totally idolized and had a crush on, and, erm, conveniently happened to be a Jesuit priest. (Fr. Joey, I hope you never, ever get to read this blog.)

In those first few months of owning Joey, I fussed over him completely. By my standards, Joey deserved a clean, fluffy bedding of pine shavings always, so I made sure to replace the shavings every day while the pine shavings at the bottom of the cage (used to absorb his pee and poo) were removed and replaced twice a week. I cleaned his cage religiously on weekends. I checked his water bottle and little food bowl every day to ensure that he was getting enough nutrition while I was out of the house or sleeping.

While hamsters are not as demonstrative as other domesticated pets like dogs in showing love for their master, teddy bear hamsters are sweet in their own way, and Joey was no exception. He was always a good pet, and never threw any hamster fits. And he was such a stickler for good hygiene! He chose only one certain spot in his cage for taking a dump or a piss, and didn't like doing his number 1's and 2's elsewhere. During feeding time, I'd open the cage and put in my hand which contained a little hamster mix. He'd take pleasure in eating from my hand, especially if I was giving him a special treat--like a small, small slice of apple or some other sliver of fresh fruit.

Joey was an active little one, keeping me company late at night by working out on his hamster wheel while I sat nearby, wading through my pile of readings for Theo and Philo classes. He was a real runner, and the loud, repetitive whirring of the wheel sometimes drove me crazy. But because he also liked to eat, he became so fat that he eventually got tired of running and in the twilight months of his life, chose instead to gnaw on his cage as a form of exercise.

Because I lived a stone's throw away from Ateneo during those college years, I had friends coming over most of the time. They would enter my unit, see Joey sleeping, and tap the cage with a loud, affectionate "Hi, Joey!!" Of course, my poor pet would wake up in fright (because hamsters don't like loud noises and quick movements) and I would calm his nerves by running a soothing hand slowly through his fur until his body would stop trembling.

My favorite memory of Joey was that time I took him out of the cage so that he could stretch his legs a bit and run freer than usual. I placed him on our sofa and I myself laid down to block him from leaving the sofa and running wild inside the condo. As I lay, I watched him scamper from one end of the couch to another--and he would even come near to sniff my arm now and then as if to reassure himself that I was still there while he played. Several minutes later, I woke up in horror, realizing that I had fallen asleep, and I was worried that he might have been running loose in the bathroom or some other place while I napped. But when I looked down, I saw Joey nestled in a little corner right beside my arm, sleeping peacefully. He was the dearest little pet and never gave me any trouble.

I was really broken-hearted when he died: I came home from school one evening, and the condo was quieter than usual. I saw Joey sleeping in his small napping corner inside the cage and didn't think anything was wrong. An hour or two later, I suddenly realized that my place was indeed very quiet, and that Joey would have been awake already at that hour, gnawing on his cage. I went over to him--and then I saw that his furry little body was stiff and unmoving.

He died alone, without me or anyone at home for that matter. That's the thing that breaks my heart the most every time I remember Joey--the fact that I wasn't there when he quietly passed away.

I put a lot of effort into carrying out his little funeral. I gently placed him inside a box with fresh pine shavings, then called some friends, and cried as I told them the sad news. A few of them accompanied me as I buried Joey (using a small toy shovel, my god) in the field near SEC inside the Ateneo campus for sentimentality's sake. After all, that's where he was given to me, and I felt that it was the proper resting place for him.

To honor his memory over the years, I'd name a couple of my possessions after him, like my two iPods, my flash drive, other stuff that I'd carry on a daily basis, etc. And now that I've recently taken up running, with my iPod close to me, I can technically say that I'm running with Joey. =)

I miss seeing his cute little face, as he stares at me with such rapt attention while he stuffs his cheeks with hamster mix--as if to show me that he can multi-task while I babble nonsense to him. And so when I woke up this morning from my dream (I dreamt I was carrying Joey on one hand while I cleaned his cage using the other hand), I felt a huge wave of nostalgia wash over me and it was like mourning for him once more, but in a good way.

He wasn't far from my thoughts today, and the dream left me with a desire to have a pet hamster again. The traumatizing thing about having a hamster for a pet is the animal's short life span; Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures that live an average of 1.5 to 3 years. Four, even, if your hamster was exceptionally healthy.

I'm not quite sure yet what I want to do in terms of getting a new hamster or not, but I did find myself looking at hamster pictures on the web today. The two photos I've included in this post resemble Joey the most; I just wish I took photos of him while he was alive. And if I did, I just simply don't remember where I've stored them.

I miss my little hamster very much. Am not a poet and I can't write poems to save my life, but this blog entry can at least be my own version of an ode to Joey.


  1. awww.... i find myself missing joey too, just from your sharing. :)

  2. Thanks, mcn! I'm not sure if I can stand to lose a pet hamster again but I'm sorely tempted to check some pet stores (just 'window-shopping', hehe) this weekend and see how I'd feel about getting a new hamster.