Today as we were about to leave the house, Evan went to check on our pet hamster Snowflake and discovered she was dead. We knew this time was coming soon because for the past 3 weeks, Snowflake has looked awful. Hamsters live to 18 months to 2 years. We got her in July of 2009, so she made it to about 21 months. She was getting skinnier, sleeping a lot more, not having the energy and balance to climb around her cage as much, and was getting sticky eye. One day last week we went to take her out of her cage and her right eye was closed and looked kind of swollen. I looked up some info about this and found out that sticky eye is caused when hamsters get old. Since they sleep so much at this age, the fluid in their eye can act like a glue and stick the eye shut. We took a warm watered cottonball and cleaned her eye and she was able to open it, but then we had to keep cleaning her eye because it kept getting stuck shut.
When Evan called for me because he thought she was dead, I came and took the lid off the cage and felt her to see if she would move or if I could feel her body moving like she was breathing. No, nothing. Evan had knocked on her cage to make noise and see if she would move. When she didn't, he felt her body, then he called for me. We had held her and cleaned her eye yesterday, so she passed sometime within 24 hours of when Evan discovered her. She must have died in her sleep because she was curled up in her usual ball position in her nested bedding, but she was laying on her side with her eyes open. I'm sure she passed peacefully and in no pain.
Yes, Snowflake was just a little tiny hamster, but she was our family's first pet. Evan and I are allergic to cats and dogs, so a hamster turned out to be a good pet for us. She brought us much joy. She was fun to hold and watch run around in her cages and ball. Her favorite food was sunflower seeds--didn't matter what else we gave her to eat, she wanted the sunflower seeds. It was fun to put the seeds in a line and watch her like a vacuum cleaner suck them up in her mouth and you could see her cheeks get really fat. Then she wanted to take them to her cage and it was like you were listening to a machine gun as she spit the seeds out. She would stand on her hind legs almost like she was begging at times. It was so cute to watch her clean herself with her little paws. The kids named her Snowflake because she was a Winter White hamster who in the wild supposedly turned white--she never turned white for us. She was a nice brown-gray color. We got to take her to Colorado on some visits and she was a great traveler, and we had a couple of families who nicely watched her for us during other travels. One family even had a grease fire at the time, but they made sure they got Snowflake out of their home so nothing would happen to her. (The family was fine, but they did have to do a little cleaning and I think repairing of their kitchen).
There were a few times Snowflake escaped her cage. One time I think we didn't find her for one or two days. Three of the times she escaped we found her because she got into the bottom stove drawer where the pots and pans lids are kept. There must be a hole in that drawer that she got into from crawling under the stove. We would hear the lids rattling around and know it was Snowflake. The other time she escaped, I was working in the kitchen and felt something run across my foot. I looked down and there was Snowflake standing on her hind legs looking at me like she was waiting for me to pick her up. Another time she escaped she got trapped in a sticky spider trap in our room. I woke up hearing this scratching sound thinking we had caught a mouse in the trap. I sat up in bed and I could see a tiny white cotton ball tail sticking out of the trap and I knew it was Snowflake. I had to open up the trap and cut her fur to get her unstuck.
The kids and I had church activities tonight, but when we got home, Roger had nicely put Snowflake in a match box with some bedding to make her comfortable. He had already dug a hole in the backyard. It was dark, so I decided not to take any pictures of the ceremony. Evan placed the box in the hole, and we all took turns saying how we would miss her and then scooping a shovel full of dirt on top of her. She was a wonderful little pet who we will all miss and remember. If you would like to see some pics of Snowflake when we first got her, click here.