Category Archives: Pets

Top 10 Posts from 2016

Intellectually I know 2016 wasn’t the worst year ever, but it was pretty bad; so let me have my grief before I move on. On my better days and a couple of glasses of wine, I try to see 2016 as a wake-up call. We’ve drifted from some essential human ingredients–some of which we know and others that gobsmacked us seemingly out of nowhere. So it’s time to face that, and I tell myself to suck it up, buttercup. Of course, we still need to laugh and wisecrack on the way to saving the world. Princess Leia and Hans Solo taught us that.

And in that spirit, I present to you the top 10 posts for the year, selected by your interest; you guys have good taste. It’s a balanced mix of serious, funny, and frivolous.

Thank you for allowing me to butt into your life with my random musings. Thank you for telling me you liked a post that I was unsure about or that I enjoyed writing. Most of all, thank you for just being here with me. It means a lot.

10. This one is a good reminder to keep checking my own biases and little (or big) judgy ways. Please forgive my unfettered Anglophile-ness. It’s a Blonde Line Between Love and Hate

9. Ah, Collegepalooza 2016. The applications should be done by now–surely I can trust my teen, right? Right? Well, we’ll always have rubber bands. Snap to It

8. Oh, perimenopause! You blogging gift from the gods. Although I fear that your weird pains will be eclipsed by the PITA prez (pain in the ass). The Mother of All Aches and Pains

7. And when all else fails, look at the cute hamster to make you smile, take a deep breath, and get beck in the ring. Cute Hamsters Is All I Got

6. Some days it’s all I can do to be verbal, so “kind” seems like a stretch. Looking at hamsters is probably a good start. Nice, My Ass

5. Sometimes you stand and fight, and other times, you flee. Alpha Flee

4. Dancing is good. Dancing with a cast can be even better. It’s not a bad reminder that barriers mostly exist in our minds. You Should Be Dancing Part II

3. Here’s the much-needed frivolous post, strategically placed before the impossible politics. For Fart’s Sake

2. Darth Vader is out there. Grab your light saber and your blaster, we’re making a run for the Millennium Falcon. Time to Get Busy

  1. I love that two dancing posts made it in the top 10, but I wish I hadn’t had to  write this one. Dancing Should Not Be an Act of Courage

In 2017, I promise to keep writing, laughing, fighting, and being Sandy.

The Hamster’s All Right

I wrote a while back that our current hamster, Marble, needed to have surgery to remove a growth on his nether regions. Now you shouldn’t confuse this with the post I did about our previous hamster, Hamphrey, who also needed surgery in his nether regions, resulting in, sad to say, no more nether regions. I admit, many dollars later, I may be a little bit over having male hamsters at this point. 

However, Marble not only got to keep his hamster manliness intact, he’s doing fine and swaggering around, taking his antibiotics like a champ. The biopsy came back, because you know in a world where a hamster biopsy is possible, why wouldn’t you have one? A friend suggested perhaps they just throw it away and pick random things to tell you from a spinning wheel. I choose not to be that cynical. At least not at $200 a pop. Turns out it was cancerous, but they think they got it all. We’re supposed to keep an eye on him, but he’s a hamster, so there’s probably a good chance he’ll live out the rest of his 2-year life span with no more more trips to the vet. Or at least at that point I can look into hamster hospice. 

They are cute and pull at your heart strings, so what can you do? Here’s to a long hamster life Marble. 

I Would Have Gotten Away with It, if It Weren’t for that Meddling Hamster

So I published this two years ago, and I’m having deja vu. I took the new(ish) hamster, Marble, to the vet this week, and he needs to have something removed from his balls. He’s adorable, but I would like to say for the record that I’m done with male hamsters and their ball issues. And before you ask, as a number of my friends already have, my kid is waaaaay too old and attached for me to put Marble down and get a new one because it’s less expensive than surgery. Look, I get he’s a hamster and doesn’t register much in the pet kingdom, but in the kid kingdom, he is the bee’s knees. So, in honor of laying out yet another three figure amount in the name of pets, here’s the post from two years ago.

This week I joined the ranks of what I used to think of as the Crazy Pet People, but now think of more as the Concerned and Highly Responsible Pet Owners. I grew up in the time when the only reason you took your pets to vet was to end their misery, and you’d hear your parents complain about the bill for months after. I owned my last cats in 1990, way before people were spending $56 billion smackers a year on their pets. And for the record, I did NOT take them to the vet then—I became allergic and sent them to live a good friend. I like to hide my secret relief at not having to lay out serious cash on pet wellness and health care that rivals humans by secretly shaking my head at those crazy pet people, acting like their pets are people. I’ve gotten away with it too for quite a while—long enough to foster some hubris on the topic. When my son reached pet-wanting age, my and his father’s cat allergies and my incompatibility with dogs left him with a pretty short list of possibilities: fish, turtles, and small furry creatures. We started with two successive goldfish. Dorothy lasted about a year, but Baby Dorothy had some digestive issues that required a special diet. Despite the fact that I hand-fed her mashed peas, she left the mortal coil after a few months. That should have been the red flag for me. I was hand-feeding. A fish. Peas. Why? Because she was my son’s pet, and he loved her. That, I told myself, was much different from what those Crazy Pet People do.

Two fish funerals in a short time took its emotional toll on my son, and so we laid low on the pet front for a while. When the hamster request became frequent and steady, we agreed to get him a hamster for his birthday. He picked Nibbles, who was up for adoption at the pet store; his previous owner was no longer able to care for him. I was brimming with pride, both at my son’s compassionate choice, and at Nibble’s exceptional talents; he placed third in the Petco Hamster Ball Derby that year. Mostly, Nibbles was a healthy and maintenance-free hamster. At least from a vet’s perspective. He did escape from his cage numerous times, holing up under the dishwasher for 36 hours once and getting specked with black gunk after about 6 hours of roaming under the baseboards. But he was none the worse for wear. One weird episode involved us cleaning his cage during the day. Hamsters are nocturnal, so we had to wake him up to do it. He wasn’t right for three days after that—sleeping day and night, except for a few feeble attempts to walk in his wheel. He’d walked for a few minutes, then seemed confused at why he was there and retreat to his house. I lay awake listening for the sound of the wheel, and then convinced we’d killed him, I checked on him in the middle of the night. He finally perked up all on his own, and the only other help he needed was when he was very old (at age three) and we turned his cage into a one-level assisted living facility for him. But, you know, none of that was crazy, it was logical animal care.

After a few months of mourning Nibbles, my son was ready for a second hamster, and why not? Since we’d weathered one hamster’s life vet-free, the idea of it went completely out of my head. And for our first year with Hamphrey, we continued in that self-delusional fantasy. That is, until last Tuesday. My son picked up Hamphrey and said, “What’s that?” There something slightly larger than a Cocoa Puff on him, and the color was not any color a mammal should be sporting. Although I previously had not consciously defined for myself what size a weird growth needed to be for me to consider a vet, apparently it’s slightly larger than a Cocoa Puff. So there I was, making awkward calls from work, first finding a vet who treats what one vet website called “pocket pets” and then describing the problem. I was acutely aware that to people who don’t own pets, on the scale of legitimate pet issues, Hamphrey’s was just above fish digestive issues. Lucky for me the Concerned and Highly Responsible Pet Owners at the vet fell over themselves when I showed up in the waiting room with the cage. All dog owners, they oohed at Hamphrey’s well-timed,head poke out of his house, exclaimed his cuteness, and peppered me with questions about him, including his ailment.

The vet examined him thoroughly, which I was very grateful for. But it was also kind of hard to take seriously, I mean, when she looked in his eyes, ears, and even in his tiny nose, what could she possibly see in there? I was mildly amused until she started talking about surgery, the risks, and a specialist south of Boston. And there I was, in that place I’d avoided for so long. Trying to make a difficult, expensive health care decision for a small animal with a three-year life span and hold on my son’s heart. Of course I considered it, because I’m a Concerned and Highly Responsible Pet Owner. What made me hesitate was that surgery was probably just as risky as doing nothing—the anesthesia alone could kill him, and how the heck do you administer it? With a little mask? So as my mind was racing about how I would explain this all to my son, we came back to the more basic approach, trying to clean up the Cocoa Puff. So they took him off for about 10 minutes. When they returned, the Cocoa Puff was gone, there was a small wound, and I swear Hamphrey looked relieved. Seems like it was an infected cut, and not some big scary tumor. Phew. And $107 later, that is how I joined your ranks. Now if you’ll excuse me, Hamphrey needs his antibiotics, ointment applied, and a foot rub.

Photo: Marble the newish hamster in all his cuteness.

The Birds

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the world is not only just coming apart at the seams, but that a pissed off tailor has been left with one too many unpaid wedding gowns with expensive alterations, has lost his shit, and is grabbing the fabric of our world in one hand and a seam ripper in the other and is splitting us wide open in a primal, mad rage. I can’t really blame him —  in my post-married state, weddings still kind of piss me off too, although I’m working on that.

And in this heightened state of mad-tailor-seam-ripping, I think paranoia may be tapping at my door, or at the very least I’m having vague thoughts that we are headed for some kind of post-apocalyptic Mad Max world. Why you may ask? Unusual birds have begun to appear in my neighborhood, and rather than simply thinking that’s interesting or encouraging me to take up bird watching, I’m doing a Hans Solo and having a bad feeling about it. I’m thinking there’s a good reason Hitchcock picked birds for his movie and not, say, cockroaches, which are creepy and disgusting, but let’s face it, they can’t peck your eyes out. Birds are innocent and lovely to behold alone or in small groups, but there is something disturbing about them gathering by the hundreds in a tree; or finding them alone in an unlikely place, and they look at you with beady eyes as if to say, “I can have 1,000 eyeball-pecking birds here before you can tweet about my creepy stare.”

You see, a block from my house, I saw a chicken strutting in a straight line from right to left across a front lawn. I live in urban Revere, and believe me this is not a get-chickens-as-a-status-symbol type place. My instinct was to protect my eyes and call animal control. I mean even if there were a family that felt the need to have chickens, aren’t you supposed to keep them all together in a coop? And if you’ve let them loose, where are the others? I tried to peek around the back of the house to see if there was a coop, but I didn’t want to be too obvious. Although my neighborhood isn’t rough by any stretch of the imagination, it is inhabited by descendants of Italians, and they generally don’t take kindly to people poking around in their business.

Instead, I took a surreptitious photo and posted it on Facebook with the caption, “Chicken in Revere!” and moved on. That is, until a few weeks later, when I drove by the same house and saw a turkey striding across the same front lawn, in the same straight line, from the right side of the yard to the left. Only this time I couldn’t even get a picture because there were three other people crowding on the sidewalk taking one. That same day a friend posted a picture of a turkey she saw in the street near the station as she was getting off the commuter train. Hers seemed to be a wild turkey, and I would have thought the same of the one in Revere, only it was at the chicken house. I don’t think it’s paranoid to consider that in three years, I’ve seen no stray birds, and now the world is coming apart and I’ve seen two. At the same house. Gathering, one might say.

I joked on Facebook that I shuddered to think of what bird would be next. I was not amused by the person who suggested an ostrich or rhea, although I’d never heard of a rhea, so of course I had to look it up. I learned that rhea are a relative of the ostrich and are native to South America, so in my now paranoid mind, I decided it’s possible they could come overland to freak me out in Revere. Less likely is an ostrich, which would have to bust out of a zoo or commandeer a boat from Africa to come and get me. I’m telling you, at this point not much would surprise me, and I’m stocking up on canned goods, cigarettes, and booze.

So what bird did I see just a week or so later? One street over from the chicken/turkey house I saw a hawk floating in lazy, dangerous circles high up in the sky, very possibly looping over the chicken/turkey house. The circling implied to me that one false move on my part would lead to a swoop down and an eyeball pecking. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed. A guy walking his medium-sized dog was also looking up repeatedly at those calculated, lazy circles. He looked very much like a man who was deciding if the bird was capable of taking his dog. In these are trying and unpredictable times, I’d put my money on the bird.

So there you have it– a chicken, turkey, and a bird of prey. And, no, they don’t walk into a bar, but they may very well be plotting something. What’s next? I have no idea, but if you see a news story about a body in Revere being pecked to the bone by birds, just remember: it starts with a damn chicken.

Hell’s Angels Are Back, the Four-Legged Version

I pulled out some little used breakfast bars from the rotating shelf of my cupboard the other day to find they had already been enjoyed by small furry things that are not our hamster Marble, who is too nervous to leave his cage, even if you leave the door wide open; forget about going on safari to the kitchen. No, these hooligans had managed to find the only food I haven’t sealed up in a plastic box. After moving to this apartment two years ago, the ne’er-do-well marauders showed up. I’d had mice at my last place, and learned the hard way not to leave unsealed food around. The mice at my other place had also discovered our hamster’s food supply. One night I passed the cage on the way to the bathroom, and saw the hamster running in the wheel, ignoring the startled little hellion tearing around the cage and frantically squeezing himself between the metal bars. As he shot out of the cage, he catapulted into the nearby Kleenex box, and then panicked and ran around blindly in the tissues, while I picked up the box up and sent him on his way to meet his maker. It was like a goddamn miniature Cirque du Soleil.

But when I moved I became lax at the new place and had unsealed food in the cupboard, on my counter, and in my pantry.  Once I saw out of the corner of my eye the telltale dark blur dart across my white, tiled kitchen floor, I heaved a sigh, and went about sealing up food, setting the traps, and was ready to resume my mouse-free life in a few weeks.

But this turned out to be the Hell’s Angels gang of mice, with particular tastes. I had followed the advice of my previous exterminator and the online experts and set the traps with peanut butter, the most effective bait, they all assured me. Except if you have a roving gang of hooligans. Then they sit around the trap, laughing at the untouched peanut butter, smoking cigarettes, swigging whisky from a flask, and nibbling on the M&Ms and the chocolate chip cookies they scored from unopened bags.

So I thought I was being clever and began baiting the traps with chocolate, but they had another good laugh at that. They ignored the chocolate and had moved on to terrorizing taco sauce packets and the boxes of juice bags stored away from the other food. At least ten bags had little bite holes slowly leaking out juice everywhere. I started to think these were urban super mice that had escaped from some university lab where they were being bred to taste-test foods for marketing companies. But something had gone horribly wrong and they were roving the streets pillaging, rampaging, and making me feel like Bill Murray’s character in Caddy Shack.

When I told my sister about them, she had even weirder food stories about the mice in her and my brother-in-law’s house in Vermont. Those freaks seemed to have some sort of chemical dependency and chewed through a box of Brillo pads. Then they moved on to an entire bag of honey menthol cough drops. When that source dried up, they needed a bigger high and chewed a hole in a bottle of Clorox. And their big eff you to her was piling a perfect pyramid of sunflower seeds hulls under her pillow in her bed. Mind you her bedroom is on the floor above the utility room where the seeds were stored. No low-class mucking about in the mudroom for these entitled little bastards. They were sitting in her bed, reclining against her pillow and patting their filled bellies, high on Clorox, watching TV, and flicking the clicker, which they also enjoyed chewing on. You can’t tell me these are just animals going on instinct. I think they watch us and then do the things that will piss us off the most.

So how did I get rid of the first round of mice? I put sweet and spicy food near the trap and caught a few stupid young ones that way, and then sealed up everything else. The mouse gang got bored when there was nothing left to laugh at me about and moved on. All was well for two winters until my recent discovery of the telltale nibbles in the only place the last gang was never able to get to–that rotating shelf in the cupboard. God knows how they are getting to it. The shelves don’t touch the walls and then center pole is metal. I think this new gang is some sort of high-tech ninja team, rappelling in with Mission Impossible skills. Like the hooligans, they were also very specific about what they ate. Yes to the Nutri-Grain and Quaker bars, but no to the high-fiber cereal until it was the very last thing I sealed up. Welcome to middle-age you little bastards. I hope you pooped yourself to death.

Photo credit:


Introducing Our New Furry Family Member: Marble

A few months ago we said goodbye to Hamphrey, our beloved hamster and occasional muse/savior of this blog (Hamphrey snoring in the cutest way everSanta Hamphrey and Hamphrey inspiring me to be one of those pet people). We recently decided we were ready for another furry friend, so here he is making his blog debut: I give you Marble.

He’s already proving to have some spunk. I had to take 37 photos of him before I could get the one above, and this was in the morning, when he’s supposed to be sleepy and more susceptible to my Jedi mind tricks, or at least the promise of a carrot. Here’s what most of the other pictures look like:

Marblemoving1 marblemoving2



I’m thinking he will be more like our first hamster, Nibbles, who was a poster hamster for being active. My theory is he lived longer (for a hamster, anyway) as a result. Nibbles would always rather be rolling around in his ball. The few times we left the cage door open he escaped and set up his man cave underneath our dishwasher, complete with food and bedding, or we found him in the room furthest from his cage looking disheveled and dirty as if he’d hiked through the Himalayas.

Hamphrey on the other hand was more of a homebody, and it was even money whether he’d go in the ball or sniff it politely before turning away and settling on his couch with a clicker and a bowl of sunflower seeds. He also needed surgery and just made it to his second birthday. Just sayin’.

So, welcome Marble; thanks  for taking part in my unscientific observations on the impact of exercise on hamsters, and we look forward to your general adorableness and any blog-worthy antics.

Goodbye Hamphrey

Just a short post this week. We salute and say goodbye to our little furry friend Hamphrey. He appeared in a number of my posts last year—he braved and survived surgery as described in the meddling hamster, he saved me when I flat-out had no blog ideas, and he began snoring in the cutest way ever,  and then he wished everyone happy holidays.

We noticed he was slowing down as he approached his second birthday, so we had a little party for him a few weeks ago. The picture above is him enjoying (or at least tolerating) our human shenanigans around his birthday. He was sweet and a homebody, had a beautiful coat, and preferred carrots and peas over fruit. Goodbye Hamphrey, we will miss you.

Hamphrey after his surgery last year.



Hamphey getting his holiday cheer on.

hamprhey santa