Copyright 1999 W. Bruce Cameron
I had to take my son's hamster to the vet. Here's what happened: Just after dinner one night, my son came up to tell me there was "something wrong" with one of the two hamsters he holds prisoner in his room.
"He's just lying there looking sick," he told me.
"Oldest trick in the book," I informed him. "You go in to see what's wrong with the sick one and the other one sneaks up behind you and bonks you on the head. Then they change into your clothes and escape."
"I'm serious, Dad. Can you help?"
I put a hamster-healer expression on my face and followed him into his bedroom. One of the little rodents was indeed lying on his back, looking distressed. I immediately knew what to do. "Honey," I called, "come look at the hamster!"
"Oh, my gosh," my wife diagnosed after a minute. "She's having babies."
"What?" my son demanded. "But their names are Bert and Ernie!"
I was equally outraged. "Hey, how can that be? I thought we said we didn't want them to reproduce," I accused my wife.
"Well, what did you want me to do, post a sign in their cage?" she inquired sarcastically.
"No, but you were supposed to get two boys!" I reminded her.
"Yeah, Bert and Ernie!" my son agreed.
"Well, it was a little hard to tell," she informed me.
By now the rest of the family had gathered to see what was going on. I shrugged, deciding to make the best of it. "Kids, this is going to be a wondrous experience," I announced. "We're about to witness the miracle of birth."
"Gross!" they shrieked.
"Great; what are we going to do with a litter of tiny little hamster babies?" my wife wanted to know.
"Well, when my parents' dog had puppies, I took them up to the grocery store in a cardboard box and gave them away," I recalled.
"So what are you going to do, go up with a pair of tweezers so people can pick out their hamster?" she asked.
We peered at the patient. After much struggling, what looked like a tiny foot would appear briefly, vanishing a scant second later. "We don't appear to be making much progress," I noted.
"A breech birth," my wife whispered, horrified.
"Do something, Dad!" my son urged.
"Okay, okay." Squeamishly, I reached in and grabbed the foot when it next appeared, giving it a gingerly tug. It disappeared. I tried again, with the same results.
"Should I dial 911?" my daughter wanted to know. "Maybe they could talk us through it."
"Let's get Ernie to the vet," I said grimly.
We drove to the vet with my son holding the cage in his lap. "Breathe, Ernie, breathe," he urged.
"I don't think hamsters do Lamaze," I told him.
The vet took Ernie back to the examining room and peered at the little animal through a magnifying glass. "What do you think, Doc, an epidural?" I suggested scientifically.
"Oh, very interesting," he murmured. "Mr. and Mrs. Cameron, may I speak to you privately for a moment?"
I gulped, nodding for my son to step outside. "Is Ernie going to be okay?" my wife asked.
"Oh, perfectly," the vet assured us. "This hamster is not in labor. In fact, that isn't EVER going to happen....Ernie is a boy."
"You see, Ernie is a young male. And occasionally, as they come into maturity, male hamsters will, ah..." He blushed, glancing at my wife. "Well, you know what I'm saying, Mr. Cameron."
We were silent, absorbing this. "So Ernie's just...just..."
"Excited?" my wife offered.
"Exactly," the vet replied, relieved that we understood.
More silence. Then my wife started to giggle. "What's so funny?" I demanded.
Tears were now running down her face. "Just...that...I'm picturing you pulling on its...its..." she gasped.
"That's enough," I warned. We thanked the veterinarian and hurriedly bundled the hamsters and our son back into the car. He was glad everything was going to be okay.
"I know Ernie's really thankful for what you've done, Dad," he told me.
"Oh, you have no idea," my wife agreed, collapsing into laughter as I gave her a dirty look.
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1999
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