“Hey, look!” Anna said as she made her way down the stairs. “Rhino is asleep in his food bowl.”
Huh! So he was.
Only he wasn’t really asleep — I mean unless we’re talking metaphorically, as in “The Great Sleep,” or “Rhino has found his eternal resting place in the food bowl.”
But Rhino was dead. There was no sugarcoating this one.
We got the hamster for my now 11-year-old daughter for her ninth birthday. Actually, that’s not altogether true. We first bought her another hamster named “Pickles”, but Pickles “fell asleep” about 3 hours after all the candles were blown out, so he was quickly replaced the next day… with Rhino.
Rhino was a good hamster, I suppose. He basically kept to himself, running ‘round and ‘round at nighttime on his little hamster wheel… and then pretty much eating (when we remembered to feed him) and drinking from the bottle that still hangs, half empty, from his cage. That was it, really. He never caused too much trouble, and he only escaped his cage a couple of times.
One time, after cleaning his cage, Anna forgot to secure the latch, so he ventured out for a brief 10–12 minutes of freedom before being plunked back into the comfort of home amongst the Aspen wood chips and various hamster toys we’d gifted him throughout the previous weeks and months.
We’re not really clear as to how he got out the other time, but I’m convinced our cat is smarter than we make him out to be.
Anna rarely played with Rhino. Sometimes she’d take him out so he could roll around in a clear, plastic ball, but mostly he just did his thing… in his cage… in the corner of the room… Alone.
I can’t help but to feel a little sliver of guilt about poor Rhino. Never once did I rub, pet, hold or gaze upon him with anything other than disdain. I’d curse him on the way to the store, flabergasted as to why I was going out of my way to spend $8.79 on food for something we would kill with a broom had we not given him a name and placed him in a cage… in the corner of the room… Alone.
Alas, he was a good hamster, I suppose.
When asked what we should “do with the body,” I looked at my little teary-eyed girl and told her that trash pick-up was scheduled for tomorrow, so we’d just put him in a grocery sack and let them handle it. As she stood there mouth gaping, my wife pointed me in the direction of the shovel in the garage and simply said, “go.”
Rhino’s final, eternal, big sleep, resting place is now behind the swing set, in a small hole, under a rock… in the corner of the back yard… alone.
Farewell, dear Rhino. I’m sorry we didn’t feed you more. May you sleep in peace.