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How NOT to euthanize a hamster
This is a...
Once upon a time, in my youth, I had two hamsters...Tarzan and Jane. Both were male, fortunately, otherwise I might have ended up with a lot more hamsters. Things were good for a couple of years.
One day, I noticed that Jane, my tiny little fawn-colored hamster, had an issue. Something large, pink and nasty looking was extruding from his ass end. It looked as if his intestines were trying to creep out and expand. It looked...painful. Jane didn't seem to be in any pain however and so I just monitored the situation, hoping that the hamster would expire of natural causes before I had to make a decision. Yes...THAT decision.
My family was not big on euthanasia. Parakeets keeled over in their cages and were found feet up the next morning. A turtle baked to death once when Mom accidentally moved his terrarium into a shaft of sunlight for an entire day. And dogs simply took one way trips with my father in his truck...and I was told that he had found them a better home. Not until much later would I even be familiar with the term or realize its availability.
That left me with a problem though regarding Jane. Instinctively I knew that the humane thing to do would be to "put him down." I just couldn't figure out how to do it painlessly. My thoughts turned to suicide...or rather, how people kill themselves.
I ran scenarios through my head. What sounded relatively painless? Carbon Monoxide poisoning seemed to be a popular choice. Unfortunately, it would still be a few years before I would have a car or a driver's license. Not to mention the amount of work involved trying to find a closed container and a hose of the proper length and size to fit a tail pipe.
A lot of people seemed to favor a drug overdose...perhaps something like that would work. But then again, I didn't have access to any really lethal drugs. Wait a second...weren't pills and alcohol supposed to be a deadly mix? My mind quickly raced through the contents of our house. We had alcohol. Sure the vodka might be a bit watered down because of my sister, who was snitching it and didn't think I knew...but it would still probably work. And we did have some Tylenol time release capsules in the medicine cabinet. I could break one of those apart and the contents should do the trick...
And of course, if that didn't work...there was always the toilet.
I shuddered just thinking about it and decided that Jane would just have to die of natural causes. There was no way I could do any of those things. And so...I waited.
Weeks later and Jane could no longer walk comfortably around his cage. The ass bulge kept dragging and it was starting to look irritated and messy. With reluctance, I reached into Jane's cage, lifted the small hamster out and looked it in the eye. Jane was suffering...up close, I could see it. There was no sense putting it off any longer...
I assembled the ingredients for the lethal cocktail...one capful of watered down Smirnoff vodka and the contents of a Tylenol capsule. My hand was shaking as I sucked up a portion of it into the eyedropper and carefully administered it to the hamster in my hand. Jane chewed on the Tylenol loudly. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Little by little I dosed my hamster until it began to sway from side to side. And then I waited...
About a half hour later, Jane lay on his back...the nasty butt growth fully visible. But instead of being dead, the hamster seemed to be fascinated with its own paws, sticking them in his mouth and rubbing them along his belly. Every once in a while there was a hiccup that shook his entire little furry body. The hamster was severely intoxicated...
With a sigh, I realized that this was just not working...and that left only one other option. The toilet. I didn't allow myself to think about it. Quickly I lifted the lid, deposited the hamster, shut the lid and fled the room. In the living room, I rocked back and forth in my mother's favorite chair...ticking off the seconds. In my mind's eye, all I could see was Jane, swimming desperately...drunkenly...in the toilet bowl...and I realized that I just couldn't do it. Immediately, I propelled myself from the chair and raced to the bathroom...lifted the lid...and sure enough, there was Jane, doing a mad doggy paddle. With relief, I reached in and retrieved my hamster, thankful that I had gotten there in time.
"I'm so sorry, Jane...I'm sorry. I can't do it. I know you are in pain...but I can't kill you," I cried stroking the wet fur with one finger, tears sliding down my cheek.
Jane looked at me...hiccupped once...and keeled over in my hand. Dead.
Now you would think that I would be relieved...mission accomplished. Jane was dead. But no...
"Jane!" I cried in horror, "Oh...no! Jane!!"
I started with chest compressions using my index finger. When that didn't work, I placed my mouth over Jane's Tidy Bowl flavored face and tried mouth to mouse resuscitation (I know...technically he was a hamster, but a mouse is a rodent too and it sounds better). Let me tell you something about that technique when employed on a hamster. It doesn't work. His little cheek pouches expanded and that was about it.
And that was how my mother found me when she arrived home...sitting in her chair with a dead hamster wrapped in a towel, rocking back and forth in the throes of grief and guilt.
I swore, from that day forward, that I would never again deliver death to an animal by my own hand. No matter how small a creature it was, I would gladly deliver it to a veterinarian and have them do it for me. I could excuse my actions due to youthful ignorance...but my conscience still pains me.