I truly do.
Perhaps I should start at the very beginning.
For a few years now I have happily lived in a typical student residence. While it is not a fraternity house of any kind, it is at least as unhygienic as one. Take our cleaning schedule for example; We've had a system where failure to do ones cleaning tasks was fined with paying all other inhabitant one Euro. This worked out marvelously of course, since none of us would do our task and it would all cancel out nicely. Now we find ourself in a more enlightened era where we've instituted a fine of 5 Euros for each day you are late with your task. (So buyouts are no longer an option. It's a stroke of pure genius. We know.) This works, and it's a guarantee an effort will be made to clean a certain area within 8-9 days. So yeah, it's pretty dirty around here.
Then a bright young soul amidst us suggested that having a house-pet would somehow be a Good Idea. After crossing out all the bigger poop factories, we decided on a hamster. Some of us had had one when we were young and knew they were pretty easy to care for and, besides that, cute as fuck.
So we thought about names, and another bright young fellow proposed the name Maximiliaan van Wuffelthe-Paalthe. Abbreviating his name by saying 'Max', it was decided, would be paid for by downing a pint.
Maximiliaan was one of the sweetest hamsters I ever saw. The little Russian Dwarf would walk on our couch and dive between the pillows, then peek out. We all loved the furry cutester to death.
Then after 6 months one of his eyes became permanently shut. It stayed like that for a couple of days, and we decided to try and clean his eye. Using the water bottle we dripped some water into the eye, and fortunately it popped open. It looked unharmed, and after that he was back to his old self again. It turns out that hamsters have very poor eyesight to start with, by the way. They rely almost entirely on sound & smell.
Then only a few days later he stopped eating, drinking and running around. He was lifeless, looked puffy, and his eyes had a dull look to them. We had no idea what had caused this.
- Now, while we didn't take household tasks very seriously, we all tried to take good care of the hamster. His cage was properly cleaned every week, along with all his toys. His sawdust would be refreshed weekly. He was provided with new food and a full, cleaned water bottle every day. We
did not neglect him.
The next evening we noticed the fur around his rectum was covered with feces. This happens when the animals get diarrhea. I had one more symptom to google for, and found that his illness was probably Wet Tail disease. It's a stress-induced disease that many young hamsters get where the bowels are upset and can no longer take up water. Consequently, the poor animal dies of dehydration. In that way, I imagine it's like what cholera is to us.
The next morning he barely moved about anymore at all. Sometimes he would just lie still in his cage, softly breathing. If he walked, it would look really trembly and shocky. The almighty interwebs told us that in this stage it would be too late to get it to a vet. I felt sick to my stomach. A few hours later I witnessed him passing.
We buried him in a lawn facing our balcony.
So, two weeks ago, after having discussed it many times over, three of us decided to get a new hamster. The others didn't want a new one, so we figured we'd take turns having him in our rooms. The lady at the pet store was pretty upset when we told her what had happened to Maximiliaan, though. "You should have told us!" She said. "You should have brought it to a vet!". We bought a special powder to disinfect the cage.
He's been here more than a full week now, and I'm slightly getting used to the presence of a another living animal sleeping in my room. The female human kind is a little more scarce, I'm afraid. Hopefully the quiet corner I've given him is quiet enough, seeing as I'm trying to avoid stress as much as possible. I'm slowly bonding with it, although I'm still hesitant to pick the little guy up since he seems to like biting a lot. I think it might have to do with being nastily dog bitten during my childhood. Or maybe I'm just a big wuss.
Anyhow, while taking care of him daily I started realizing how similar our predicaments are. On the one hand, there's Leopold, sitting in his cage, relying on me to provide him with food, water, and maybe even a little social interaction. And on the other hand, there's me living, working, and sleeping in my room, relying on a government scholarship (which is standard here) to pay for my expenses.
If only someone would pick us up.