For months, The Wife and I have been talking almost non-stop about adding a new member to the Gnorb household. It’s been just the two of us since we got married and we felt we needed someone (or something) else around the house to keep us company, or vice versa. This, of course, led to many a conversation about us finally having kids, all of which ended with something along the lines of “We’re not economically steady enough for that now and, more importantly, we don’t feel we’re ready.”
For a long time, it seemed like we were both comfortable with that decision. But The Wife… I suppose her maternal instincts started going into overdrive the past few months. She talked more and more about needing something more, something that she could give her unconditional love and affection to (other than yours truly), something she could mother.
A few weeks ago, after one of our many conversations on the matter, we finally decided it was time to fill that gap in our lives. I wanted to make her happy. She longed for the “pitter-patter of little feet.” We decided on getting pet. Why a pet and not a baby? It was an economic decision, really. She wanted “pitter-patter” and we figured that pets are cheaper and have more feet.
The questions then became (1) “What kind of pet?” and (2) “When should we get it?”
After looking around for a bit, we narrowed our choices to the following pet possibilities:
- Guinea Pig
- Sea Monkeys
It didn’t take long for us to realize that due to our lifestyle we would need something which didn’t require much care. (We travel a fair amount.) Unfortunately for The Wife, this meant that we couldn’t get a dog. We also realized that “pet” was not just a noun, it was a verb; you have to be able to pet your pet, otherwise it’s not a pet, it’s just a decoration. That knocked both the fish and sea monkeys off of the list. Finally, since I’m allergic to cat dander, we decided against getting cats, which were actually my first choice.
In short order we had narrowed the list down to a handful of rodents. This suited me fine, since I’ve owned more mice, hamsters, and gerbils than just about anyone I know. (I could have added rats to that list but when I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t allow me to bring a rat home as a pet.) Though rodents aren’t the smartest creatures out there — they usually won’t greet you when you come home — they are generally easy to take care of.
I’ll digress for just a moment: One of the misconceptions I’ve had to deal with in the past (and recently) is the belief that all rodents stink. As a matter of fact, they don’t, not most of them. By far the smelliest rodents are ferrets. Unless their glands are removed, these snakes with fur can stink up a home within minutes. Mice are the second on that list, but only if you don’t clean the cages daily. (I presume rats are about the same.) I’ll add sugar gliders to that list, but that’s just hearsay. Those aside, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and ground squirrels are actually rather clean. Their cages start smelling bad if they’re not changed every week or so. (More often if there’s more than one in a cage.)
We went to the pet store last Sunday with the intent of just looking around and getting more information. At least she did; The Wife didn’t realize that I went with the intent of getting her a pet, sort of as a belayed Valentine’s day gift, since due to our schedules our Valentine’s day didn’t happen until that day.
As we walked in, we decided on a leisurely stroll through the various isles at the PETCO. (It’s a pretty big store.) After making it past the birds, cats, dogs, adoption centers, lizards, spiders, fish and every possible piece of animal-handling equipment, we finally got to the target: the rodents.
We went back and forth looking at all the rodents in stock. (All the while trying to ignore the horrible ferret smell. Man, those things stink.) I half-jokingly kept telling my wife that rats make wonderful pets, especially since you can teach them tricks. It didn’t take more than half a second for her to point at the rather large rat sleeping on top of his water bottle and retort an emphatic “no!” to all my suggestions. (Though she did find the rat sleeping on top of its water bottle rather amusing.)
They didn’t have any gerbils in stock, so we spent the next half hour looking at Russian Dwarf hamsters, Teddy Bear (Syrian) hamsters, Black Bear (European) hamsters, and guinea pigs. We found out that guinea pigs require a lot of attention. This fact was not lost on The Wife, as she quickly started telling me about a college friend of hers who owned a guinea pig. Every time that guy would open the refrigerator door, the guinea pig would whistle for a carrot stick, and it wouldn’t stop until it got one. “It was cute at first,” she said, “but it got soooo annoying.” Apparently, that wasn’t the only time the guinea pig whistled: it whistled for attention when the guy got back from school, whenever he walked into the kitchen, and at nights, for no apparent reason. In short, it was loud.
Although I didn’t particularly mind the idea of all that whistling — I like for my pets to know that I exist, especially when they’re happy about it — the fact that it requires so much attention is a turn off, at least now.
It looked like we were going to get a hamster.
We looked around for a few more minutes when I finally told my wife of my plans. She was excited, but also hesitant: the animals here were pretty expensive, (whatever happened to $3 hamsters?) and the equipment would probably come out to about $100. That’s a lot, especially for what is essentially a fat mouse without a tail.
It was just about that time that we ran into a friend of ours, Nick. Nick was at the store with his mom, and unbeknownst to us at the time, Nick and his mom were both avid rodent fans. For the next ten minutes he and his mom told us tale after tale of their experiences with various rodents: hamsters, guinea pigs, and sugar gliders.
As we were finishing the conversation we told them of our intent to buy a hamster that day. As luck would have it, Nick’s mom remembered that she had a coupon for a free hamster at another local pet store, Animal Mania. As soon as she gave us the coupon we knew our decision was written in stone. I mean, c’mon: it was a free hamster, saving us a whopping $9.00. We grabbed the coupon, told her thanks, and headed over to the other store.
(It’s funny how $9.00 can sway a potential $100 decision, isnâ€™t it? It’s called emotion, and if you’re in sales or marketing, this can make the difference between a sale and shut out.)
Finding Animal mania was a bit of a challenge, since the store is in an area of town we’re not too familiar with. It took a few minutes, but once we saw the 300ft2 neon green sign that said “PETS” we figured we were at the right place.
Unlike PetCo, Animal Mania felt more like a pet store than a super market. Whereas PetCo was well lit and air conditioned, Animal Mania was comfortably warm and looked more like a small Spanish bodega than a Publix. The store was somewhat small, so it didn’t take too long for us to find the hamsters. (Besides, it was 30 minutes before the store closed, so we weren’t in the browsing-for-fun mood.) Store size aside, the selection in this store was actually much wider than at the PetCo. Not only did Animal Mania have more hamsters and types of hamsters, it also had more types of rodents, including some we’d never seen before. Among which were these sleepy little buggers (ground squirrels), which were so incredibly cute we almost took one home.
“Almost” is the operative term here; at $90 each these were a bit out of our price range. We were, after all, looking for “free”.
Right beside the ground squirrels were the first batch of hamsters. This batch was made up of Syrian hamsters. (Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any Russian Dwarf hamsters in this pet store.) The tank beside it held all the European “Black Bear” hamsters. I guess they kept them separate for economic reasons: the Europeans were $10 each here, while the Syrians were $6.00. I guess they didn’t want them inter-breeding. (Well that, or they kept them separate to keep them from killing each other; take your pick.)
In both cages, all but one of the hamsters were sleeping. Capitalizing on what seemed to be a golden opportunity — getting a hamster that would sleep at nights instead of run around in a noisy wheel while we were sleeping — we decided to get that one. 10 minutes and $70 later (we had to get a cage, food, water bottle, timothy hay and litter…basic hamster stuff) we walked out with our new pet hamster.
(Actually we bought only a few things from Animal Mania, about $20 worth of stuff. We went to PetCo and bought the rest; they had a better selection of cages and toys. We ended up getting two cages, one for travel and the other, larger cage for when we were home.)
The Wife was happy, I was happy, and the hamster was making itself at home in the small travel cage we bought to tote him around in. Remember, a happy hamster is a hamster that presumably won’t bite you. Now the important question was at to name it?
On the way home we started tossing around a few names, but The Wife suggested we wait a day or two to figure out the hamster’s personality, and name her accordingly.
By the time we got home, the hamster had made a nice little bed in one of the corners of the travel cage. I figured the hamster would enjoy having more space, so we put her in the larger cage, to give her some room to run around in and play.
At first she was seemingly checking out the place, running back and forth and gettng acclimated with her new wheel. Suddenly, we started hearing this grunt.
*grunt* *grunt* *grunt*
“What’s that sound” The Wife asked.
“I don’t know. Sounds like the wheel,” I said.”
“Are you sure it isn’t the hamster?”
“No way. I’ve owned tons of hamsters, and I’ve never heard one make that kind of noise.”
The hamster started running around the cage, crawling up and biting the bars.
*grunt* *grunt* *grunt* *grunt*
It was her. She didn’t like it. She was getting agitated. Over what, I wasn’t sure. Could it be that she didn’t like the bigger cage? Immediately, The Wife grabbed the hamster and put her back in the small travel cage.
The hamster stopped grunting.
I couldn’t believe it. Here I was trying to find something nice and roomy for her, but she didn’t like it. Heck, she was screaming about how much she didn’t like it!
Eventually, I figured she didn’t like open spaces. I took a few small pieces of wood I got from a wine-bottle crate and built her a couple of little passages, houses and obstacles, stuff to cram up the space in the cage, and keep her entertained. I also got a couple toilet paper rolls (the carton inside) and put them in; hamsters love those things, both to play with and to chew. Finally, I put in an small, empty jar of popcorn kernels which had a big opening and which she could use as a bed.
“There,” I said, “Let’s see if this works.”
I put the hamster in and we crossed our fingers. If this didn’t work we’d have to take the cage back and exchange it for something smaller, probably made of plastic. Usually, though, those are harder to clean. The wire cages, like the one we got for her, tend to be easier to clean since you only take out the bottom tray. (This one doesn’t have the metal at the bottom, so the hamsters can still run around on and dig into the litter, while still making it easy to clean.)
The hamster ran around for a bit and — no grunt! She liked it! In fact, it didn’t take long for her to get comfortable with her new environment. After spending a few minutes running around, she went into the popcorn jar.
Over the next day we made the following observations:
- She has a lot of energy
- She is a cinnamon/mustard color
- She grunts/screams when she’s not happy
- She barricades herself in her popcorn jar
- She doesn’t like banana bread
With that in mind, we went online and did a search for “hamster names.” We actually found an Hamster Name Generator. Using the name generator’s name list we came up with the following list of possible names:
- Abrahamster Lincoln
- Screaming Hamster of Love
- Pocket Rocket
Talk about an interesting list. Of course, except for Sophie, no “normal” names were even considered. Why? Think about it: pets have names people wish they could give their kids. No person in their right mind is going to name their kid “Pork Bomb”, even thought they may secretly want to. You have to name kids boring names, like “Michael” and “Bryan”. Heck, you can’t even name a kid “Spot”, even though that’s a respectable, classic dog name.
This is where the Bible becomes real fun. Back then, apparently, people were named all kids of fun things like “Jabez” which means “I caused a lot of pain to my mom when I was born”, and “Mahalon and Chelion” which mean “Sickly and Spoiled Rotten” or something like that. Unfortunately, hippies blew our chance at getting back to cool names when they started naming kids lame-ass stoner names like “River Rainbow” and “Sun Majesty Swirlies Lieberman”. But I digress…
(For the record, the first name the hamster name generator gave us was “Crap”. I thought it was funny. The Wife, not so. She won.)
My favorite names from that list were “PV”, “Abrahamster Lincoln”, “Peeve” and “Screaming Hamster of Love.” (That last one was both appropriate — the hamster did have a habit of screaming — and funny, since it made everyone we spoke to about it laugh out loud.)
Her favorite names from that list were “Cinnamon”, “Sophie”, “Pepper”, “PV” and “Pocket Rocket.” (In an Oedipan moment of frightful revelation, those were the same names my mom picked. Creepy.)
After a little back and forth, including calls to our parents, advice from friends, and a meeting with our pastor (not really), we finally decided on “PV”. The hamsters name would be PV. Why “PV”? Is it an attitude? Is it an inside joke? Is it supposed to mean something? (If you’re really interested, drop me a line at my email address “n_o_r_b” a_t “g_n_o_r_b” d_o_t “n_e_t” (without any underscores; obfuscated so as to thwart spam bots) and I’ll show you the terrifyingly wonderful reason why.)
The wonderful thing about calling her PV was that (1) I could pronounce her name “Peeve”, as in “My pet, Peeve,” (although it’s actually “Pee Vee”) and (2) It was short enough that I could attach a title, like PhD, MD, or in this case “Screaming Hamster of Love.”
With that, say hello to the newest addition to the Gnorb family, PV: Screaming Hamster of Love.
NOTE: Yes, I realize this looks like of those cheesy “wow, my pets are cool” blog posts. Actually, it’s not. This is a “Gnorb is trying working on his story telling skills and he’s trying a few things” blog post. It just happens to be about his pet, who you’ll probably never hear about again except during holidays and when she dies. Live with it. Don’t like it? Read something else. While I’m at it, here’s a post to Subnixus for the Vegas giveaway thing.