Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Requies-hamster In Pace

Location: The reception area of a vet's.
Characters: Vet, Receptionist, M.

M: I'd like someone to look at a hamster. (SHE SHOVES A SHOEBOX AT THE RECEPTIONIST WHO RECOILS.)
Receptionist: It, um, doesn't look very well ...
M: Which is why I'm here.
Receptionist: I'll call the vet.
Vet: So, a poorly hamster?
M: Yes.
Vet: Let's have a look then. (SHE PEERS INTO THE BOX.) I'm afraid this hamster is already dead.
M (PEERING INTO BOX): No, look, he's still breathing.
M: Yes, see there - his chest is moving.
Vet (NARROWING HER EYES): Only just. Right I'll put him in a tent. (SHE PICKS UP THE BOX AND RUSHES THROUGH A DOOR.)
M: A tent?
Receptionist: An oxygen tent.
M: An oxygen tent? For a hamster?
Receptionist (TAPPING ON A KEYBOARD): Name?
M: Moptop.
Receptionist: Not you, the hamster.
M: Oh. Buster.
Receptionist: Surname?
M: He's a hamster. He doesn't have a surname.
Receptionist (SIGHING): Your surname?
M: Oh, Smith.
Receptionist (HANDING OVER A PIECE OF PAPER): Phone at lunch time and we'll tell you how Buster Smith is getting on.
M: Buster Smith?
Receptionist: Your hamster.
M: Oh, yes, of course.

Now, before I go any further with this story I have to make it clear that I do not tie fireworks to cats' tails, nor do I kick elderly retrievers when they stray into my path. And I've never put paracetamol into a goldfish bowl because 'Chips' was looking peaky. I am nice to animals. Truly, I am. I donated money to a donkey sanctuary only last week.

I mention this because the previous time I told this story I got hate mail. Don't send me hate mail.

Lunch time later that day. A telephone conversation.

M: I'm phoning to ask how Buster - Buster Smith - is doing. He's a hamster.
Receptionist: Yes, I've got a note here from the Vet. Buster's responded to the oxygen and is now off the drip -
M: Drip?
Receptionist: Antibiotics. He's rallied and has nibbled a sunflower seed.
M: Is that good?
Receptionist: Considering he was virtually dead this morning, I'd say it was very good.
M: Is he allowed visitors?
Receptionist: Come after school. 4 o'clock.

I was relieved. Buster was a much-loved hamster - though not much-loved by me. He was enormously rat-like, with long, shaggy grey fur, had poor toilet hygiene and generally smelled dreadful. He escaped from his cage on a regular basis and was awfully difficult to recapture. But Small Boy loved him and since the dwarf rabbits were stolen from the back garden the previous Christmas Eve (hopefully as a gift and not for the pot) he had pinned all his affections on Buster. Small Boy was sitting SATs that week and had trouble remembering his own name (by his own admission) so a seriously ill hamster was likely to send him seriously off course ...

4 o'clock, back at the Vet's

M: Hello again. We've come to visit Buster Smith.
Receptionist (GRAVE-FACED): I'll just get the Vet.
Small Boy: Can I see Buster?
M: In a minute.
Vet ( EVEN MORE GRAVE-FACED): I'm afraid I have some bad news for you.
Vet: Buster took a turn for the worse ...
Small Boy: Where's Buster, Mum?
Vet: We did everything we could -
Vet: More oxygen, cardiac massage ...
M: Cardiac massage?
Vet: I'm afraid he passed away this afternoon. (SHE LAYS A GENTLE HAND ON M'S ARM.) These things are never easy. (BEAT.) I'll get his remains for you.
Small Boy: Where's Buster?
M (GENTLY): Buster was very ill, darling. The vet couldn't make him better.
Small Boy: Buster's dead?
Receptionist (SHOUTING OVER ALL THE NOISE.): That'll be £68, please.
M: What?
Receptionist: £68. We take cheques.
M (MUTTERING): He only cost £3.00 in the first place. I could have bought twenty new hamsters for that!*
Receptionist (LOUDLY): Although his tail has wagged its last -
M: Pardon?
Receptionist: It's a poem we recite at times like this. People say it helps. Although his tail has wagged its last -
M: He was a hamster. He didn't have a tail!
Receptionist: Oh dear. Now's not the time. I'll pop it in the post. (BEAT.) May I see your bank card, please?

* This is the line which inspires the hate mail. And, yes, I know money should be no object when it comes to easing the suffering of a poor, dumb, helpless animal. And I know I should have been prepared to spend £3,000 if that's what it took to make Buster better and that proper pet owners don't put a price tag on their pet's welfare. And, yes, I know telling this story as an amusing anecdote is in very poor taste. And I know people like me don't deserve to have pets.

Is that it? Or have I missed anything?

P.S. We had a very nice funeral. And ate beans for a week.

P.P.S. That is not a photograph of Buster, who was at least four times the size of that cute little hamster.


  1. Did you mean "requiescat in pace?" Or requies-hamster in pace?

  2. I prefer your second option. I'll edit immediately.

  3. hamsters are pe(s)ts to cherish, like poodles.

    I once looked after 2 male hamsters for a friend on holiday. Within days they had become 5 hamsters. I accidentally dribbled some marinade on their cage from a bowl sitting on the shelf above and 3 of them died that day. The dog, also a creature I was looking after temporarily, got the other two. When my friend came back she was glad they'd gone, she didn't really want them in the first place and now she had me to blame for their demise.

    This comment may have deflected any hate mail from your post. I hope you are duly grateful.

  4. I remember laughing my head off when you told me this sorry tail, so there'll be no hate mail from me... although I don't remember the bit with the receptionist and the poem - you're not EMBELLISHING your stories are you, Moptop? And you do realise your life is a sitcom, don't you?
    My brother's hamster, Ginger (ninja would have been more apt) was dead for weeks before we realised - we thought he was hibernating.

  5. Friko - I am more grateful than you can possibly imagine. At least I never tried to marinate Buster ...

    BB - I still have the poem which arrived in the post with a sympathy card a week after Buster's demise. I think it was a one-size-fits-all dead pet poem, mainly geared towards dogs.

  6. If only I'd had it when Citizen Kane came to his unseemly end.

  7. Orson Welles died of indigestion too, didn't he? Or was it dyspepsia...?

  8. Male cat, liked to play with cars.
    Could have bought a Vespa.
    Probably should have.

  9. The untimely demise of one Buster
    set his owner in rather a fluster,
    but poor Mum - she looked glum
    with the bill still to come
    for the one to loose out would be just her!

  10. O, Jinksy! A limerick lament in honour of the late Buster. I feel very honoured :o)

  11. A hamster who went to the vet
    Did not look as though he'd gone yet.
    In the end, though, he did
    Costing sixty-eight quid
    Which caused pain to the owner, you bet.

  12. O, this is delightful! I am SO glad the hamster died!

    (Obviously I mean this poetically not literally.)

  13. Upon Buster's tragic demise
    A tear came to poor Moptop's eyes
    Though she mourns for her rat
    It's much more than that
    Purses weep when a fluffy thing dies

  14. Unbelievable how the poetic floodgates open for the demise of a hamster. It IS true, then, that the British care more for animals than they do human beings. Well, the British excepting you, of course.

    I was awakened one winter morning very early by Eldest Son having a pee and complaining loudly that there was a dead hamster on the bathmat. Piecing together the story later, discovered that hamster had escaped in the night and run back and forth across Eldest Son's face, who was annoyed and pushed him off. A bit hard, I suspected. The poor thing probably only just made it to the bathmat before he expired. And I wasn't sorry, except that Youngest Son cried for about 2 1/2 years.

  15. A feel an anthology coming on: Buster's Demise (An anthology of poems as short as his tail.)

    Deborah - I am very sorry your son was so distressed at having murdered his hamster, but your final sentence had me in stitches.