First Published on the Riley and James website
by Shawn Finch, DVM
I would like to let you know my position on hamster-worth. With this information, you will be equipped to decide if you would like a normal, sane vet, or a vet like me. Unfortunately for those of you who would prefer a sane vet, you will probably only succeed in finding one who hides their hamster love better than I, not one with a rational, logical approach to the monetary value of a hamster. Very rarely, I run into a client who, when faced with a hamster treatment plan, says, “But this thing only cost me three bucks!” It happens with all pets, but seems to happen more often with the pocket pets. As a comedian once said about treating a sick hamster, “I wouldn’t pay to have my disposable lighter fixed!”
Since it is so infrequent, I suspect that many of you are as insane as I am. If your hamster is sick, and if you have the means to treat her, you bring her to me as if she is a tiny little dog and say, “I know it’s crazy, but do whatever she needs.” I would contend that some sorts of crazy are good.
My client list is as full of people who are as crazy as you and I, the good kind of crazy. And if you happen to be a sane person reading this, you now have been warned, and have the opportunity to find a rational, level-headed veterinarian. But you might as well read the stories. They are kind of fun.
Recently, I had a baby Robo hamster as a patient. Herbie had just been snatched from the mouth of a cat and rushed to us. Her little hamster exam was normal except for a large tear in her skin where her scruff should be. Unfortunately, that is the handle of a hamster, and it was missing. She was a very sweet little hamster, but a bit of a pinball. As my receptionist Rhonda and I played the part of pinball paddles to keep her from jumping off the treatment table, Rhonda, following my shouted directions, (I’m not sure why I was shouting—she wasn’t a particularly loud hamster) aimed the surgical glue at Herbie and dripped a drop of glue right on a wound edge. I took the half-second window of frozen hamster confusion to pinch the wound edges together, before Herbie started pinballing again.
I scooped her up to return the repaired hamster to her owner, when I realized her cute little round face fit perfectly in my closed fist, and she was now calm. In my defense, it was the end of a long day, and I have already told you that I am insane. I grabbed a Sharpie and drew little bunny ears and whiskers on my fist. If you have a friendly hamster, you have to try this!
Anyway, I had not warned the client I was insane, so I switched her pet to my other hand, switched my face to serious doctor, put my Sharpie hand in my pocket and returned her very small hamster to her with her very small hamster medicine.
The first veterinary hospital this client called would not see hamsters. Now look at what a great case they missed!
Another recent hamster case involved a hamster who did not even have an owner yet. I include her in my hamster stories because I think pets have inherent worth, not just worth because we project it onto them.
I was filling in at a different Banfield inside of a different Petsmart. I give you this background only to say, this Petsmart team is not used to my insanity. And I am used to Petsmart team members at my home Banfield perhaps rolling their eyes and saying “What’s this going to cost me?” but still handing over the hamster.
Anyways, I had been presented with a hamster who was, to use one of my favorite medical terms, a sickie. After my hamster exam, I handed the little white fluff back to the Petsmart team member and said, “She is going to need surgery.” She said, as any sane person would, “It’s a hamster.” I said, “I know. She needs surgery.”
Well, she did have surgery. All of the supplies were donated by that Banfield’s regular doctor, and I donated the surgery itself, and she was adopted by a different Petsmart employee at that store, a crazy one. What sane person would adopt a sickie and put herself through the heartbreak of losing her very soon after? I have a lot of respect for that second employee, and would have set myself up for the same heartbreak, if there had not already been a waiting list to adopt the hamster.
I had a hamster patient with a severe open femoral fracture who needed his leg amputated. He is doing great a year later. I saw a hamster recently with the same history. He was running on his wheel and started limping. I had flashbacks to Amputation Hamster, but on examination, Joe had just injured a muscle and needed bed rest. I say that part, then the owners figure out how to talk the hamster into bed rest. They must have figured out how to explain it to Joe, because he also is doing well.
Those are some of my best hamster stories. Now hopefully you know if you and I are a good client-doctor match. I will not be offended if you sneak off, keeping a wary eye on me the whole time. But I will be happier if you think, “If she cares that much about these little fluffs, she will probably understand why my dog is so important to me and take my concerns and the sanctity of our human-animal bond seriously.” But not as happy as I was when drew the bunny ears on the hamster and hopped her around my desk.