In early April 2020, when we knew lockdown wasn’t going to be for just a few weeks, I posted about our deciding to get a new hamster after my younger son had lost two in quick succession. I wrote then, “Whatever happens, I will be grateful if Potato gets us through this pandemic.” Turns out that is exactly what she did.
Our kids returned to school this Wednesday, August 25, and came home happy and excited and tired. Potato took her last labored breaths on Thursday, August 26, after we’d put the kids to bed and I’d wakened her for her medications. We had been worried about Potato, who had already been to the vet a month earlier for hair loss on one haunch, where an X-ray revealed an enlarged heart. After dropping my younger son off on Wednesday morning, I took Potato back to the vet for a follow-up because she seemed to be faring much worse, sleeping a lot, lethargic, sometimes trembling. On this visit, the vet confirmed that her heart looked worse and there was some fluid in the lungs. She sent me home with three different medications I would need to administer “for life” with tiny syringes that measured liquids in 0.01 cc increments.
Today, August 27, we held a funeral for Potato, planned by our animal-loving 9-year-old (“this is the first funeral I’ve planned or been to”). I found a small box into which we placed Potato with some bedding. He decorated the box and then wrote down the steps for the funeral on 3 orange post-it notes. We gathered on the couch with the box centered on the coffee table, carefully cleared of clutter by our son. He didn’t want me to share all the details, but some of the steps included each of us eating a ceremonial slice of apple, playing Classical music, and being sad (step #11: we are sad; step #12: still sad), and then finally, “we say goodbye.”
Of course, we are not remotely “through” the pandemic, but we have been slowly coming out of isolation and returning to the outside world: camp, work events, visits with family, and now, finally, a return to in-person school. Two years is a literal lifetime for a hamster, and her life with us made the past year and a half a little brighter.
Thank you, Potato. May you be running on your big wheel in the sky with apple pieces in your pouch. And thank you to my sweet, empathetic boy who put together probably the most dignified and loving send-off a hamster has ever gotten.