Please Don't Eat the Sock in the Freezer
By Margie Bailey Rose
When middle daughter's beloved cat was killed by a car on the street in front of our condo she fell into deep sadness. I pondered over a replacement pet or hobby to distract her from despair. Usually I tried to avoid the acquisition of new pets, but my recent divorce, and moving from our home of ten years, added to my guilt over the death of St. Stephen. He was not used to busy streets and the strange house. Perhaps he was trying to go home as my daughter wished she could. Just this once I would willingly bring a pet into the house to help #5 smile again.
We considered this pet and that, rejecting most out of hand. It needed to be something cuddly and cute that would not get out when the door opened but could be held and played with. Maybe a hamster– the teddy-bear type was appealing. Oldest daughter had a hamster many years earlier. It crawled into the couch, and I had to cut off the couch lining to get it out. Our current couch was a hide-a-bed with no-where-to-hide so a hamster might be OK. Madam Gloom and Doom was not as excited as the rest of us, but we hoped "Teddy" would grow on her.
There seemed to be something about our house that fostered breeding, because we soon had two hamsters: then babies, more cages (which they promptly chewed up) and exercise wheels and balls, climbing gyms, and toys. The family was having fun with the hamsters but #5 was still sad. A hamster is just not the same kind of friend as a beloved cat– or dog if you lean that way.
We sold some of the babies and gave away others. One of the adults chewed through the lid on the fish tank one-time-too-many and was never seen again, although there was a smell from behind the dishwasher for a few weeks So we were down to the original Teddy. One day I noticed that he was in the same position in the corner of his cage as he had been the day before. I gave him a poke. There was no movement and the stiffness of his body under the fluffy fur let me know death had not been recent. What to do? With another pet dead, daughter would surely need therapy.
Number 4 and I devised a plan. So next morning while #5 was in school we would put the hamster in the freezer so it wouldn't deteriorate and search for a replacement hamster. I put the dead body in one of #3's socks and put a sign on the door saying "Don't eat the sock in the freezer." When #3 came home from college he usually ate everything in the fridge that didn't have a note on it, and I hadn't seen him to tell him the plan. Number 4 was also in college and promised to check a pet shop close to her school when her classes were over for the day. She usually arrived home before her sister so she could put the live hamster in the cage, or replace the dead one if her search was unsuccessful.
I went to a pet store near my work at lunch but had no luck. Either the woolly hamsters were the wrong color or the wrong size, or they didn't have any at all. The adults in our family hit every pet shop in San Diego County in the next three days as the sock traveled in and out of the freezer. We carefully covered the dead body in shavings each night with only a little fur showing.
That evening despondent daughter walked into the kitchen and caught the conspirators whispering about what we should do next. She solved our problem by announcing, "That hamster has been dead for days, and it would be a good idea if someone buries it or the house will soon smell like the dishwasher."
She still laughs herself silly when she remembers the looks on our faces.