Off-duty: The day the hamster died

I was looking around on Al Gore’s Internet when I came across a story titled: “How to Tell Your Kid the Goldfish Died.”

If you have kids, either by choice or the decision of the court, you have most likely come across the demise of a small pet. Fish, hamsters, the lovable pet dog, cats, and occasionally the small moose, are all part of the family who bite the dust much too soon — except in the case where we had cats. Those two couldn’t croak fast enough for me. They pooped on my pillow. I hated them. A man’s pillow should be poop-free.

My daughter Jennifer had a hamster. She named the hamster “Brooks.” I don’t know why you name a hamster Brooks, but Brooks was a fine hamster — as far as they go.

One afternoon, during a tea party with my daughter in her room — at the very small table and chairs — I was sitting in the really small chair, talking to my daughter while sipping something she said was tea but tasted more like gasoline, and wondering how I was going to get the really small chair off of my butt, which was now tightly wedged into said really small chair.

Brooks lived in a cage on top of Jen’s dresser. He, like other hamsters, was an accomplished wheel-runner. When he ran, the wheel made a noise. It was something that we were used to hearing in her room — especially at 3 a.m.

As I sipped the tea that tasted more like napalm while trying in vain to shake off the really small chair, I noticed there was no wheel-noise coming from the cage. I looked up and over my daughter’s shoulder –as she poured more oozing death in my cup — and confirmed the wheel was, in fact, not moving.

I sort of half-stood up to get a good look and then saw that Brooks was lying very still in the cage. Not good.

As my daughter asked me if I would like another cup of liquid rat poison, I realized that there was no doubt: Brooks was history, gone, yesterday’s news, wallpaper, worm food and now referred to as an ex-hamster. He was dead — belly up, feet-up-in-the-air dead.

I sat back — painfully so, now that the small chair had become a torture device. I was now faced with two options: Convincing my daughter that hamsters hibernated — starting today; or I could be a responsible parent and tell her that Brooks had gone to the great Critter-Trail-Snap-On Comfort Wheel in the sky.

Soon after she failed to buy the hibernation story, I sat my daughter down and talked about the great cycle of life, using flowers, as opposed to dead hamsters, as an example. She cried. I cried — mostly because of the really small chair.

When rat, mouse, hamster, parrot or ant farm tragedies happen in your family, let your child cry for a while and then immediately ask them for help in planning an elaborate memorial service. Most of the time the child will get caught up in the planning of the service and their attention will be diverted away from, in this case, a deceased rodent.

We decided to hold a service in the back yard. I got the traditional shoebox (11½”) and we all stood around and reminisced about Brooks and the three months that we knew him — or her — or whatever.

It didn’t take long. Brooks was laid to rest in the box, in a hole, under the pine straw, where the flowers would be planted in the spring. By then, Brooks would be paying dividends as a part of the rich soil.

It took about a day for Jennifer to recover from the loss. Soon she was back to normal. I realized I had successfully learned a valuable lesson about dealing with a child’s feelings.

I was about to learn another.

About a week later, we were sitting on the back porch. It was summer and it was a nice evening. I was facing out toward the back of the yard. Jennifer was sitting across from me, her back to the yard. As we talked, our dog came in from the back yard and I noticed her tail wagging much more than usual. She had something to show us.

Second valuable lesson: Dig a deeper hole.

14 comments Add your comment


November 13th, 2009
10:25 am

You know, for a cop, your a pretty good writer. I dig your humor.

puppy love

November 13th, 2009
11:10 am

;) Very funny. Dealing with pets death and kids is hard, I don’t think you did too bad!

Chris Broe

November 13th, 2009
3:55 pm

I love the taste of napalm in the morning……


November 13th, 2009
4:19 pm

Okay, I had tears in my eyes from the story. You are obviously a good dad!


November 13th, 2009
4:44 pm

Maybe she had an earlier napalm tea party with Brooks?


November 13th, 2009
4:57 pm

I’d be careful about having a small pet moose. A moose once bit my sister. She died from the moose bite.

As for parrots, make sure they’re not nailed to the perch. That’s a good sign they’ve shuffled off the mortal coil, or joined the choir invisible.

My mom always said that the gerbil/cat/dog/unicorn was no longer there, that what we had on our hands was just a shell, and the actual gerbil/cat/dog/demon from Hell was on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for us.


November 13th, 2009
4:57 pm

I love reading your stories..

Jen (your daughter)

November 13th, 2009
11:25 pm

I vaguely remember this. Don’t remember the tea party, definitely remember the box. Definitely remember Beaner digging up the hamster corpse.


November 14th, 2009
7:03 am


November 14th, 2009
7:17 am

Come on, now! You had a dog named Beaner, and you are wondering why a little girl would name a hamster Brooks? Steve keep up the great writing.


November 14th, 2009
9:10 am

Okay. Let me guess. Beaner was a Chihuahua.

Stubops (MofoJava Unplugged)

November 14th, 2009
9:14 am

Great story. Miss those and the cartoons from earlier days. Take care.


November 16th, 2009
7:44 am

OMG That was soo funny !( Yet sad for Brooks RIP Brooks) That made my day :) Thanks for the smile! Great story!


November 17th, 2009
1:29 pm

LMAO!!! Oh Steve that ending was priceless. The whole thing minus your child’s feelings and loss of a pet was like reading a cartoon. You totally made my day! Although on a more serious note, I think you’re daughter may be onto something without knowing it. You could use her to conduct interviews with suspects and have her serve the tea to the suspects. That way you could get more cooperation and cases could be solved a lot quicker I’d imagine. Of course this would have to be done without defense coucil present but hey, who’s to know? :) And you’re absolutely right every man must have a poop free pillow at all times.