Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm sorry to report that Maizie died of her cancer. Her surgery went well but during recovery she was in the middle of fixing up her nest and she just instantly died. She was not in pain, however, and was acting completely fine - eating, being curious, grooming, making her nests. The doc got all the cancer out because it was localized to her leg, but sometimes there is a delayed reaction to surgery in these very tiny animals, called DIC, I think. I was heartbroken and couldn't bring myself to write about it for awhile.

I have fallen in love with a species that only lives about 2 years. Some of my hamsters live up to 5 years because I take extremely careful care of them, giving them supplements, getting to the vet with any problems, trimming their teeth if they have overgrowth, all the upkeep that takes attention to detail. But still, they just don't live all that long.

I've considered not having hamsters because of the ongoing heartbreak, but I've decided it's worth the heartbreak just to know them. I'd rather deal regularly with the cycle of life and death, love and loss, than live without them at all. They are such amazing, complex, magical little beings. Who knew that the Syrian Ground Squirrel had so many charms?

Many of my hamsters come to me when called by name, and they get all excited when I walk into the room, coming to the door of their cages so I can easily pick them up and snuggle with them. They kiss me on the nose and snuggle under my chin to sleep, they bark at me when they want attention...

One way I've dealt with the constant loss is to breed a special hamster so that when he or she dies, I have her or his babies. In that way, hamsters from the past still live, generations later, through their offspring.

I don't breed a lot, but maybe one litter per generation.

It's the same way with us, isn't it? We achieve some kind of immortality through our children or through those we affect, love, mentor, teach, give to...

This time, though, I bred 4 very special sisters all at once, 2 years ago. I did that because I've found that if one hamster becomes a nervous mother and starts to be unable to care for her babies properly, I can quickly foster those babies into the other litters as long as they're all the same age. So I bred these 4 sisters all on the same night (they seem to go into heat all together at the same time). It worked out well, although for the last 2 years I've had a LOT of hamsters to take care of, or to pay someone to take care of when I travel.

But that's ok. I'm home in bed most of the time and am almost always cuddling with a hamster, so they all get plenty of attention.

But now it's going to be a very difficult season, since they're all getting very old at once. I knew, of course, that this would happen. But that doesn't make it any easier to be losing so many precious friends one right after the other.

Again, it's worth it. And as I've said before, the fact that we outlive our pets is a blessing in that we are able to shepherd them gently through their old age and illnesses and death, rather than us dying first and not knowing if they'll ever be loved or treated in the way we would love and treat them.

I have made arrangements for my animals should that happen, and I highly suggest doing this. Cat and I have mutually agreed to adopt each others' dogs if something happened to one of us, and I have someone who would take my hamsters. I had someone who would have taken care of Wesley, but still, I wouldn't have wanted to have to take any chances with his future, especially with him being so sensitive and so "one person" oriented.

I guess this isn't a real "pick me up" subject, but it's part of having and loving animals, and when we take on an animal and open our hearts, we take on this part of it too. That's ok. I'm so glad I was able to be with Maizie all along and to have spent so much wonderful, magical, joyful time with her. I feel honored to have known her and to have been so trusted by her - and her such a tiny little thing, too.

I'll always love my little Maizie Daisy and will never forget her. Each one of them is an individual and is so special and so full of their own personality. It's pure delight to have shared this beautiful green earth with them!



Kathlene said...

I love this post Stacey. It brightens my day to read how animals are loved. I know I love my animals.

One of my favorite saying is... "It is better to feel pain, than to feel nothing at all."

To me that means one has felt love! and that is all we need in life.

the mishaps of fred and ethel said...

Hello Stacey, I just finished reading your book Wesley the Owl. I've been watcing the Web cam of Molly the barn owl's nest and owlets. One of owlets from her first clutch was named Wesley, don't know if this was in honor of your Wesley. After discovering your book, I wondered if you were watching the owlets grow and fledge?

We have and love our pets, 6 cats, 2 dogs and a pot bellied pig. I love your quote, "to that which you tame, you owe your life." I've always tried to give my pets the best quality of life to the end, its my responsibility as a pet owner.

Looking forward to your new book.

Ter-o-fla said...

Stacey, I am sorry to read of your sadness and loss.

I am reminded, when reading what you wrote, of this by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

From his poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


Victoria said...

Stacey, I am sorry Maizie died. Every time something I love dies, I ask myself if I can bear to go through it again. Sometimes I have to grieve longer, but I am always going to have animals in my life.

Maria said...

Hello Stacey, I am from Guatemala all the way to Central America. I am sorry for my English dear, hope you don't mind.
I loved your story and looking forward to order your book. I hope you are doing better about your health I read that you miss your younger self.
I have a secret for you, look for this alternative medicine called MMS and Jim Humble, this man have given me my health back.
But don't beleive me, search.
I was desperate, but now I am back to my self. I have never felt better in my life.
Hope this will help you and bless you girl.

Stacey O'Brien said...

Thank you all for your kindness and expressions of love for your animals. It IS all worth it! Also, To "the mishaps of fred and ethel", I did watch Molly the barn owl and her babies and thoroughly enjoyed it! The cameras were so great - I loved being able to see them in glorious color during the day, and the cameras were set up so that you could really follow all the goings on, and the expressions on their faces. I was thrilled that so many people finally got to see how expressive barn owls really are, and to hear their sweet little sounds in the nest. The whole experience was great for everyone watching and it opened up a whole new world to a lot of budding ethologists (people who watch and study wild animal behavior). I enjoyed other owl boxes, too, but this one had the best camera angles and shots, and had color and sound. Very cool! That made a lot of difference!