Sunday, January 24, 2010


Thank you guys for caring about what happened to my lost hamsters! They are so sweet. I thought I'd tell you a little about them.

It all started when Cait said that I should get some little animals to keep me company while I was sick on disability. She didn't yet know about Wesley, but I used it as an excuse to get 3 hamsters. Actually, I got one, and he seemed so upset that I went back and got his 2 cagemates at the pet store.

Syrian, or Teddy Bear, hamsters cannot live together as adults, but as babies they can, of course. So these guys weren't full grown. NEVER keep Teddy Bear, Golden, or Syrian hamsters together! They will fight when you're not looking and eventually one of them will be killed.

They were discovered by Europeans in Syria by an archeologist in 1930 and brought back to England in 1933 with the idea that they'd be good lab animals, unfortunately, because they are THE fastest breeders of all mammals. Even more than mice or rabbits! Their gestation period is about 18 days and they can have around 18 babies per litter! I've had a hamster have that many! Last year one of my sweet mamas had 12 and she took excellent care of them all. They are my main hamsters now and Kissy is descended from one of them.

I have averaged 40-50 hamsters, all in separate cages, for the last 10 years. They only live about 2 years, but I've had hammies live up to 5 years. I supplement their food with some really good stuff like colostrum and super green food. In fact, the father of the 12 was 5 years old when he produced them! It was his parting shot, so to speak, and I was so proud of him! (His name was Tommy).

They're ground squirrels, actually, and they live in elaborate burrows 8 feet underground, which may be why it took so long for Europeans to notice them! They're nocturnal and run up to 5 miles a night foraging for food. Their cheeks act like shopping bags and it's amazing how much they can fit into those cheek pouches. They collect and store food all night, every night, unless they're caring for babies or mating. They also build separate rooms for each function. They literally have a room for peepee, which translates in captivity to only peeing in one designated corner of their cage. That's VERY handy for easily cleaning out the cage between major cleanings.

They're fastidiously clean and their fur smells like light talcum powder - sweet and fresh. They would only smell bad if they were kept in a stinky environment, and they hate that.

They build a beautiful, cushy nest for themselves that completely surrounds them when they sleep. I make strips of unscented kleenex for them to build nests with and give them hamster igloos or empty square kleenex boxes w/ the plastic taken out. They have a need to be able to hide during the day and remain undisturbed.

YES! They hoard food in amazing proportions! In 2 years, a wild Syrian hamster can hoard up to a ton of food. They have separate rooms built just for food storage, and will even sort food. For example, Kissy had a huge pile in the back of the closet - about 8 pounds, and I found a separate one of just sunflower seeds and split peas in the master bedroom shower (which I don't use because the master bedroom is the hamstery and the master bathroom is the hamster clinic). Maybe the male put in that pile of food?

I was throwing food all over the floor every day, hoping they'd find and eat it.

in the wild, they go through their stores and get rid of any bad or moldy food, keeping their storage area fresh. They also get rid of any bugs that may try to intrude.

They are amazing mothers, even though, yes, they will sometimes eat their babies. There's a REASON for this behavior, if you really think about it. When they feel threatened, they kill and eat the babies for several reasons:
The babies give them away with their sounds and smells
If the hamster has to run from danger, leaving the babies to slowly starve is worse than killing them with one quick strike
If a baby dies, the hamster must eat it or it will decay, infecting the entire nest
If a baby dies, the mother, who is desperate for protein as she must make milk for up to 18 other growing bodies, recycles the protein into the other babies or into herself by eating what is already dead
The smell of decaying flesh would draw predators in from everywhere and kill the mother and any remaining babies.

HOWEVER! If she is not nervous or threatened, she is an AMAZING mother. She does not WANT to have to do those awful survival behaviors and will become very upset if she ends up feeling that she has to. I've seen them inconsolable if they kill their babies.

Anyway, here are some examples of the wonderful mothers I've had:
I woke up one night to what sounded like a miniature human baby crying its lungs out. I turned on the light and saw a baby hamster who had somehow gotten just outside the bars of the cage and could not find its way back in. It was still naked and blind. The mother was on the other side of the bars desperately trying to help the baby get back inside by reaching out w/ her paws and trying to gently pull the baby inside, and gently using her teeth to try to help him. I got up and got the baby and returned him to the nest. The mother was so nurturing and pulled the baby under her tummy to warm up and drink, and I fixed the cage so that no baby could get out of the bars by lining the bottom half of the cage w/ cardboard going up about 6 inches from the bottom. That fixed it.

I've also had mother hamsters take in other babies with no questions asked, so to speak. Just a lick and a grunt and she noses the baby right in with the rest. But I usually take precautions when fostering by putting baby lotion on my hands and rubbing it in, ,then holding each baby, the mother's babies and the foster babies, and then holding the mother to get that smell all over her, too, so she's confused as to which babies are hers and which are fosters. She knows her babies by smell so I confuse the smell issue and that usually helps.

But I have had some real champion mothers who would foster any babies.

for that reason, if I do breed, I breed whoever I'm going to breed all at once, so that they all have the same aged babies, so that if I get a nervous and confused mother, I can foster her babies to a more experienced mother before she hurts them.

The hamsters are total individuals. In ALL the hamsters I've had over the years, I've never seen a single cage or nest made the same way by any hamster! They have their own strong ideas about things and how they want things done.

Some are very tame and social, others are super shy. Some insist on affection from me and others have to be tamed and gentled. Some learn words and know their names and even come when called! Kissy obviously doesn't come when called! haha.

Syrian hamsters are becoming more and more popular w/ adults who live in apartments or places that don't allow dogs and cats. A lot of landlords allow a small animal in a cage or aquarium. They're great animals!

Wesley accepted them and never saw them as prey because they were too big, so he enjoyed watching them as if they were "owl reality TV" and they were there just for his own entertainment! He sounded the alarm when one of them didn't obey the "rules", meaning if one got loose.

my email address + want input from readers about new book

Hi! I see that Fran was trying to find an email address so she could send something to me, so here it is:

PLEASE be patient with me, however. I am so slammed that it takes FOREVER for me to get to my email! I thought that once you wrote the book, you were pretty much done other than going on speaking engagements (which I LOVE to do), but there's a lot of other "homework", all of it fun of course. Just about the time I start thinking I'm out of books to read, I'll get a book in the mail to read that hasn't been released yet, with the idea being that if I like it I could critique it or recommend it. That's a blast, because they're all animal books!

There was one in particular that I read and then could NOT find it after that! I couldn't find the letter saying where to send the recommendation either! It's a shame, because it was a GREAT book. I thought it would be morbid but it wasn't. It was about a doctor at a nursing home who begins to realize that one of the resident cats knows when someone is dying and gets into bed with them and stays with them for about a week until they have died. At first, he's very sceptical, which anyone would be, but he decides to study the matter. He goes back and interviews families of people who have already died and finds that the presence of the cat is a great comfort. Eventually, he depends upon the CAT to tell him when someone is really going to die, and it informs him that it's time to call the relatives and say, "this is it." with much greater authority than he would be able to as a physician. The cat can tell, even when he can't.

Of course, people who are dying do give off keytones, a type of chemical that's a byproduct of breakdown of certain organs, so perhaps the cat can tell that way, but who cares, really, how the cat can tell? This cat is such a huge comfort to the patients and their families.

It's a great book. It's out now, I think, and I highly recommend it and regret that I lost the chance to say so on the back of the book itself.


If you're reading this, I figure you are one of my core readers. Stephen King calls faithful readers the "Constant Reader". You can learn a LOT from your Constant Reader and I am asking for input from you about what you would like to know more about in the second book. The second book won't be just about Wesley - I already told his story, pretty much. But I did have some people say they'd like to see more of me interpreting what Wesley was saying, and there will be some about Wesley in the second book, of course! A few more stories about things that happened and things he did... Some people have said they'd like to see more about life at Caltech and some of the iconoclastic people I've had the privilege of knowing, such as the Black Widow Spider guy (By the way, his wife contacted me and we're back in touch. He's a great guy! And he was right - they are kinda cute when they're little and scrunchy looking, and they are beautiful in an elegant and sleek way as adults if you can put aside the fact that they're poisonous and just look at them artistically...).

What else would you want to read more about? It can be ANYTHING you're curious about or want me to write more about. Please respond in the comments section of the blog. I get really bogged down in my email so it's probably easier for me to read about it in the comments section if you have something to suggest. Nothing is silly or stupid! As scientists often say, "There is no such thing as a stupid question."

Also, I wanted to let you know that the plushie "Baby Wesley" collectibles are starting to run low, and this first run is clearly marked as the first run because the manufacturer spelled my name wrong on the little white tag that's attached to the stuffed animal! haha. So I'll always know which were the first "Wesley babies"..

You can get them at the website. I sleep with mine - it REALLY looks JUST like Wesley in his picture on the cover of the book (the American version, anyway) - when he was about 5 weeks old. Wendy designed him, and she's an award winning, professional artist and soft sculpturist who does the most AMAZING animal soft sculptures. She caught his personality in her design, which is her particular genius.

In fact, speaking of Wendy, have any of you heard of or seen this video going around the internet called "GoD and DoG"? That's Wendy singing and her drawing. It was just one of many of Wendy's little projects. She wakes up in the morning with her head full of tons of creative ideas in all kinds of different areas - art, video, sculpture, music, writing, animal husbandry...I've known her for at least 35 years and she's always been like that. She has always made her living entirely from her art and music! Imagine that! Her mother also makes her living as a fine artist (Oil painter).

Anyway, that "GoD and DoG" video on YouTube has over 2 million hits and she's got a book deal in progress for it! So exciting!

She also breeds Ragdoll cats, Colorado Mountain Dogs, Friesian, Andalusian, and Warlander horses. Gee, have I forgotten anything? Also, if you go to ebay and look for WJF you'll find her store w/ lots of soft sculptures for sale.

And, speaking of stuff for sale, you can get Wesley the Owl stuff at Cafe Press, like tote bags. My favorite thing is the wooden jewelry box w/ Wesley's pic on the top on a tile. The trees outside are in the background and it's just his face.

I sound like a commercial. I'm not trying to get you to buy stuff - I just thought you might be interested to see more of what Wendy does or see what I've been up to with making Wesley things. It comforts me to have a Wesley animal, actually, and to have things w/ his picture on them. Anyone can do that kind of thing with a picture of their animal.

One thing I haven't done but I want to, is to have a throw made from Wesley's picture. I think it's PetCo that does this, or maybe it's PetSmart. But you can buy this kit for about 100 bucks and it has everything you need to send in a picture and have it made into a woven throw blanket with that picture woven into it. They do it all by computer. NEAT!

Even with Fiona, my puppy, and all my hamsters, I am still sometime almost overcome with grief and missing Wesley. All this helps a lot. Remembering him, talking about him, making things w/ his picture on them...

One thing that's really hard, still, is hearing recordings of his voice. But I'm sure glad I did record his voice!

Well, this was rambly, but it's what's been on my mind. Thank you all for your good wishes for Kissy and the male who were loose for 2 weeks. It's amazing, but Kissy is not pregnant. They both seem greatly relieved to be back in their "safe spot" again.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Belgium readers - need info from you!

I've been hearing from some readers from Belgium and have a few questions that only you can answer. First, is the version you're getting in Belgium in French? If so, how can I get the Belgium version? Is there a webswite for buying that version? I have a number of people who are trying to find the book in French, plus I would like to have a few copies of it myself. If you know how to get this, could you use the comment section to let me know how to get it? Thanks!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hamster Miracle!

It's almost a miracle - I found my hamster! She's been missing for WEEKS! I've spent part of every night looking for her, and have torn apart every room in the house, going into closets, drawers, behind furniture, emptying out boxes - the house looks like it's been totally and thoroughly TRASHED, and it has. Oy VEY!

Here's the saga of Kissy the Hamster, named Kissy because she is so sweet and tame that she literally covers my face with hamster kisses, and nudges her nose against mine over and over again like a kiss. I name my hamsters based upon their personalities and I currently have 45 of them, each in a separate cage, in the master bedroom that used to be Wesley's room. I now call it the "hamstery". My small hamster rescue service is called "Hamster Haven". Ok, so that's the background.

I sleep in a different room because the master bath has been turned into a hamster medical clinic and because, well, there are 45 hamsters in the hamstery! But I do keep about 10 cages in my bedroom also, because I love the sound of them all playing at night. It's like being on a ship and hearing all the different sounds as you sleep. It's also like sleeping alone in the mountains and hearing the little animals all around you. I've got great memories of both scenarios and the hammys bring that cozy feelling.

The way I lost Kissy was that I was playing with her and had an episode of narcolepsy. It didn't last long, but when I came to, there was no Kissy. I asked Fiona (my dog) "Where did the hamster go?" and she went to the hamstery door, which was closed and had a towel stuffed under the door, and shoved her nose against the towel. I thought it was unlikely that Fiona actually understood and answered me (WHEN will I learn?) and also unlikely that Kissy found a way to shove herself under that door, so I tore apart my bedroom looking for her. I couldn't believe she had disappeared so fast! As you know - she wasn't there.

I spent several nights sitting/sleeping quietly in different rooms hoping to hear the tiny footsteps or nibbling sounds of Kissy but nothing. I pulled out the fridge, the dishwasher, the stove...

So on and on it went. I also put out a lot of dishes of water and food in all the rooms, including hanging some water bottles. I noticed that the water bottles in the hamstery were being used. But here is the complication - I also had one other hamster loose in the hamstery! So it wasn't a slam dunk that it was Kissy drinking from the bottle. I had a male who had escaped during cage cleaning, and I knew he was alive and active because there were mystery piles of food being gathered and stored in certain corners, but I could never catch him at it. So was this Kissy or the male? Or both?

Adding to the confusion was the fact that dishes of baby food and dishes of water were being emptied in all the rooms, both upstairs and downstairs! Even the ones wedged behind furniture.

Weeks went by. I canceled going to Cait's over Christmas (in Colorado, which is my second home). I was always on the alert for the sound of a hamster, so I never really relaxed.

Finally, I asked everyone to pray for Kissy. I was very worried about Kissy because once before she had gotten loose and ended up trapped in a place where, if I hadn't found her, she would have died.

I decided to try the strategy of sneaking into a room between 3pm and 4pm, which is when they first get up and start eating and grooming. I sneaked into the hamstery very slowly and saw the male visiting the other hamsters. He saw me and froze. So, here's the trick w/ a not-so-tame hamster:

I faced him but didn't look at him directly. That way he stays frozen. If I faced away, he'd take that opportunity to race away and hide. But if he thinks I don't see him, but could if he moved, he'll stay frozen in place. So I walk right up to him, not looking at him, then slowly crouch down, still pretending not to see him, then my hand strikes out fast like a snake and I grab him (gently).

What great luck! He was healthy! I put him back in his cage. Then I decided to just go for it in the hamstery - take Fiona's word for it. I worked my way across the room and ended up crawling in the closet from one end to another, blocking the way behind me so no one could scoot passt me to the other side. At the far end I saw the biggest pile of food I've ever seen. It was almost 2 feet high, this mountain of hamster food! I had been throwing food all over the house so that no matter where the hammy was, he/she could find it. Sheesh! She found it all right. This is soo consistent w/ Kissy's personality! Then I heard her moving around under a low shelf and she came right out and right up to me and greeted me as if I had finally come by for a visit!

Oh the RELIEF! I cried. I was so happy to find her alive and healthy and hydrated! She seemed very happy to be back in her safe cage. Rodents know they are prey, and they like to feel safe and provided for. She went into her igloo and worked on her nest, drank from her bottle, ran on her wheel, then let down and slept and slept. She knew she didn't have to be so vigilant anymore. I know I'm claiming to know what she was thinking, but I have reasons for what I'm saying, based on having had hamsters for over 10 years, up to 45 at a time. I know all of them by name and they all know me. Some of them come when called by name.

When hamsters are out for as long as Kissy was, they go a little feral because they have to be so vigilant. So they have to act wild and become very nervous. It has taken Kissy awhile to settle down and relax, but she finally is back to her old self.

Now the question is, did she and the male "get together"? The odds are that they did, and that Kissy will have Kissy Kittens soon. ;-)

I have so many of these stories. Some of them are very surprising!

Thank you, those of you who prayed, sent good vibes, sent thoughts or light! I soo appreciate it! You know, just because an animal is very small, that does not mean they are any less loveable or complex or that they have any less personality than a large animal. I think it's easier for us to relate to animals closer to our own size, but if we just miniaturize our outlook, we can start to see all the tiny mannerisms and the colorful personalities of even the smallest creatures. The hamsters have been a big learning experience for me and a revelation. After I've written a few more books in my lineup, I intend to write one about the hamsters - not for kids per se, but kind of like Wesley the Owl except it's about the hamsters and my adventures with them.

Happy New Year and Happy New DECADE to you all! May this next decade be one of prosperity in all things - health, love, joy, peace, security, friendship, fulfillment - for all of you!