Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Heimlich Manoeuvre

Santy came up trumps again this year; a ticket for next year's Electric Picnic. In fairness though, Santy had had a lot of unsubtle hints. We've grown out of list writing in our house at this stage (at 26, 25 and 22 respectively I suppose it's about time) but back in the day the lists always followed a three item formula: a toy, a pet of some description (not a fucking chance) and (because we were polite children and knew that sometimes Santy runs out of things) a surprise.

So imagine my surprise a few years ago when my sister went in to the other room to fetch my present and emerged with a hamster. The lady in the pet shop had been reluctant to sell him to my mother, worried that the child wouldn't appreciate the gift. "She's 21..." When they got him home they opened the boot of the car to find him swinging from the bars of his cage by his little pink feet. I was thrilled with him. He was like a little ball of cotton wool, brilliant white with bright pink eyes. And he was mad.

I named him Heimlich after the manoeuvre because when I fed him each day he'd stuff his cheeks with the entire contents of the food dish and then wait until I'd left the room to squirrel it away under his bedding, presumably in case I changed my mind and decided to take it back. He soon grew large and portly, so I trained him to do trapeze across the bars of his cage (for banana chips) and got him one of those exercise ball thingys which he used to chase the big dog around the kitchen. He'd sleep all day while I was at college, I'd wake him for playtime in the evenings. One day when I woke him I noticed he was a bit off, when I took him out to play he started walking around in circles, agitated and unable to turn to the right. I looked like an absolute tit sitting in the vet's, cradling a shoebox, tears in my eyes. The prognosis was grave; it was either a bad cold which had caused his brain to swell (!) or a tumour. The vet injected him with an antibiotic and a sedative and told me to bring him back the following day if there was no improvement. He recovered but it knocked him back, a few weeks later I went to wake him and found that he'd died in his sleep.

My brother and I gave him a funeral in the front garden, where the dogs would be less likely to dig him up and present him to me at the breakfast table some morning. We buried him under the daffodils, in an empty Tampax box. Snivelling, we waved at the neighbours who were seeing some visitors off. Two twentysomethings burying tampons in the flowerbeds... Just another Sunday afternoon in Naas.


AJ said...

Heimlich the Hamster

Oh Fuck ME ! That's hysterical!!!!
I laughed till I cried. (Seriously, Oh Goddam, “Heimlich the Hamster”)
And I thought Nemo the Rabbit was an unusual name(don't ask).

Still sad at the end though….. poor little guy,
guess when your time is up, then your time is up.

Buried in a Tampax box in the front garden ?
You’ve got some weird traditions in Naas.

"Ode to a Hamster"
Alas poor Heimlich I knew him well.
(Well Rosie did).....

Rosie said...

his chart in the vet's read "Hammy the Hamster". he was eventually followed by Fidget the Hamster and Earl Grey the Gerbil, but Heimlich was always the most fun.

Manuel said...

awwwwwwhhhhhhhhh how sad.....take whatever meaning you want......I went on holiday one year and left my cousin in charge of my ten fish. When I came home all were dead except one......I was gutted.....The same thing happened the following year when I asked him to water my 4 foot cactus died the very day I came home....My cousin isn't allowed to visit my dad.....

Primal Sneeze said...

Um, kinda puts a whole new slant on being in the flowers.

red said...

We were allowed ask for a toy and a surprise too, but we weren't even let ask for a pet- my mother's phobia wouldn't permit it. Surely she could have handled a hamster...

davey said...

Love this post Rosie. Thanks.

Rosie said...

Manuel, i worry about you.

Primal, very funny!

Red, we were only ever allowed ask for a pet on the understanding that there was no way in hell we'd actually get one. it became a running joke, til the year we got a puppy for new year's.

Davey, i'm glad you liked it. if you're good i'll tell you the tales of Dinny, Storm, Tupenny, Thing, Eclairs, Bran, Luckie, Dennis, Oisín, Alpha and Lila (assorted rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and budgies i've had over the years)

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