Heat Stroke

I’ve only killed a few things in my life and unless they were an insect, it was always an accident.

When I was about 10 years old I broke a rabbit’s neck when the cage door slipped out of my hand as it was getting into the cage.

When I was 17 years old a deer ran in front of my car in a kamikaze move that ended its life.  I’m still scarred by the guy who drove by, came to a screeching halt, turned around, and asked me if he could take the carcass and eat it.

Then, there was my innocent hamster.

I lived off-campus my sophomore year of college.  It was a big time for me, I had a kitchen, living room and bathroom all to myself.  And I bought a hamster.

The hamster had a ball and a travel case.  It bit me sometimes but generally we got along well.

And then the year ended.  I had to travel four hours from college to my home and stop midway in the desert for a meeting.

I took the hamster inside the meeting with me in its travel case.  It behaved well, no one was bitten, our relationship broadened to include this new experience.

After my meeting I went with my parents to dinner, assumed the desert heat had cooled enough to leave the hamster in the car (rodents not usually being well-liked in restaurants… except in the movie Ratatouille) and came out 45 minutes later to a scene of desperation.

There was my hamster, sprawled out across the floor of his carrying cage, comatose, with spit coming down from his mouth, across his jowls and to his shoulders.

I howled.  My parents howled.  My dad, who has always been great with animal husbandry, grabbed the hamster, told me to turn the car air conditioning on high, and doused the poor little brown puff-ball with the contents of a 16 oz. bottle of water.

We held the wet hamster in front of the air conditioning vent and watched anxiously.

He stirred.  His eyes opened.  He licked the water of his whiskers.

We rejoiced!

After watching for a few more minutes we decided he’d recovered enough for us to continue our journey home.  My mom volunteered to sit in the passenger’s seat of my car and hold my ailing hamster while my dad drove the trusty Dodge Ram diesel home.

The diesel engine started with a roar and I closed the door on my mom.  Then, over the growl of the diesel engine, I heard a screech and saw a peach-colored mass fly from the front seat of my car to hit the backseat window with a splat.

I found the hamster underneath the seat.

It bit my mom.  So she flung him.  (Is “flung” a word?)

There was much blood.

The caregiver pact of trust between my hamster and my mother was broken.

Hamster spent the rest of the journey home on the floorboard of the front seat, staggering in circles between the soles of my mom’s Teva’s.

Hamster lived for three days after his heat stroke, but he was never the same.  I think he lost function of one side of his body.  If he hadn’t been a hamster we would have thought he was the town drunk the way he lurched from place to place.

It was a sad time.

Since then I’ve killed a raccoon with my car, bringing my dead animal count to four.  I hope to never kill another animal because, you know, life is precious, isn’t it?

Do you feel guilty for any animals you’ve accidentally killed?

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One thought on “Heat Stroke

  • August 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I killed my Betta fish, Caesar, after my first semester of college. Amid my busy schedule, I routinely forgot to clean his bowl, so the build up of ammonia and the inclemet winter weather forced his little fishy body to shut down. It was a horrible day (made more horrible by the fact that I hate the prescence of dead animals that look like they should be alive).


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