Saturday, January 5, 2008


From Lindsey
Lindsey in Lawrence

My hamster Harry died this evening.

Yes I know, rodents die. However, you have to understand that the only pet I've ever lost was my schnauzer Bridget and we had to put her down shortly before her 16th birthday (though I was convinced she was going to live forever).

Harry took ill a few days ago, and thanks to some extensive Googling by my boyfriend Mark, we realized he must have contracted a strain of e. coli from the broccoli he enjoyed so very very much. By the time we realized what was going on it was really too late to do anything. His death wasn't particularly pretty for either of us, as I helplessly watched him get sicker and sicker and finally succumb to the illness this evening.

It's so hard for me to watch any living being suffer, yet alone my first hamster that was a birthday present from Mark. Perhaps what is plaguing me the most about this situation is that I gave him the broccoli that wound up making him so sick. As a pet owner I was responsible for his health and well-being and I feel like I failed.

As I was cleaning out his cage, crying and bleaching the hell out of anything he could have possibly come in contact with, I realized how poorly I was dealing with the perfect example of impermanence that had been presented to me. I'm not a stranger to change- moving all through my childhood, transferring colleges, moving to Lawrence, starting grad school…etc….but my life has been blissfully untouched by death.

My "gift wrapped in shit" (or in this case wrapped in a dead hamster) is twofold. First, Harry's death has reminded me of the impermanence of life, of everything. I'm going to get old and one-day die, and the same is going to happen to my loved ones. What is important is living fully in every moment, eating every piece of delicious broccoli mindfully, loving to my full capacity.

Secondly, I need to realize that what I think is "good" or "right" for an individual might not actually be in their best interest. My intention was not to kill Harry with the broccoli, but rather to try and make things a little happier for an adorable little rodent. In this case what I thought was so good turned out to be the exact opposite. I need to approach the people (and animals) in my life with deeper understanding and compassion instead of simply seeking to make them happy in the short term.

Who knew a hamster could teach me so much?

No comments: