Brady was my first pet, a light brown hamster. Nelson was the second, also a hamster, but this story is about Brady. Oh yeah, and I had a dog Skipper I’ve mentioned before, but this was my first pet I took care of all on my own.
A friend of mine had a gerbil from about the second through fourth grade years. Her name was Casey. I wanted a little furry pet like she had, so I asked Mom and Dad if I could get one too. So, I was about eight or nine in the early 1990s when I got him. I was in the third grade.
Why picking out my hamster reminds me of Mounds candy bars
I remember going to the local Mounds pet food store in town and looking into the various cages. Mom really didn’t want me to get anything with a tail. Hamsters don’t have tails, so that seemed like a good fit. After that, it was really about color. I liked the lighter ones. My cousin had a guinea pig at one point in a glass tank, so I sorta knew what the set up would require for which ever one I chose.
After I picked out my hamster, not a super defining moment that I can remember, we stocked up on woodchips for the bedding. We also got a glass tank for his cage, food, a food bowl, and a water bottle that hung on the side of the cage. That was pretty much it. Oh, and I even got a Mounds candy bar on the way out! I loved that about the Mounds pet food store because they always gave customers mini Mounds candy bars when you checked out! That’s the first time I started to love coconut and chocolate together. I loved the jingle too:
“Almond Joy’s got nuts. Mounds, don’t!”
How I used a soup spoon to clean his cage
I was fairly good at taking care of Brady. I’d feed him and refill his water bottle. I’d even clean his cage, which was my least favorite thing to do. It stunk! I remember having to take a brown paper grocery bag to scoop out the old woodchips. I think I used a large metal soup spoon from the kitchen. I know I washed it good afterwards before I put that back. Thinking back on it though, I should have had a designated scooping tool that we didn’t later use for eating! Anyway, the cleaning out had to be done every week, but boy was it ever a learning experience in pet care and having responsibility. My parents didn’t do it for me, guess that was part of it.
The good ol’ hamster ball!
The most fun I had was when I let him roll around on the floor in a clear plastic ball I got him. He’d scoot around the brown linoleum kitchen floor inside that ball, and roll into the dining room across the light blue carpet. He was so happy!
When I lost my hamster Brady
I’m not sure how he got out really. But one day I went to check on him, and I couldn’t find him in his cage. How could he have gotten out? After all, the sides of the tank were glass and I’d never seen him jump up to the top before. But I had forgotten to put the metal grate over the top, along with the two bricks my Dad had given me to secure it. My mistake, because he got out somehow.
After I told my parents and my sisters I couldn’t find my hamster, I believe we all started looking and began to watch where we stepped! I think we must have put my dog Skipper in the bathroom too, just in case.
Brady’s cage was in our family room, just a step down from the kitchen. But that step was only about six inches high so it was possible he could have been anywhere. He surely could have gotten up that step without much trouble. But we started looking in the family room first.
There were two huge oak bookshelves that hugged either side of the fireplace. These were right next to where I had his cage set on top of a small end table, the size of a TV tray, remember those? I looked under that table and around the floor of those book shelves carefully on my hands and knees. There was a space between the wall and the base of the cabinet doors at the bottom of the shelves, but I couldn’t find him there. Where was he? Could he have gone far?
I looked behind the couch we had on the other side of his cage too. I got help moving the couch away from the wall, which was heavy because it was one of those sleeper couches. You could pull a queen size bed out of it if you wanted to. But we only did that if my grandparents stayed with us, and that wasn’t too often.
It was dusty back there… but we found a clue! We saw pieces of the couch on the carpet that he must have chewed up and a few sizable holes on the back of the couch close to the floor. Yikes! And as we removed the couch cushions it revealed more holes and a few more groans from my parents. But I still couldn’t fine him. Where was he?
We looked behind the piano, also really tough to move as it was an old upright player piano which made it extra heavy. I’m sure we used flashlights, but I just couldn’t find him. As we started moving into the kitchen and expanding our search, I distinctly remember standing on that step that led into the family room when… I saw him!
My Dad was in the family room by the fireplace shelves looking back at me in the kitchen. I pointed above his head just to his right. My Dad’s eyes followed my arm as he looked backward and up towards the ceiling.
Brady was on the very top of that tall bookshelf. He was just peaking his little light brown head out over us all as if to say: “Here I am!”
My Dad stepped up on the fireplace like a step and reached up to grab Brady down for me. He put him back in the cage. I’m sure I ran over to greet my furry little pal and was so happy he was alive and back where he belonged. What an adventure he must have had. How had he gotten all the way up there?
And I’m sure my Dad reminded me that once I was done petting him, I should put the metal grate on top of the cage with the two bricks on top of that.
Brady was definitely a part of the family. Here’s a picture of a Christmas stocking I made for him:
Uncovering my hamster stories
While most of my inspirations to my nostalgic stories come from an object I uncover first, and then let the memories flow… this story was jogged out of my memory quite different.
I was actually watching my preschool aged son play a computer game this past week when I was inspired. He was playing on an online learning site called “ABC Mouse.” Have you heard of it? Well besides tons of learning activities, there’s a virtual pet hamster you can take care of, feed, water, and design tube mazes for. He thinks it’s super fun. I had almost forgotten I had two of the little rodents when I was a little girl. As I was watching him, I just knew I had to write about it.
Here’s a video clip of what I was watching when I got inspired to write this story:
I knew I had some pictures of my hamster Brady somewhere. This was the first one I found:
I forgot to mention he had the classic, metal rotating hamster wheel to use for exercise, which you can see in the picture. I remember hearing that thing squeak as he’d run in it, usually at night time. I believe they’re mostly nocturnal animals, so that makes sense.
Besides reminding me of the day Brady got out of his cage, this picture reminded me of just a couple other memories. One of which I was reminded of because when I looked closer at the picture above I noticed that there is another picture just at the top of the photograph. (A picture of a picture) I had taped it on the side of his cage. I guess I thought he wanted to look at pictures of himself? I took a break from writing to go up in my attic to find that picture and a few others I’ve added to this post. Here are just a couple other short stories:
My hamster science experiment results
There was one time I took my hamster over to the friend’s house I mentioned that had the gerbil. We did a science experiment for school on whether hamsters or gerbils were better at running through a maze. It was something like placing a bit of food or a treat at the end of a maze we constructed and then timing each to see who did it quicker. Not super scientific, but a fun way to play with our little rodents and do homework at the same time. Although I’d love to say we discovered that hamsters are smarter, I honestly can’t remember what we determined either. But I guess it was the original “hamster maze” of our time, with no computers required. Here’s a couple pictures from that.
Check out my neck gear! Yup, had to wear that day and night for a year!
Leaving my hamster with Grandma who hated mice
I also remember going on a trip and having to explain to my grandma, who hated mice with a passion, how to take care of my hamster. Guess I know one of the reasons Mom probably steered me away from anything with a tail. Grandma was not thrilled at all to do it, but she agreed to anyway. But we gave her just the basics to cover like keeping the water filled and giving him more food. It didn’t require touching him at all, I reassured her. To put the food in the bowl we gave her a long metal tongs from the kitchen to use. It was the same one Mom used for boiling hot dogs. Again, guess we didn’t really think too much about doubling up kitchen utensils for pet duties, but anyway. It had two metal loops on the end perfect for lifting in the large chucks of food. I made it handy next to his cage for her to insert food into his bowl when it got low. The handles of the tongs were covered in a red rubber material, easy grip I suppose. No chance she would drop those. It’s funny the details I remember. Guess they worked okay for the job. I’m pretty sure my Mom still has those too. I’m sure they’ve been quadruple washed since then!
Did you have a favorite pet when you were a kid? What did you name it?
I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.