To celebrate getting a job as proofeader at Japan Info, I decided to buy myself a hamster. It was a declaration that I was living in Tokyo for good. I didn’t have the time or the money for a dog, so a hamster would do.
I fell in love with a winter white in Doken Pet in Daikanyama. True, the owner only had two hamsters and warned that they both bit, but I couldn’t resist the winter white’s fluffy coat and shy personality. “He’s quite old, so I’ll give him to you for free,” offered the pet shop owner.
It took me a while to name him. My mum always named her pet birds after famous mathematicians, so I started to think about great writers. Shakespeare seemed like a nice name for my new furry friend.
Honestly, I kind of expected the poor creature to drop dead the first week or so. After all, he was old and all he seemed to do was eat and sleep, and the wheel looked untouched. But after I upgraded his cage and he’d got settled, he seemed so energetic that no one would have guessed that he was past his prime.
When we moved to Gakugei-Daigaku, I brought Shakespeare by train in a shoebox. He bit a few times; though never drawing blood, he seemed to like to nibble. It was hard to tell if it was nervous habit or if he just liked tasting everything. He never seemed to sleep in my hands like the flat hamster video, but I loved him all the same. There was a charm to his fluff, his fat little bum and the way he was so delightfully curious about everything.
His first accident happened in May when I noticed he was huddled in the cage with a seed in his mouth. I had bought him some cucumber – his favourite, along with lettuce – but then I realised his teeth were stuck in the seed. It was scary. There was blood on the seed and Shakespeare was desperately trying to pull it out with his little paws. Thankfully, my boyfriend managed to get it out with nail clippers. Poor Shakey looked very solemn for a day or so after that.
A few weeks later, I noticed Shakespeare was nibbling his bars… then I saw blood again. One of his teeth, I noticed, was very short; perhaps it had broken off during the incident with the seed. The other, longer tooth had wrapped round one of the bars of the cage and he’d got stuck. I quickly helped him off and poor Shakey seemed to be in pain. He got virtigo, and I had to feed him water from a small bowl.
However, after a few days everything seemed OK and he was running on his wheel as much as always. I thought to myself how my brave little boy had got through his traumatic incidencts.
Then today, on the 14th July 2017, Shakespeare was lying in his cage, unmoving.
I picked him up, and I saw that he was breathing. I quickly found the closest vet, put him back in his shoebox, and got on the train. When I checked on him, his black eyes looked up at me and his little body contorted in pain. His mouth even opened as if screaming silently. I knew that he was dying, but there was no way I wouldn’t at least try a vet.
It took me about thirty minutes from leaving my home to getting to the West Cross Animal Clinic in Naka-Meguro. The vet exclaimed when he saw Shakespeare and gently picked him up. “His pupils aren’t reacting to the light,” he said to me. “And he’s… oh…” we both looked at my poor little boy held gently in the vet’s hand. “I… think he’s just gone.”
It as a bit embarassing crying at the vet in front of two complete strangers. At least the staff assured me they weren’t going to charge me anything, which was very kind of them. I dried my eyes and left. My boyfriend met me at the station, which was kind. Afterwards, we buried him in our back garden. The house is rented, so it probably wasn’t allowed, but I didn’t really care.
All pets are precious, whether they’re a dog, a rodent, or a fish. I didn’t really expect to be as upset about Shakespeare as I was, but it shows how much fun we had together. He was an inquisitive and sweet little hamster and I’ll really miss him.
Goodnight, sweet boy
January – July 2017