Shortly after arriving in the Lowveld, both our boys’ birthdays were looming. Ben was quite satisfied to receive Transformers. However, I started to become aware that Charlie & Andrew had been in negotiations around a hamster. Apparently, an agreement had even been reached.
Now you may remember that pets were a fairly significant stressor in my life over the move. What I haven’t mentioned is that in Howick we owned layer chickens. We suffered regular losses from our flock over the years. The dogs’ inability to control themselves was usually to blame. Lack of intelligence on the chickens’ part may or may not have played a role. Many tears were shed and many unrepeatable threats issued to the dogs.
On one such occasion, we returned home to find two chickens were MIA and the pattern of feathers all over the garden did not bode well. A brown hen, Baddie (she pecked the children when they tried to “love” her) was found alive and nursed back to health in my bathroom over the next week. I can confidently say I never expected administering antibiotic injections to a chicken to be part of motherhood, but here we are.
In the lead up to moving to Kampersrus, I fought a fierce battle over the destiny of these chickens. Andrew was very keen to bring them with to the Lowveld and I was unsurprisingly strongly against this idea. I had the suspicion that more than just the dogs would want to eat them up here. Also, I can’t begin to imagine the car journey here with four chickens added to the mix…
So I am happy to report that Baddie, Electric Line, Patchy & Caramel were rehomed to a wonderful, free-range home in Howick just before we left.
Taking all of this into account, I wasn’t really keen on getting more pets so soon after arriving, at which point there was (and still is) mayhem every time we take the dogs for a walk (more on the dog’s prospects in the anti-poaching unit next time) and the cat was still taking off at every loud noise.
Also, don’t cats eat hamsters??
But when you have a desperately sad child yearning for friends left behind, you get the hamster!!!
Except, it wasn’t that easy.
The first sign of trouble should have been how hard it had been to find pet-friendly accommodation in the Lowveld to begin with. The second should have been that there is not a single pet shop in the area. Dog & cat food is sold at the hardware / garden shops. It is not the most pet-friendly place in general.
I was then schooled on Facebook when I enquired on the local group as to where I could obtain a hamster, I was told that others “are very pleased to live in a town that does not support the sale of live animals”.
I get it. Pets are an emotional issue and we live in a wildlife area. But let me tell you that there isn’t a big trend towards Rescue / Adopting Hamsters either. I know, because I investigated this option.
I put word out to all 3 people I knew in Hoedspruit. A very kind person dm-ed me and offered to bring one back from Pretoria with her. Another offered the field mice from her garden that kept eating her furniture.
Now by this stage, Charlie had upped the pressure buy wondering out loud many times a day with a forlorn look “if I will be allowed to get a hamster”… Ben added “I feel so ‘shame’ for Charlie if he doesn’t get a hamster, he wants one SO badly”…
So no pressure then.
A second-hand cage was found, but still no hamster. I expanded my search radius to Nelspruit. I mean, surely a city as big as Nelspruit must have hamsters?? Well the first 4 pet shops that were contacted also do not sell live animals.
C’mon, these things are one of the fastest reproducing mammals on the planet, how could there NOT be a hamster supply???
The long & short of it is that my good friend Jax not only contacted every single pet shop in Nelspruit, she approached her Neighbourhood Whatsapp Group (I am now very aware of the pitfalls of asking to buy hamsters in public), sourced the hamster, retrieved it when it ate its way out of the box overnight and then arranged to have it brought to Hoedspruit by way of a game viewing vehicle with a guide who happened to be driving this way! I think he received fewer instructions on how to safely handle an elephant encounter in the wild than he did on how to keep this hamster fed, hydrated and safe in her box all the way to Hoedspruit! It arrived unscathed and still trying to escape.
Jax and I deserved our wine that night! But Nibbles has provided Charlie with an outlet to cuddle and care for something while he has struggled with missing his friends and the isolation of not speaking the local language.
Oh, and Ben has since requested his own hamster…
Must dash, the cat is stalking into Charlie’s room again and the dogs need a walk!