On Friday November 13 at around 1:30 a.m. Japan Time, I found Shiro lying on her side under her favorite big wheel in the green cage. When I touched her, she was cold and didn’t respond at all. I thought she was dead, but Hero Material said she was still breathing.
He took her out of the cage and held her gently between his hands. They’re almost always warmer than mine, and we thought maybe if we could make her warm again, she’d be okay.
After all, that courageous hamster had fought and won against many illnesses.
I still remember the first time I saw her in a local pet store. She was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen: pure white except for the soft velvety gray ear tips and gorgeous sparkling black eyes. She lived in a small glass cage with Kuro. We were initially going to get only one hamster, but I thought maybe she’d be lonely by herself. So we bought Kuro as well.
They were my first pets. That night as they were playing in their new cage with a wheel (their old one didn’t have one) I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. They were hilarious, active and utterly adorable. I was in love.
Subsequent discovery that Kuro is a male hamster shocked me — he was supposed to be a she! — but Shiro and Kuro got along so well I didn’t have the heart to return him to the pet shop. Nor did Hero Material. We kept them both. Shiro delivered her first litter: Peanut and Buttercup.
Then a disease ravaged her small body. It was a diarrhea caused by some parasites. I don’t know how she got it, but it destroyed her appetite on top of everything else. She refused to eat her favorite food — green veggies, nuts, seeds, etc. At one point, her weight dropped all the way from 55 grams to 17 grams. When she collapsed on her side, we thought this was it…until she jumped back up.
She never made a full recovery — the diarrhea never stopped even though her weight reached around 36 grams. That’s still very small for a hamster. Her mate Kuro weighs around 50-55 grams.
Small or not, sick or not, she was a fierce mother. I remember the time when I decided to clean her cage after she had her second litter. It was getting very stinky, and her babies were old enough that I could clean her cage without turning her against them. When she realized that her babies were exposed to some alien presence, she gathered them together and covered them with her own body, while giving me the death glare.
She always gave her affection to us generously. When I put my hand near her, she placed her paw on my fingertip and said her little hamster hello. She nose-kissed Hero Material many times, and she loved the attention she got from us.
So as she lay cold on Hero Material’s palm, we took Kuro out, so they could say good bye. He groomed her cold blue belly and petted her a little.
I don’t know how long we held her. I started to feel anxious because I saw blood where she’d lain down. She had no wound or open cut on her, and because where the stain was, she’d probably vomited the blood before we found her.
Finally when her paws started twitching and her whispers flickered, we thought maybe…maybe she’d come back to us just like she’d done many times before. However, it turned out to be her last breath.
Most winter white hamsters live for 2-3 years. She was only one year old.
We placed a big cashew nut between her forepaws. Cashews were her favorite food in the whole world. We didn’t want her to be hungry. Then we wrapped her in a long swath of scentless white tissue. It was her favorite thing to make nests with. We wanted her to have something she liked so she can make a home for herself. Then we placed her in a white box in which our wedding ring came and buried her under a beautiful willow tree by the river, so every time we walk by, we can say hello. So that she knows she’ll always be remembered and loved.