Pet of the Day

October 17, 2008

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Henry, the Pet of the Day
Name: Henry
Age: One year old
Gender: Male
Kind: Black Bear Hamster
Home: Northfield, Minnesota, USA
   Henry is very special because he is my very first pet hamster even though I am nearly 21. I got him during an important time as well. My boyfriend abruptly transferred to a different college our second week of school. I felt lost without him and didn't know what to do with myself. A couple girls bought a hamster the same day I helped him move out, and I visited their dorm later that evening. I have always been an animal lover and knew meeting their hamster would cheer me up. I was disappointed meeting Henry because they said he was mean and had hissed in the car ride from the pet store. They discouraged me from touching him and said he would bite.

    The next morning I learned that in addition to being stuck with a (supposedly) unfriendly hamster, both girls had experienced allergic reactions to him. I immediately offered to take Henry. That night I watched him waddle out of his box, inflate his cheeks with food, and delicately grasp the water bottle nozzle with his tiny white paws. He didn't look mean. I decided that I would dedicate my spare time to taming and befriending Henry.

    I had Henry the whole last school year and he's great company. The first time I put my hand in his cage, his whiskers tickled against my fingers sniffing and he let me scoop him up. He has never hissed, bitten, or displayed any signs of aggression since I've had him (despite coming in contact with a cat who stared at him and a dog who sniffed his fuzzy little body mercilessly).

    We have a routine every night when he wakes up and comes out of his box. After he has a long drink of water, he comes to the front door of his cage and waits for me to open it so he can come out and visit. He lets me scoop him up and nestles against my body to be petted. Henry is so gentle and affectionate. Then I carry him to the couch and let him run all over it. One of Henry's favorite games is climbing to the top of the couch by digging his nails into the fabric. He always pauses to look around when he reaches the top, and then runs along the full length of the couch up there. He looks at me to come down, and repeats climbing to the top once he's on the seat part again. Then I give Henry a piece of baby carrot, lettuce, or spinach I take from the cafeteria with him in mind. Henry knows that he gets fed after I play with him and sits by his food dish. He gets very excited and tries to climb out of the cage when he hears the rustle of the food bag. Henry makes it very difficult to put food in his dish because he's always trying to crawl into my hand to get at the food!

    I usually take him out again after he eats so he can explore the room in his ball. Henry is very smart and can figure out how to get moving again when he gets trapped in a corner or against a wall. If I call "Henry!" while he's inside the ball, his ears will perk up in recognition and he will run towards my voice. I give him a yogurt treat when I take him out of the ball, which he promptly stores in his cheek.

    School is much more enjoyable with a friend like Henry. He loves me and my boyfriend, but doesn't seem to recognize anyone else's scent. Henry definitely helped our relationship when my boyfriend first left because he was such a good listener and always there to keep me company in the room.

    Henry is a very gentle, loving friend. He is a little chubby and actually broke his first 6" wheel (he is much happier now with an 8 1/2" wheel!). He likes exploring in his hamster ball and climbing to the top of the couch over and over again. He has never bitten anyone and will come out of his box to sit sleepily into your hand if you touch him awake in the afternoon. His favorite treats are yogurt chips. He also likes cucumbers, lettuce, and Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal. Henry's ability to shove an entire baby carrot into his cheek pouch amazes me! He is a very smart hamster; Henry is potty trained and responds by perking up his ears when anyone calls his name. This spring he got handmade Valentines from two girls, so there are already quite a few people who think he's special!

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