I don't know what happened. The night before Charlotte had been her plump, bustling self. Now she was nearly unable to move. Toward the end of its life a hamster becomes extremely weak. I picked up Charlotte, who melted in my hand. I felt her warm belly on my hand; I kissed the thick fur on her back. She didn't protest or squeak. Hopefully, she wasn't in pain.
I called the vet when they opened and made an appointment for later that morning. I knew it would be a one-way trip for Charlotte. With a hard lump in my throat, I dressed for my pet sit. At the entrance to Charlotte's hut I left her favorites, watermelon and carrot, which would provide moisture if she wasn't able to crawl to the water bottle.
More than anything, I wanted to stay with Charlotte, but I was booked to care for two dogs that day. Before I left, I peered into her hut. She was hunched down, motionless and already shriveled. Maybe she would pass on her own. I called the vet and cancelled the appointment.
All day, as I played with the dogs I prayed that Charlotte would die at home in the warmth and safety of her hut. It would be the most peaceful end. The hours dragged by. Thank god my client decided to come home early.
"Hey, sweet pea," I whispered when I got home. Charlotte didn't stir but her back moved almost imperceptibly. She was breathing.
My vet was closed by that time but there was an emergency clinic close by. I carefully lifted Charlotte into her travel cage. She kept her eyes shut. On the way to the vet I talked to her for the last time. I told her what a special girl she was, how much I loved her, and how she was going to be OK, no longer afraid or in pain. My throat ached. How could I say goodbye to my little girl?
I sobbed as the vet tech hugged me. They gave me a plaster cast of her tiny footprints and returned her body to me in a small box.
I've owned hamsters for more than 10 years. Charlotte was unique. Does it sound silly to say a hamster can be mature? She was so wise and calm that I had her certified as an Emotional Support Animal.
I still miss my girl.