Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not Half Dead

Shadow, the hamster, at a younger time.

Shadow at over 2 years old.

Two years ago, a friend of ours told me a hamster she had just bought surprisingly gave birth a few days after she brought it home. She had several small gray babies that needed a home and being the softy that I am, I agreed to take one. The kids have had hamsters in the past and after the initial excitement faded, I was left with the care of the new pet. This was the case once again with our new addition. "Shadow" made her home in a wire cage in Hannah's room but after several months of loud chewing and wheel turnings in the night, she had to be relocated to the laundry room pantry. Since then, Shadow has had a home on top of the pantry. Not a great place for a family pet, but she doesn't seem to mind. The highlight of her day was when I came to "visit". She would immediately come over to the door and wait for whatever "treat" (usually a fresh veggie or a small slice of fruit) I came to offer her. She would take it as fast as she could from me and scurry off to enjoy her new treasure.

The last few weeks, Shadow has really begun to show her age. Her eyes are clearly not picking up images right in front of her, her back is humped and her now faded hair is falling out in clumps, exposing the wrinkled flaky skin underneath. She is not a pretty sight at all. When I bring her treats now, she does not see them well and I have scared her more than once when I placed them beside her. Last night, I blew on her gently to get her attention and she squealed and jumped up in the air! Although I look forward to the day when I can get rid of the falling apart cage and stop changing the bedding inside, I can not get myself to end the poor thing's life. My brother in law and father in law had very "creative" ideas on how to "end" things (I won't mention them to spare those of you who are small animal lovers), but the only avenue I have considered is taking her to the vet and asking them to put her to "sleep". Even that option makes me feel bad. We have never had to make decisions like this, our pets have always peacefully passed away. Now, some unknown compassion for this little creature has caused me to hesitate to make the decision.

Maybe its because when I look at Shadow, I am reminded a bit of Todd and I's life right now. We have never had a lot of money or a big house. We drive a modest leased vehicle and an old used Honda. We don't have all of the latest technology or been able to go on big vacations, but we have never really cared. Not that we wouldn't appreciate some of those things, but its never been something that we felt driven to achieve. We have been happy to simply exist up on the "pantry" and live life together as a family. Our "treats" were the special times we went out to eat at a restaurant or went to the movies. Now, with Todd unemployed, our home value decreased by almost $60,000 and the desire to get back in ministry still weighing heavily on Todd, we are starting to feel a bit drained of life.

When I look at our hamster, Shadow, I feel her pain as she adjusts to not being able to see quite where she is going. I look at her exposed skin and think how uncomfortable it must be without the warmth of the fur she used to know. And then I reflect on the dark and uncomfortable journey we have been on as well.

Last night, I took out our camera, determined to capture the last images of our Shadow. I wanted to be able to show a few people how pathetic she looked now. When I looked back at the pictures I took, I was actually surprised that they didn't quite capture the ugliness of what I saw. She may be losing hair, but her small black eyes seemed to somehow distract you from what she was missing. It made me think that perhaps she wasn't quite the sight I thought she had become. Certainly, there are much worse ways to die as a hamster. She doesn't have a huge tumor on her back or have her teeth grow so long she is unable to eat. She is simply living in a body that has slowly been used to capacity.

I realize that at times, I look at our situation and feel like our dreams are "half dead". I get so caught up in the ugliness of what I feel and see around me and see only what has been taken away. Maybe, I need to look at what we still have. We still have our beautiful kids, transportation, a roof over our head and most of all our faith in a Father who will never fail us. He cares about us soooo much more than I could ever care about a dying pet. He knows our desires and needs and I believe that He has our very best future planned out for us. As much as I lose the desire to keep plugging on and endure this dark, uncomfortable state of living, I know that, unlike our little Shadow, there is something so much better in store.

We just have to keep moving forward.

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At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Amy said...

What a beautiful post. You know how much I love animals, and this brought tears to my eyes. I love your tender heart! Sometimes we're all "Shadow's" and the interesting thing is that God, the Creator of all, cares about little hamsters, too...not just the big things. Just a reminder, I'm still praying for you.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Amy A.K.A. "The Mrs." said...

It's so comforting how God comes to us on our level. He uses everyday things to show us His heart.
Thank you for sharing your story.


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