A couple of days ago I had to make one of the hardest decisions ever.
Almost three months ago, my boyfriend and I got a black Syrian fancy bear hamster. I am not one to have pets (in fact, I hadn't had one since I was a kid), but I think with the quarantine, I felt we could use a little more love in our lives and we could share our love with this little fella. We named him Cupcake, after the fact that I'd voiced a hamster in a commercial named Cupcake!
From the first day I brought him home, he brought us an enormous amount of joy. He was the cutest thing ever. A black, furry ball that scurried everywhere with such curiosity. He explored his cage, climbing up and down his tubes. We couldn't believe how adorable he was, eating meticulously with his tiny hands, running in his wheel, and stopping to stare at his new parents.
He kept us company during the stay at home orders, and we never spent a day apart. He loved treats - his favorites being kale, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. It was difficult to stop playing with him, because he was so cute, and when we held him, we had to constantly make sure he wouldn't crawl out of our hands because he was so fast! When we went to bed, he was starting his day, collecting food, shoving them down his cheek, burrowing them away, and getting lots of exercise on his wheel.
He was the sweetest boy, and his fur was so soft, you would hardly know you were petting him when you touched him. He kept immaculately clean too, always grooming himself (one of my favorite things to watch him do). I loved just staring at him curled up in a ball asleep so peacefully.
Unfortunately, one night earlier this week, he suddenly started walking strangely, almost like his back was injured. Then we saw blood, and what looked like a red mass coming out of his bottom.
It was late at night, so we tried to find him an ER, but the first two we tried didn't see "exotic animals" (was not aware that hamsters were that exotic). They gave us a name of another, but it was 45 minutes away and we thought Cupcake was quickly dying, so we decided it was best to bring him home to be comfortable.
Well, for the next hour (one of the worst of my life), we watched him writhing around in discomfort. We were devastated to have to watch our baby in pain, and when it seemed as if he wasn't giving up, we decided to take him to the vet.
Turns out he had a rectal prolapse (which meant his lower intestine was coming out of his bottom). They had to do a surgery to get it back in, thus had to sedate him. They said it was a risk, and that hamsters didn't usually take to anesthesia well because they're so small. And even if he survived, they'd still have to figure out what caused the prolapse, which was difficult in itself since there were so many factors.
We decided to go forward with the surgery, seeing as how Cupcake still fighting. We left him there overnight. Got a text saying they'd done the surgery, but then he prolapsed again, and they'd need to do it again.
Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep.
The next morning, they called, saying he recovered and we could pick him up! On the phone, the doctor had also told us that she did an x-ray, and saw what may have been some obstructions inside, but wasn't sure, and wouldn't know until he passed them through his body.
We went to the vet, and picked him up. It was amazing to see our little hammie doing better and seemingly well.
We got his medicines (had to give him four a day), and instructions on how to give them to him. He seemed okay, lethargic, but still alive!
We went home, and he was eating, drinking, even mildly walking around some. We had hope he would be back to normal soon!
The only thing that worried us was that he hadn't pooped. We'd seen maybe one poop right when we picked him up, but after that, nothing. We called the vet and she said that that was normal, that 1-2 days of constipation was understandable because he'd just had surgery, but to contact them maybe the next day.
The next day came, and still no poops. We called again, and they said that it was normal, and if he still hadn't pooped the next day, to call and schedule an appointment.
We'd been watching him around the clock. He seemed fine, just sleeping a lot, which we figured he needed the rest. But there were also times he'd show some signs of activity, crawling into our hands and walking around.
They'd told us to check the sutures a couple of times a day. I checked it in the afternoon, and we then noticed that he'd prolapsed again!
My heart dropped.
We instantly drove to the vet, but we knew we couldn't have him go through another surgery.
I thought, if this is it, maybe we should just stay home, have more time with him. But we knew (as the vet had confirmed the first night we brought him in), that it would be a slower, painful death, because of his prolapse. I knew in my heart this meant we'd probably have to euthanize him. But I still didn't want to believe it.
We got to the vet, gave Cupcake to them, and then waited painstakingly for two hours before they called us into the small room.
The doctor confirmed exactly what we'd thought. He'd prolapsed a third time, and would need surgery to fix it. She wasn't optimistic about it, and we knew we didn't want to put him through more pain for such a low chance of survival.
Though we knew it was the "right" thing to do, it just seemed so wrong. Cupcake seemed fine at the moment. He was burrowing away like normal, eating, and drinking.
I sobbed on the floor, trying to say goodbye to my baby, telling him he would soon be out of pain. I didn't see how we could do this, when he looked almost as good as new. Yet, his intestine coming out of him said otherwise.
I can't explain the feeling of having to say goodbye to our pet, knowing it was us who was ending his life. In less than three months, he'd become a part of our family, and we couldn't remember what life was like without him.
It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I still can't believe it happened. I feel numb, like I'm in shock, and I don't believe it's real. We walk by his bin home expecting to see him there. We remember all the times we'd been able to play with him, and be with him. I still feel like I hear him running on his wheel at night.
Cupcake, you were perfect. You were gentle, innocent, full of curiosity and love.
We will always love and remember you, Cupcake, and you'll forever be in our hearts.
If you've ever had to put down a pet, any tips of how you got through it or words of encouragement would be appreciated.
Special thanks to Conejo Valley Veterinary (and our wonderful Doctor Chantz Lockwood) for treating Cupcake so well and for trying so hard to save his life. Having an extra day with Cupcake meant the world to us.
If you'd like to see more photos and videos of our little Cupcake, you can visit his Instagram page.