Somewhere in the spectrum of pet lovers is a place for me. I’ve always loved the dogs in our family, am happy to feed the goldfish, will reluctantly accept the adopted stray cat that wants to sit on my lap (purring and kneading no less). However, I draw the line at rodents. Furry and fuzzy are cute in commercials and animated movies, but furry and fuzzy do not belong with me.

With that said, we still ended up with Mango some six months ago. Maybe eight months ago. I was in Hawaii at the time, shopping for windows at Home Depot with Surfer Ty when son Jake phoned from Bellevue begging me to say yes to Mango. Mango was the Johnsons hamster and Mr. Johnson thought Mango needed a new home. Who knows if it was Jake’s idea, or Mr. Johnson’s suggestion, but we became the new home.

I didn’t want a hamster. I knew nothing about hamsters and wasn’t about to touch our new one.

Mango not only made lots of noise at night running and running in her wheel, but she had one red eye and a snaggled tooth mouth and okay–pretty coloring, apricot and white–but still, she was no lady.

I made up stories about Mango to entertain the boys. It wasn’t hard to do, not when Mango was a party-girl, liked to dance all night, and she played the field, always dating two or more guys at once…the smart, nerdy mouse that drove a red corvette and the big sexy rat on the Harley. She routinely ignored curfews, played her music too loud, and loved disco balls. I talked to her about our family expectations, tried to instil good manners, even locked the door so she couldn’t sneak out at night all to no avail. Mango wouldn’t be tamed. She loved to live big and the boys loved these stories.

Over time Mango learned to enjoy the airplane rides the boys gave her in the metal die-cast biplanes. She sat, cuddled, in Jake’s arms. She tolerated Sinclair’s daughter poking at her.

And then suddenly she wasn’t Mango anymore. A week ago she wasn’t herself, and by midnight the same day she was gone. And in the eight hours it took her to die I became a hamster lover. I couldn’t let Mango die. I spent hours on the internet trying to understand what she had, what was happening, called the various vets to see who handled hamsters and if they were open and if they’d be willing to see her at the late hour. In the end we did what Surfer Ty suggested, we wrapped her in a little soft cloth and held her and talked to her until she stopped opening her eyes and breathing.

A hamster might seem to be just a hamster and yet Mango was more. Mango was a saucy little orange and white party animal that loved shimmering dresses and go-go boots and bad boys on big bikes and I’m really going to miss her beady red eye and her long snaggle tooth and the sound of her dancing all night long.

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