This is for my boys who heard that I had shared my post about Lima Bean the gecko, but not the post about Mango the hamster.  They still talk about the stories I used to tell them about Mango, stories inspired by the noise she made at night running on her wheel in her cage. All night long. I had to shut three or four doors to try to block out her parties, her dates, her bad boy boyfriends showing up at all hours of the night to take her out.

So in memory of Mango, and to make my boys happy, here’s her story:

originally posted to the JaneBlog on February 7, 2006

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.

Are you a pet person?  And have you ever ended up with a stray, or a pet you weren’t planning on?  Tell me about the animals in your world and let me know I’m not the only one who can’t say no to helping a critter out!


  1. What a sweet story and I agree with the boys that it needed to be shared 🙂

    We adopted a tiny furball kitten that someone had abandoned on our doorstep ten years ago. I didn’t really want a cat, not because I didn’t like them, simply because I knew I’d be the one to get stuck cleaning out the litter box. However, Tigger, refused to use a litter box and insisted on going outside to hunt and prowl about during the day. I was thrilled by this- no litter box to clean.

    We still have Tigger and she is such a delight. She still won’t use a litter box, still hunts like crazy and still snuggles like a favorite teddy bear. I can tell she’s feeling her age, she doesn’t jump quite as energetically as she used to and she sleeps more. Our life will have a huge hole in it when she’s gone but we plan to enjoy her and love her with all our might until then.

  2. Jane, I love that story! Mango sounds like she was a pistol and she certainly won your heart. I have to agree..rodents are something that I have put my foot down about. We have 3 rescued dogs and 2 rescued cats. I have loved all my pets, but I have to say that Maggie was my favorite. Maggie was a 12 year old Australian Shepard/Bernese Mountain dog mix. I saw her picture in the paper put in by a local shelter. Her owner was an elderly man and had to move to assisted living and her “father” couldn’t find a home for her. She wound up at the shelter. When I saw the ad, I quickly called my husband (who is a sweetheart that puts up with my rescues) and went down and got her. She truly was an angel in a dog suit and we had her for 3 more years before she died. I loved that dog and she seemed to really understand that we had given her a second chance and a final home. Some people say, “It would be hard to adopt such and old dog.” But we say quality, not quantity and had an awesome three years together. She never really seemed like an old dog. We tried to reunite Maggie with her former owner, so he could see that she had a good home, but couldn’t find him. I always feel bad that he didn’t know.


  3. Let me put it this way: I am the Cat Whisperer.

    I’ve always had cats, from my first stray orange tabby (a male I named Julie) when I was 6. I was utterly devastated when he was run over by a car when I was 8. We also had an orange and white cat at the time, Irving Katz, who preceded me in the family and hung around for 22 years.

    After Julie’s death, I had a black tortoise-shell calico named Sparkle who stayed with me till I was in my early 20s.

    We acquired my sister’s cat Shadow, originally named Marigold (yuck), the night my sister and I met a couple at the local Haagen Daas. They were planning to abandon their gray, declawed tabby if they couldn’t find it an owner thanks to the woman’s suddenly overwhelming allergies. Philistines.

    I was about 11 then and can still see myself running up and down Millburn Ave in Millburn, NJ, back and forth to the pay phone to call my mother and beg her to let us bring the cat home (no cell phones then!)

    At our heyday in the mid-80s we had three cats and a dog that followed me home jogging one day. I thought my father was going to disown me on that one.

    Prior to getting Shadow, my sister had gone through a hamster stage – 3 hamsters total – and I COMPLETELY understand what you went through with Mango b/c when Digger suffered from a stroke, damned if we weren’t at an emergency vet’s office in the middle of the night crying our eyes out as they put the poor dear to sleep. My father just about had an apoplectic fit over the bill. My mother will still go into an entire spiel about that night, and various other hamster adventures (the story of the hamster getting stuck in the heating grate still makes me howl w/laughter. Don’t worry, it survived)

    I now have 2 cats, both calico, sisters from the same litter that are my delight. One has a black patch over the left eye and the other over the right, so they are the mirror image of each other. My mother also has a autumn colored tortoise-shell calico (since she lives w/me, it’s part of my household) that has been a lovely companion to her through extremely difficult times.

    So yeah, I like cats. Pets in general but I find living much easier with cats.

  4. Bunny Foo Foo was my very first pet. He was a baby cottontail that had been abandoned by its mother. My older brothers brought him home and my dad built him a really cool cage with lots of room. He only slept in the cage. Most of the time he was with me. I cried a river of tears when a bobcat scared him so bad he had a heart attack and died. I was four and I had Bunny Foo Foo for almost two years.

    We always had cats and dogs, the occassional lizard, some fish, one snake and I had a rat at one point too. My favorite cat, that I had from the time I was 8 until I got married at 21 was Puddin’ Tame. He grew into a massive 20 pounder who loved to be held and slobbered whenever you petted him. He was a great cat. Hubby was (and is) allergic to cats. Puddin’ stayed with me parents for another 3 years until he just went to sleep for good.

    When Jeremy and I got married, we got Ebony shortly after. She was a 7 week old black 3/4 Chow-Chow 1/4 black lab mix. She was the sweetest, funniest dog ever. Not the smartest. She was our first baby. We finally had to put her down 2 years ago. She was having seizures and then she went to sleep and never came out of it. That was three days before Christmas. I cried and cried. My son cried and cried. My daughter (who was 3, wanted to know what was for lunch) We got through it. I still miss her. She was a great dog.

    And now? We had a fan-tailed goldfish. Much easier to care for. And the upside? No poop to pick up in the yard! The kids and I would like to get another dog sometime. Something a bit smaller though. We’ll see.

  5. Hi Jane,
    We are pet lover’s around here. I wouldn’t have gone out and bought a “Mango” but if one needed a home when the kids were little they probably would have adopted her.
    We have a cat that was a foundling about 14 years ago. Best cat there is. I have a spoiled Springer Spaniel. The cat lets you know that she appreciates her home. We have taken in baby birds that have fallen out of the nest and nursed them until they are ready to fly away. We found help for a duck that was born with a twisted crooked neck and the wildlife lady sent him back to us and our pond after 6 months of straightening his neck.
    I think animals have a way of enriching our lives and making them so much better.

    You know when Mango passed on it was probably just her time to go. She might have been older than you thought she was or maybe hamsters just don’t have that long of a life span.

  6. Hi Jane: I remember the Mango blog. Poor little hamster. Sweetheart, you are not the only “sap” trust me. I’ve had cats and dogs all my life. Can’t talk about the ones we’ve lost else I’d be crying here at work. I have two cats now – Buff and Daisy. Daisy was a mercy run to my cousins 200 miles away – she’d been abandoned in front of a vet’s office. Luckily my cousin worked there and Daisy was so sick with respiratory ailments. I went and got her – she is pure white, healthy weighs more than 1 1/2 lbs now and lives on my bed and when my daughter comes from the Keys with her terrorist Jack Russell I don’t see Daisy for two, three days at a time. Same as Buff – whose mother was abandoned here where I work. When she delivered her kittens I saw her and that was it!
    Now I have a kitten hanging around outside but I can’t seem to catch her – I leave food but still can’t catch her – her name is blue eyes. She looks siamese. And now the dog – Neba. We’ve had her for 9 years and what a joy. She is actually my daughter’s who just moved out a couple of months ago and I call her the dog from a broken home. Neba stays with my daughter at night and drops her off at my house in the morning so she is not alone and can play with her cats. And after work she picks her up and takes her to her place. In fact when we brought Daisy home, she nursed on Neba. No milk – just needed a mother.

  7. Basie and Ella. Two dogs named after Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald (husband is a jazz musician and I grew up on it). We say that Ella The Wild Dog (sort of her unofficial official name) belongs to my son. She’s half collie and half shephard and could run all day long. Basie is MY dog. He’s 15 years old and I keep waiting for him to kick the bucket but so far, he’s still got a wag in his tail every morning when it’s time to come downstairs and go outside. He can’t see very well, is mostly deaf, and has a slow go of moving up the stairs. But the doctor says he’s fine for being nine million years old. He is part spaniel and part retriever. I love him dearly and he’s the first dog that was really my own, so it will be so hard when he goes.

  8. Just last week we took our 11 year old indoor only cat to the vet because she wasn’t eating much and was moving slower than normal. We thought she needed some new food or a shot or something, but it turned out our beloved kitty had a big growth on her lungs and fluid in them; so much that she couldn’t get enough air to breathe and would suffocate in a couple of days. We thought she was just getting old, but found out she was very, very sick. Having almost died when they attempted to get blood to test, she was revived but once we were told how sick she was, and given how little she tolerated needles and her pain, we elected to have her put down, rather than try extreme measures with not much hope of extending her life or leaving her suffocate. I was in a state of shock, and felt helpless and I wish I could have done what you did, Jane, but it would have been more painful for Maggie. Dear, fabulous Maggie, I will never forget you. Pets are a joy and a comfort and loving companions that enlarge our lives immeasurably. I can’t imagine having another pet and facing such a decision again.
    You were fabulous, Jane, to stay with Mango until the end. Funny how animals teach us how to be “human,” isn’t it.

  9. All of my cats and dogs have been SPCA specials or foundlings. I am a cat person to the bone, but I enjoy my doggie friends too. We have also had gerbils; they were intriguing, but it was just too stressful having them under the same roof as their natural predators (and we did lose one to one of our cats).

    Right now I have a lovely shepherd/boxer mix named Taffy who is 8. She is slowing down a bit, but she is a lovely dog. Pretty to look at, not overly bright, totally loving and affectionate and pretty much obedient. I also have two cats, both tabbies, Zulu and Jinx. I love them to bits. When my oldest daughter comes home we add a dachshund and a walker hound to the mix, both rescued dogs.

    It’s a hairy house, but I find that pets add so much to your life, give so much love, that I wouldn’t trade them for the cleanest house around.

  10. I’m definitely a pet person. I used to think I wasn’t but I can see now that I always have been.

    I currently have three dogs – Max, Brewsky and Harley.

    I say Max came with the house because the neighbor behind me had a dog that had had puppies days before I moved into my house. Once they were able to get around, they found the little cracks in the fenceline and would come visit. I got Max out of that litter. I fell in love with him and the guy let me have him.

    I got Brewsky after my doberman died (I had her before I bought the house). Max went into a bit of a depression after she died and I was trying to take up the slack. Brewsky started following us home when I would walk Max and I went to the owner to try to set up scheduled “play dates” for our dogs. Turns out they wanted to get rid of him because he was always getting loose. It worked out well for us. Max absolutely adored Brewsky. I liked him but it wasn’t long before I fell in love with him too.

    As for Harley, it was kind of funny. One day after work I was supposed to have a massage so as I left for the day, I told Max and Brewsky that I’d be late (as if they had a clue…although maybe they did). My massage appointment got cancelled so I ended up coming home at my regular time and when I came in, Harley was in my house waiting for me along with Max and Brewsky (the joys of a doggy door). For the next couple of weeks he hung out at my house quite a bit and I’d let him play with Max and Brewsky for a while before I’d put him back out again. Then I decided I needed to figure out who his owner was. Turns out someone was feeding him because his “real” owner didn’t want him anymore. And the people who were feeding him didn’t want to anymore. That’s when I took him in and made him my dog. And he’s such a sweetie.

    All three of the boys are sweeties actually. I can’t imagine not having them. 🙂

    Loved the post, by the way. 🙂

  11. Loved the story about Mango! I could picture her all dressed up ready to go out on teh back of the Harley!

    I had a blonde Pekingese named Tanya when I was growing up. She was a lap dog and did not play and do dog things because I don’t think she knew she was a dog. My mom was not a big animal lover, but she did love tanya in her own way. Before Tanya we had two cats. Tanya died St. Patricks’s Day 1982. My dad picked me up from high school on his way home from work and we found her. I was devasted for days. After that I never really liked animals. When I got older our best friends had cocker spaniels and I made no secret of my dislike for them.

    Fast forward to my 40th birthday… I thought I was getting a Kitchen Aid mixer. I ended up saying yes to a tiny ball of fluffy Cavalier King Charles-Bichon Frise Puppy. My mom was 40 when she got pregnant with me so I had kind of hoped I would get pregnant again with that miraculous baby. Two years before I had bought masses for my parents and chose one for the feast of the Immaculate Conception since my mom always said that when she wanted to have another baby (me) she went to mass that day and prayed. So I thought I’d try it. Well by then I was so over having another baby! I had made peace and was enjoying my life with my older kids! I prayed and told Jesus, “Whatever you decide for me I will accept.” I guess Jesus decided I needed to have a puppy baby!

    Teddy Bearski does not think he is a dog but a furry child and he has brought much joy to our family. I find myself noticing dogs — something I never did before and actually enjoying them. I even like our friends new dogs. But I am drawing the line at one!

  12. That’s so sweet, Jane–and very relevant. My 7 yr old daughter’s hamster died yesterday, and even though I’m not a hamster-person I found myself very sad at the thought of Hammonetta (aka Hammy)’s death. And of course my daughter was beside herself. It’s a hard thing, to watch any creature die.

  13. In my 24 years, my family has never said no to an animal in need. Our cats have either been strays or not properly taken care of by their “owners” so we feed them and they slowly become our own. The dog we got when I was little was found about to cross a busy street and our neighbors rescued her for us. We’ve never been able to turn down a furry face! My cat Budzilla, who my mom lovingly calls her grandson, was inherited from my former roommate who no longer wanted him. We have eyes for only each other and I can’t imagine my life without him!

  14. I love animals…all animals. And while we are still only a “one dog” family, that’s only because my husband does not share my enthusiasm. He says if I get another dog he’ll leave. Hmmm. One husband and one dog…two dogs. That’s a tough one. As of today the husband is still winning..but only by a little. I’ll keep you posted on that one. But tonight’s story is, for me, a really disgusting one…in a G movie kind of way. Two night’s ago, I opened the back door of our Arizona home to let our crazy Blazie out one more time for the night. Usually I stay and and hang out with her for a while…throw her a couple of rocks to chase since she doesn’t like sticks or Frisbees. But instead I tried to sneak back in the house for a bit. Bad move. As I walked through the door I felt something plop on my head.I instinctively knew this could not be good as I reached up to brush it off. Much to my great disgust, it was a lizard…a 3 inch Gecko that Arizona is so famous for.(dropped off the top of the sliding door) Now adorable as they are as stuffed animals for tourists… maybe even a Beanie Baby, or a cartoon character, they are NOT so adorable when they’re on your head, or scrambling away from you on your kitchen floor. Most people who I’ve told this story to don’t seem terribly grossed out by it. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t their head. And while I do laugh when I tell this story, it really was SO GROSS 🙂

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