UPDATE

I just thought I’d update this post to let you all know that Happy passed away at some point last night. We think she passed in her sleep and seems to have gone peacefully. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this post and comment, she’ll be sadly missed but we feel happy that we were able to offer her a home and a part in our lives.

Rest in peace, my love.

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

Husband and I have both been unlucky enough to see elderly relatives fall victim to so-called ‘age related’ illnesses, he more so than I with both of his maternal grandparents suffering a combination of the most common ones. It’s not so much that they developed these illnesses, but that they spent years living with them, proud people needing to be cared for in a way that their former selves would have hated. We had this saying – “you wouldn’t treat your animals like it”; an allusion to the dignity that animals are afforded when their eyes/legs/brains give up and we resort to euthanasia. Humans are left to wallow and suffer while animals are sent peacefully to their place of rest without having to go through it.

The past few weeks, however, we’ve realised that the decision that in the past we’ve insisted we’d make should the occasion arise, is in fact not all that easy to make.

Remember Happy?

Happy the Hamster – Aged about 20 months old

That was Happy about this time last year – young, healthy, vital. She was about 20 months old there. Syrian hamsters generally live no more than 2 to 3 years in captivity so even in that picture she’s probably at the tail-end of middle age. She was still really lively, we had to lash the doors of her cage together with wire as she had a penchant for escaping, we once searched the whole house for her, admonishing the dog along the way thinking he MUST have eaten her, only to find her diving in and out of a pile of washing in our bedroom!

But, I digress. This is Happy now:

Happy – Now aged around 32 months

If we thought she was getting on a bit before, she’s now the Methuselah of hamsters. It’s not a very good picture but as you can see, she’s about 50% bald, apparently a very common sign of ageing in hamsters. Her legs don’t work very well and she appears to be blind in one eye. Life is not, as they say, a bed of roses for Happy.

She once lived in a three story cage with tubes, toys, wheels and a variety of food bowls. She now lives in a one storey retirement bungalow and needs to have her food and water in very close proximity. She drinks a lot but eats little and only really awakes from her slumber to poke her head out once or twice a day. This is the hamster who once spent 8 hrs a day hanging on the side of the cage, rattling the door in an attempt to do yet another Steve McQueen on us.

She doesn’t appear to be in any pain and as you can see from the video below, she can still walk around, albeit in a very doddery fashion. But when do we say “enough is enough”. When do we get to a point where we can unequivocally say she’d be better off in Rainbow Bridge, than getting older and more frail?

I have to say, it’s all taken me by surprise. Because Hamsters only live a short life, I very much thought she’d never show signs of ageing, I thought I’d just find her fully-furred and as chunky as ever, toe-up in her cage one morning. I never imagined that we’d see baldness, loss of sight, lack of appetite and limited mobility, like you would in a human. How very naive of me, huh?

I guess I’m asking; what would you do? Leave her in the comfort of her cage to slip off of this mortal coil, or make the tough decision to end her life and prevent any suffering? I’m stuggling, dear readers, and I never thought I’d have such a hard time with this decision.