Salt and Scissors were much quieter since Pepper's death. (please read part one). I guess now we know who was causing all the trouble. The two remaining hamsters seemed to be friends. All was going well and because of that, my affinity for them began to grow. To the point that I decided to go to the pet store and get a little education and necessities for the little creatures.
I go to the pet store on Monday afternoon. The pet store was like any other. Full of CRAP you don't need but you would buy because you don't know better. Luckily, I had most of what the hamsters needed. What I knew they needed was the proper liner of the bottom of their cage. I didn't know what it was but I knew hay wasn't it. I knew wood shavings wasn't it either (this is what I had to work with in the classroom) I got the recycled newsprint stuff and kudos to the lady who sold it to me, it's perfect! She also gladly sold me new food, wood things for them to chew on, and a house to hide in (a nest). I was good with all this as I knew the hamsters needed it. Besides I was going to turn in the receipt so I was more liberal with my spending. It's for the hamsters.... right!?
So on Tuesday, I'm so excited to share the new goods with the little guys. I put Scissors in its ball and it's happy to be loose, so to speak and I put Salt in one too but since the leg is lame, it doesn't roll anywhere. I clean the cage, add the new stuff and put them back and watch as they examine the new things. Right away Scissors goes to work on the nest, pulling out the stuffing, gnawing at it here and there and began making it home. I give kudos again to the sales lady who obviously didn't just talk me into something I really didn't need.
On Wednesday the two hamsters are happy as clams. Salt is looking a little weak. As I said, it is fat and lame so I'm praying it will die soon. Regardless of my prayers, it is hanging on. Scissors seems pleased with all the changes.
On Thursday I come in and decide to bring the cage down to the children's level. It stays up and out of reach during class time so they (the kids and the animals) are not overwhelmed with excitement. As I bring the cage down, the kids gather round. They are excited to see them up close. I peer in and notice that both hamsters are up in the apartment on top. I peer closer. I notice something that doesn't look normal. I'm thinking to myself that maybe one of them is sick. It doesn't look like throw up, it looks more like intestines. I ask the kids if I can get closer. When I get really close, the thing I'm staring at moves. ..... OH CRAP! What the hell is that?!!
I keep my cool and never let the kids know I'm freaking out. As I widen my view and take in the whole scene and see that we have baby hamsters. WE HAVE BABIES~! I realize that the thing I first saw was the last birth still in its sack. Then I survey the situation. One of the babies is bleeding because it's missing a leg and the other is not looking so good, I look at Salt and it is pushing something around, I count another baby and this one is covered in wet mucus stuff, I look at Scissors and it is chewing on something, another baby and this one is bleeding from its head. 5 Babies. Two already chewed on, one normal, one still in the sack, one being cleaned or moved around by the mother? I look at Salt. Sure enough that girl has lost some weight. She's all skinny now. I look at Salt, who is now having a hay-day torturing the infant.
Can I just say, my state of "freaking out" is a little out of control? I'm desperately trying to think of what to do next. I know that if Scissors stays in there, it will kill them all. But before I save any babies, I run over to Ms D's room and let her know that we have babies. I tease her, no wonder she wanted to pawn them off. She claimed complete ignorance and started freaking out, out loud. I sent her away. I call my director, Ms M. who is at home trying to get ready. She says she'll be right there. In the meantime, I go find Ms B who is wise and has had many many pets in her life including rodents. She comes in and surveys the situation.
I love a calm person in a crisis. I love these people. She says, "Get that one out of there. If that's the Daddy, it will kill them all. Give me a Kleenex so I can get rid of the ones they've wounded. Then she said, see if the mother will do what she's supposed to. She warns us that she probably won't
Now, you have to remember that I have about 8 children watching this go down. 8 children who have never seen a death right before their eyes. 8 children and a teacher who have never seen hamsters give birth. I decide that this must become a teaching lesson and I need to get control. I explain what has happened. They love to look at the new babies. "What happened to the other three Ms Celeste?" "They didn't make it." "But what happened?" "They died." "Why?" "The mother or father didn't want them so they killed them?" "Why?" "I don't know exactly. Maybe they didn't know what to do with them." "Oh.... will they kill the other two?" "That's an excellent question. We'll have to wait and see." "I hope the mother loves them and nurses them?" (this is a very smart little kid) "Me too." "What will we do with the Daddy?" "That's another excellent question. We can't put him back in there can we?" "NO! He's not nice to the babies." "What do you think we should do?" "He needs another cage." "Excellent idea." I look around and see our old bird cage. I think that will work until we figure out what to do. Scissors gets a temporary home in the bird cage. Comical at best.
Mind you, many many more children have come in with their parent. The kids have been retelling the story. The parents and kids have been peering into the cage. I've moved the Mamma and the two little babies into the nest and we're waiting to see if she'll take to them or kill them. For an hour and a half nothing has happened in our class but the hysteria of hamsters, birth, death, separation, and hope. What a great lesson in Wild Animal Week.
As we go outside, I tell the kids to be prepared that when we come back we might not have any more babies left. They seem okay with this. Some are hopeful. Some don't understand. Some don't care. They're tired of this lesson and just want to go outside.
As I feared, there were no more babies alive when we get back. Salt killed them both. I guess she knew that with a bum leg, she wasn't fit to be a mother. We also took Scissors to Ms B to examine and see if indeed we had a male. She let us know we DID NOT! So guess who was the daddy folks? You got it. Pepper. And all that noise we heard..... yeah, much rape and pillaging going on in that cage. Finally the girls got tired of it, murdered the man, killed the babies and are living happily ever after in a cage that's quiet and calm.
I fear, deep down, that we have another litter on the way..... Does anyone know the gestation period for hamsters?