Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kathy's animal rescue

We had an exciting night last night! Michael and I had just gotten home from walking the dog and shopping. I was inside, and suddenly Michael brought the dog inside and grabbed a flashlight, saying, "There's a creature out there." I followed, expecting to see a skunk or a raccoon, or something equally large.

Instead, there was this tiny creature huddled by the side of the house, with the shack neighbors' cat on the other side of the fence. Michael told me that the cat had had the creature, but had hopped the fence when our dog came to investigate. Michael shone the flashlight on the creature, and we stood there and stared at it while it sat there and stared at us.

Michael was saying it was a rat, but on some level I knew that wasn't right. Despite his attempts to hold me back (he was trying to protect me because he's afraid of rats!), I grabbed the flashlight and took a closer look. "It's a hamster!" I announced. I sent him inside to get something for me to catch the hamster in, while the cat circled restlessly, wanting to get another chance at her prey, no doubt. In the end, though, I caught the hamster in my hands.

It was quickly obvious that the hamster was quite friendly, and quite grateful to be safe. There's no chance it was loose for long - it's too sweet to survive long on its own, I think. We went to my parents' house to retrieve the cage my dad made for my gerbil more than ten years ago, as well as some food to keep us until we had a chance to go to the pet store. We named the hamster Manny, short for Manfred - like the mammoth in Ice Age.

Manny has a gimpy back leg - the foot is curled in on itself and to the side, so that Manny stands on the side of the leg, and not the bottom. At first we wondered if it were a deformed leg or from a previous injury, but since Manny has gotten better at walking on it the more time has passed, I think it was inflicted by the cat. There was only a little bit of blood, and I'm afraid the foot is broken - probably crushed by the cat's jaws. We're going to take him in to a local low-cost vet clinic tomorrow - I doubt they'll be able to do much, but I hope they can at least tell me something about how to care for his injury.

We've debated on how this helpless little hamster came to be in our backyard. We suspect he's another folly of the "shack" neighbors - like the bunny they lost upon moving in, or the puppy they fought about ownership over with a friend (so I've heard, anyway). Michael termed it their "Pet of the Week," and I think it's an apt assessment. In any case, we are not returning Manny to them.

Thank goodness we came along in time to save Manny. He really is a sweetheart, one of the most good-natured rodents I've had - and I've had quite a few. He's also very pretty - a lovely rust color, with a dark brown undercoat. The cats haven't seemed to notice or care much that their home is now shared with a rodent, but the dog is very interested in Manny. To Manny's credit, even after his encounter with a cat, he doesn't seem phased by either the cats or the dog - I've introduced him to both, and he just sniffs noses with them. I'm not sure if it's courage or stupidity, but he seems virtually fearless.

Anyway, I hope the vet will have some good news for us tomorrow!

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