Pinky and the Brain
by Susana Rosende

According to my kids, "Pinky and The Brain" is the name of a popular cartoon about two laboratory mice, one of whom's brain is affected during experimentation, blessing (or plagueing) him with a high intelligence. "Pinky," his companion and far less intelligent, is the other main character.

Thus, Joey's first pet hamster, a gift for his First Communion, was christened "Pinky." Pinky was white and golden, and beautiful (for a rodent). Joey ensured I provided the best cage to house his new pet, including water bottle, litter box, and wheel.

Pinky was a very nervous and passive little guy. When Brandy, one of our Shih Tzus, peered in his cage, he promptly keeled over and lay still. Terrified he'd had a heart attack, I soon discovered he was playing dead.

Apparently, Pinky played dead too well. He died, for real, within a week.

During a tearful conversation from his Dad's house, Joey lamented Pinky's loss.

"I miss Pinky," he said. "He was my friend!"

"I do too," I told him, picturing Pinky's sweet little face and twitchy nose.

"Why did he have to die, Mommy?"

Why? Why indeed. I thought we did everything right.

Joey also begged me for a proper funeral for Pinky. After the call, I wrapped Pinky in a towel and gently placed him in a ziplock bag and casket fashioned from an empty popcorn box. In the pouring rain, I was in our back yard, shovel in one hand, umbrella in the other, praying for God to welcome our beloved Pinky to Pet Heaven.

Heartbroken our tiny friend had passed on -- and just days before the scheduled hamster race at our local pet store -- I got Joey a replacement. But before I did so, I scoured the Internet for plausible reasons for Pinky's demise.

I soon learned that hamsters are very delicate and nervous critters. Any change in environment, including being shipped to the pet store, can cause stress-induced diahrreah known as "wet tail." Because of a hamster's small size, one day of wet tail can be fatal, causing severe dehydration and ultimately, death.

The pet store hadn't warned me about "wet tail" nor advised me to put the "Dri Tail" medicine in the water bottle for the first week, to guard against the condition. I also learned not to handle the hamster too often within the first two weeks in its new home.

Armed with new knowledge, I replaced Pinky with "The Brain," a female brown and white hamster. Unlike Pinky, The Brain is strong and active, busy burrowing and storing food throughout the cage and in her cheeks,

and even trying to break out of her new home!

The night before the hamster race, we introduced The Brain to Pinky's race car. Like Pinky, she, too, drove in reverse, steering the car backward. But, unlike Pinky, The Brain was fast and determined.

Despite her strength and agility, The Brain did not place in the hamster race. But, she is healthy and strong. We trust she'll win next time!

Yesterday, we got a new "Pinky." Pinky 2 is gray and white, a long-haired teddy bear hamster. She's big and fat and strong. Very robust, the biggest hamster in the store. And hopefully, healthy!

We put the Dri Tail in her water bottle, too. Just in case.

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