Our Family Pet is a Syrian Hamster… And I Am Its Calm Assertive Pack Leader

I admit: I am not a dog person. Nor am I a cat person. I like dogs and cats, just not enough to become personally responsible for their survival and/or livelihood.

So beyond caring for my wife and kids, what living creature do I have enough capacity left to care for?

I’ve got just enough left in me for… a rodent.

Specifically, a Syrian hamster.

When my son turned 9, over a year ago, he wanted a hamster.

It became immediately obvious, the moment we brought him home from the pet store, that Alpha was going to be my pet instead.

To be clear, back in November 2018, I knew nothing about hamsters.

So, thank you YouTube.

I learned that we needed to buy an aquarium for him to live in, instead of the “cute” hamster cages they sell at the pet stores where you buy the hamsters.

I learned how to hand-tame him.

I also learned that Syrian hamsters, being nocturnal and solitary animals, typically bond with one specific person in the household; in the likeness of a dog respecting the authority of the calm assertive pack leader.

Every night after the kids get ready for bed, I take the hamster out to let him crawl around in my hands, as I create my own version of a hamster wheel for him.

That’s when the kids like to take turns petting the hamster; which is the extent of their involvement with him.

While we are able to leave him alone at our house for a weekend, Alpha gets to go to Alabama where we stay at my parents’ house for Christmas vacation; which was for a week and a half in 2020.

This year, Alpha enjoyed crawling around in the Christmas wrapping paper- and feasting on Pistachios.

Syrian Hamsters typically don’t live more than 3 years.

That means that this year, in 2021, the year I turn 40, Alpha the Syrian Hamster will be officially experiencing the start of his midlife crisis along with me.

Dear Jack: Teaching You to Beat Me at Monopoly

10 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

This holiday season, I have officially introduced you to the classic board game of Monopoly. Sure, we’ve always owned a set at our house, but it’s simply served as an easy way for you and your sister to keep each other entertained when Mommy and I need to get work done.

Prime example: When the Covid shutdown happened earlier this year.

But I decided to spend some of my own money on a nice Monopoly set for us to actually play together, by the rules.

It is no surprise to me that I’ve only beat you at Monopoly once so far.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Decorating the Christmas Tree

10 years.

Dear Jack,

I think it was you who was most excited about putting up the Christmas tree this year. Granted, as Mommy pointed out, we have a ridiculously small tree for a family of four.

But still, it’s still big enough to (barely) fit all the ornaments we’ve collected together as a family.

You were so proud to be able to help me, as I had to climb up into the attic to bring down on the Christmas decorations.

Notably, our Christmas tree is mainly weighed down by all the ornaments you’ve made over the years.

Your sister has some catching up to do!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Thanksgiving Break Begins!

4 years, 7 months.

Dear Holly,

As the holiday season has now begun, you have had so much fun already, spending time with your cousins. You got to spend the night with your cousin Darla, who just turned 5.

I know that whatever the two of you got into, you were having a blast.

I am really looking forward to the holidays and all the time we will spend with family; this year, more than ever. I’ve even packed board games for us to play during Thanksgiving.

However, I noticed all the character pieces are missing in our Monopoly set. I think you might have something to do with that…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We’ve Kept Your Pet Hamster Alive for a Year Now!

10 years.

Dear Jack,

When you turned 9 years old, a year ago, your main gift was your first pet ever- a Syrian hamster.

We had quite a learning curve those first couple of months, trying to figure out A) how to keep it alive, B) how to keep it happy, and C) how to get you to be happy about having a hamster; despite the responsibilities that come with having a pet, as it took time for us to tame an animal and have him get used to us.

But these days, we are well-versed in how to accomplish all three of those things.

Now, Alpha (AKA: “Mr. Sniffer”), is a solid member of the Shell family.

It wasn’t easy at first- in fact, it was pretty terrifying.

But I am proud of our decision to stick with it; and to not return him to the pet store during those first 30 days when we could have.

Having a hamster has been a good thing for you and our family.

Love,

Daddy

 

Love,

Daddy