Dear Jack: You Sleep in a Human Hamster Nest Now?

11 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

A few weeks ago, Mommy rearranged the furniture in our bonus room. We also got a new TV for that room; one that is new enough to have Disney+ on it.

That turned into “Movie Night” on Saturdays; which ultimately meant you and your sister sleep in the bonus room after you either watch a movie, or a few episodes of a Disney show.

However, it become this instead: You play computer games while your sister watches Disney.

To make things more comfortable for yourself, you built what I can only describe as a “hamster nest”.

I took a picture of both your nest and our pet hamster’s.

Yeah, pretty much the same thing.



Dear Jack: Our New Pet Hamster, Beta “Bear” Shell

10 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

Two weeks. Two whole weeks.

That’s how long we made it as a family before we collectively decided we were ready to have a pet hamster again; after processing the loss of our first hamster, Alpha.

A conversation never had to take place as a family as to what our new hamster’s name would be.

Clearly, Alpha was the first… so Beta would be the second.

I think we are the perfect owners for Beta; as he didn’t get adopted until later. He is already about 6 months old, whereas Alpha was closer to 3 months old.

Beta is not as tame as Alpha was, but Beta is also a lot more independent. Not all hamsters have the same personality.

Who knows? Maybe Beta will eventually want to be held as much as Alpha did. But for now, he’s at peace just hanging out in his aquarium and playing in the cardboard mansions you make him.




Dear Jack: Saying Goodbye to Our 1st Family Pet, Alpha the Syrian Hamster

10 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

For your 9th birthday nearly 2 years ago, your main gift from Mommy and me was a Syrian hamster; who became our first ever family pet so far.

Every night since then, it has been part of our family routine and ritual, for me to get the hamster out of his aquarium and let you and your sister hold him and play with him, leading up to bedtime.

He even travelled multiple times with us to Alabama during the holidays.

Choosing a Syrian hamster was definitely the right decision for our family.

But as we knew from the beginning, a Syrian hamster has an average lifespan of only 2 to 3 years.

I hadn’t factored in the fact that they are typically 3 months old when they are sold at pet stores.

So it does make sense that as of this very month, our pet hamster Alpha turned 2 years old, which in hamster years, was more like 80 years old.

We spent of the 2nd half of last week sensing it coming, based on his weakened behavior. I appreciate that, though, because it gave us all time to say goodbye in his last final days.

During his final night, we helped him while he passed on, by all of our family petting him as he faded away.

We held a special funeral for him outside, as you took it upon yourself to play the theme song to “Mork and Mindy” (Alpha’s favorite song) and insisted that each member of our family toss a pistachio nut (Alpha’s favorite snack) into has grave, right before I placed the dirt on top of his body to bury him.

Sometimes, we have to collectively experience sadness to experience life.

Alpha allowed us to do that this past week- and for the past nearly 2 years, he taught us to care for and to love… a rodent.

A special rodent, who brought us all happiness as a family.

Alpha “Sniffer” Shell

August 2019 – August 2021



Dear Jack: Putting the Hamster in Your Beyblade Stadium

10 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

As you get older, it’s only natural that certain toys become less relevant; or at least find a new purpose in entertaining you.

As for your Beyblade Stadium which was the main even a couple of years ago; it has been repurposed as a running track and/or playground for our hamster, Alpha.

He seems to appreciate the change of scenery and environment as well. It’s interesting to watch him become obsessed with trying to rub his scent on it, but it doesn’t work since it’s plastic; as opposed to the wood shavings in his aquarium.

Now we know- Beyblade Stadiums make good hamster playgrounds!



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.