Dear Jack: Our New Hamster, Snowball!

12 years old.

Dear Jack,

After our Saturday morning routine of going as a family to get donuts, we swung by the pet store to pick up some bedding for our hamster, Beta.

But while we were there, you and I showed Mommy the super furry hamster we saw there the week before.

Things escalated quickly:

We asked one of the workers there to let us hold the hamster.

That led to Mommy suggesting we buy an aquarium for him.

Needless to say, as a family, we are all very excited to now have a 2nd hamster in our home:


He is super cuddly. He loves to be held.

And he especially likes you!

Now our hamsters both have a friend to look at through the glass of their aquariums.

Even though they are both male, they can’t live in the same space because of how territorial they are.

Two hamsters, two aquariums… your bedroom!



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



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: 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.






My New Hamster Dad T-Shirt: Fist Bumping “Best Friends for Life”

Over six months ago now, back on November 16th, 2019, my son turned 9 years old. To my own surprise (still to this day), I agreed to let him get a male Syrian hamster as a pet.

Obviously, that meant that on November 16th, 2019, my son didn’t become the proud new owner of a pet hamster. Instead, I became the extremely reluctant new owner of a pet hamster.

After the first couple of weeks, during the initial 30 days period where the pet store would allow us to get a full refund, my son officially decided he wanted to take his birthday present. My son wasn’t attached and he didn’t want the responsibility.

But I just couldn’t do that to the little guy… I am referring to the hamster, here.

So I did some research on YouTube and learned what I needed to know to be a good hamster dad.

I bought a 20 gallon aquarium, instead of the stupid plastic toy one we originally bought. I taught myself how to hand-tame the hamster. I learned the importance of helping the hamster live in a feng shui environment; regularly placing new cardboard boxes in the his tank, and hiding food throughout his home.

And of course, I take him out every evening when when he wakes up, to play with him. (Syrian hamsters are nocturnal.)

To me, it’s undeniable I have become the best hamster dad in the state of Tennessee.

So it only made sense that I should use some of my “birthday budget” (my wife and I are faithful Dave Ramsey followers) to buy a t-shirt to express how proud I am to be a hamster dad.

On Amazon, I found this really cool one that has a man and a hamster fist bumping, with the caption reading, Best Friends for Life.

There’s a built-in joke in there: Syrian hamsters typically only live to be 2 or 3 years old.

So my goal is to celebrate these next couple of years and give this hamster the best life a hamster can have!

If you want to buy a hamster t-shirt like mine, just click here to find the best deal on Amazon, like I did.