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Ping and Pong


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Ping and Pong were our kids’ pet hamsters back in the early 70s when we lived in Dallas. We got into that pet genre with both feet. The hamsters only cost about 50 cents apiece, so we could afford the deluxe “Habitrail”. You know, that was the big clear plastic cage, complete with water bowl, exercise wheel and other amenities. Then we bought several extra feet of tubes that attached to the main cage, simulating tunnels that allowed the little fellas to exercise and get to a separate, high loft. One tube was a dead end, closed off by a thin, perforated metal disk that provided ventilation.


On a particular Sunday morning I walked into the room where we kept the hamsters. No, that’s not right, Ping had escaped earlier. We never found Ping, so Pong was our entire herd. Anyway, I saw that Pong had tried to gnaw through the perforated metal disk. The problem was that he had gotten his two big front teeth and his snout through one of the holes in the disc and couldn’t free himself. He was just lying there on his side, having become one with the disc. He was panting and sopping wet and, in his vigor to get free, he had almost sliced off his snout. Only the bone kept that from happening. There is no telling how long the struggle had lasted—could have been hours. I managed to remove the disc from the tube with Pong still attached and wrapped him in a towel. But, I couldn’t remove his bling (the disc) without doing more damage. By then, all three of our kids were on the scene, fretting over Pong’s condition and fate.


I called the Vet and he listened politely as I described the situation. I know I heard him stifle a laugh at least once. Then, mercifully he gave me an out, saying, “You know….if you bring him in today, I’ll have to charge you the emergency weekend fee and that may be quite a bit more than you paid for the hamster.” He paused, awaiting my response. I weighed the look on each kid’s face against the Vet’s words and against the possibility of doing nothing or waiting 'til the next day. I knew what I had to do.


The Vet was by himself at the office on that Sunday, so that meant I got to be the attending nurse. My main job was to hold Pong while the Vet did his best to free him from the disc of death. Even under normal circumstances, holding a hamster is like trying to pick up a bead of mercury. I can attest that it is even worse than impossible when the hamster is under stress and constantly releasing bodily fluids. By the way, the Vet didn’t warn me that getting stuck on a disc causes incontinence in hamsters. Also, he wore gloves during the procedure, but didn’t offer me any. Sorry, I digress.


The Vet finally freed Pong from the disc and used several stitches to sew the snout back together, while I was still struggling to hold the little guy. All the while, Pong just kept on…..well, you know. They must be all bladder. We paid the $50 tab (that's almost $350 today) and left with care instructions and medication in hand. I wish this had a happy ending, but, the truth is, Pong died over night and we had a burial service for him the next day in the back yard. We interred him next to the cat, but that is another story.

Edited by Gary
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