Farmer Girl by Deb Tish

I was pretty much born wanting a dog and a farm to raise him on. Most of my childhood memories involve me positioning myself in front of my parents with a big glossy dog book and a face full of tears. I’d stare into the eyes of a West Highland white terrier and feel how much I’d love him, and him me, if only he could be mine. Then I’d tilt my face up so my tears would glisten in the light of the TV.

“You can have a farm full of dogs when you’re grown up,” my dad would say.

“The Andersons’ dog destroyed the whole house,” my mother would say. “The whole house!”

And I would bawl. This went on for years. With the exception of a one month stint in which my parents agreed to a beagle named Willie (who then destroyed our whole house), the only pet I was allowed was a red-eared turtle named Snoopy who kept escaping and wedging himself beneath the heating coil of our fridge. Snoopy was okay, but I quickly learned that one dehydrated turtle does not a farm make.

Then when I was 11, my mother announced we were adopting her friend’s brown poodle. Someone in the family was allergic to Mocha and the kids were devastated to be getting rid of him. I thought about the sad kids for about a second and a half, then started celebrating. I was finally getting a dog!

We’d walk through the woods together. He’d never need a leash because farm dogs are never on leashes. Besides, he’d never want to leave my side.

A week later, Mocha arrived. He was curly and matted and perfect. The sad kids came with him to say goodbye. I felt bad for them, but not for long. I had my very own dog! The sad kids were even sadder when they had to leave him with me and my imaginary farm.

Mocha was the perfect dog. He slept on my bed, he kissed my face and, most important, he didn’t destroy my mother’s house. He even learned not to run away when off leash.

In the meantime, the sad kids got a hamster they grew to love nearly as much as Mocha. One weekend they needed someone to care for the hamster while they went skiing. I volunteered. I figured it was the least I could do.

The sad kids looked even sadder when they dropped off their hamster. I tried to cheer them by telling them I’d take good care of him. And I did. This was a big weekend for me–I had two live animals in my care and neither of them had a shell.

One morning, I thought I’d show the caramel-colored rodent a really good time by setting up a corral made of towels in my bathroom. I brought Mocha in so I could look out at all my livestock from my perch on the toilet.

I don’t know why I looked away, but when I looked back again, the hamster was gone. I checked the bathtub, behind the toilet, under the useless towel fences. No hamster. Then I noticed an open cupboard door and peered inside. There was nothing but a few bottles of bubble bath and some towels. But where the pipes met the wall there was a gap plenty large enough for a hamster to shimmy into. I’d lost the sad kids’ new pet.

In spite of all the treats I layed out, the hamster never returned. The sad kids came back to an empty cage and I felt like a monster twice over. If the kids ever got another pet I never heard about it. I’m sure they found another petsitter.

As to what happened to the hamster, we heard scratching in the walls for a few days. Then, the following year when movers lifted a rolled-up rug in the basement, something came tumbling out. A pile of tiny bones and caramel-colored fluff.

Some lousy farmer, huh?


14 Replies to “Farmer Girl by Deb Tish”

  1. Oh, Tish. I thought I was the only kid in the world who killed someone else’s hamster. My victims, er people, weren’t the sad people — worse! they were the cool people. The father ran, like, three hundred miles a day, while I could barely waddle the half-block to their house. The girl, who was my age, was thin and she could run, too. She never tried to jump over a hurdle on the lot beside the school only to end up with gravel-embedded palms that lasted two months. And she had a fraternal twin brother — a cute one! Why do these evil Houdini hamsters happen to good people like us? Okay, I suppose that waking up dead in the bedroom garbage can three weeks later was punishment enough, but still. Small rodents should know these suicidal escapes should only be attempted on family time. Sheesh. xoxo

  2. This wasn’t funny at the time for you or the sad kids, but it feels inevitable now. Sure, the sad kids probably “blamed” you for their pet loss — both Mocha and hamster –, while the obvious culprits were their parents who couldn’t take the time to train a dog so they settled for a “caged” animal. Think of it this way, Tish: You gave the hamster it’s freedom!

  3. Robin – erm , it sounds like YOU woke up dead in the bedroom garbage can. See? Now I’m relieved your cool family hamster died. (that would suck – killing a cute guy’s hamster.)

    Larramie – Heh, yeah. Freedom for a week. But the dog had a great life! He was my reason for living during my barbershop haircut and brown cords phase — during which, friends were scarce.

  4. I like to think that the hamster relished his freedom and would have gleefully traded years of going around the wheel for a few shorts weeks of garbage snacks and freedom. Perhaps he had a tiny hamster affair while he was out, painted, really lived. That thought makes me happy.

  5. “Robin – erm , it sounds like YOU woke up dead in the bedroom garbage can.”

    Heh – I wasn’t THAT upset. ‘Twas my unfortunate ward who fell in the rubber rubbish well and couldn’t scale the walls. You’d think they’d carry a little rope or something.

    I’d have felt a lot worse if I’d had their little dog, too. That must have been awful. Mocha sounds like a great pooch, though. I love brown poodles!

    Loved this, too: Then I’d tilt my face up so my tears would glisten in the light of the TV. Beautiful. I wouldn’t want my kids to read that, though. They’re bad enough as it is.

  6. Oh… eww… poor hammy. When I was small, my hamster chewed his way out of his cage (note to Habitrail: hamsters can chew through plastic). I was devestated. Then a couple weeks later, in the dead of night, I was awakened by something tickling my face. I swatted… thankfully hamsters can be flattened and not break anything. I squished my darling Cory against my cheek. No hammy fluff and bones for me. Thank heavens.

    At least you got Mocha out of the deal. So, do you have a farm full of dogs now?

  7. Tish, your story is the perfect combination of sad and funny. I grew up on a farm with horses, pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits and every stray that could find its way there. Animals dying by accident or old age happened way to often. I spent alot of my childhood crying over my departed friends. Its funny because as a child I always wanted to live in a big city with friends who I could walk and see. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

  8. Eileen – I hope you’re right.

    Robin – Okay, lol, that’s so horrid. He was right there beside your desk, dying? For weeks? Although you’d think he’d let out a squawk. We’ll leave it to Eileen to sweeten his demise.

    Marianne – thankfully hamsters can be flattened… Not sure I’ll ever wipe that image from my brain. Ugh!

    Catherine – Snort! Poor turtle.

    Lisa – too bad there wasn’t an exchange program. Other than the dying animals, you lived my dream childhood.

  9. My grandmother was allergic to cats and dogs, so we had rodents: hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs.

    My pregnant hamster, Fluffy, once ran away. We couldn’t find her anywhere. The next day, there were painters working inside our house, and one of them said, “What’s that?” and looked pretty freaked. There, on the carpet beside his white dropcloth, was a tiny, blind, pink fetus-like newborn hamster. I scooped it up, looked, and found another. I followed a trail of newly born hamsters to Fluffy, under the couch. I scooped up all the babies and carefully put them back in the cage with Fluffy who then ate several of them.

  10. Great post, Tish — funny how something so horrific when you’re young can take on a humorous edge when you’re older, huh? (Confession — I’ve never liked rodent-like pets, though, so I thought it was funny).

    I’ve really missed popping by and commenting on all your posts. However, I have my 2nd novel coming out next week and I’m STILL writing my now-thirty-day-late third novel, so my blogging has become sporadic at best. *sigh* Please don’t think I’m a snot for not dropping in. I promise when June hits, I’ll be back full force and you’ll be wishing I’d leave.

    P.S. You debs rock with all your wonderful news, btw 🙂

  11. Jennifer . . . Eeewwwww!! I tell you what, being pregnant and giving birth is a much higher price for a meal than I would ever pay. I’ve never understood the eating your young thing. Yuck!

    Fun post, Tish!


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