Oh my. (Or should I say “Oh mae.*”) 😉 Life has been full of surprises lately–both amazing and utterly awful. But even when there are some difficult moments, it’s important to hold on to the golden ones. This is going to be a happy post, to reflect upon some golden moments from last week… and to introduce you to the newest member of our family, Leelah Love.
Let me start this little story by saying the following: I am convinced that having breakfast with an 11-year-old, 10-year-old, and 8-year-old is one of the most fun things ever. (Or maybe I should say “one of the most fun things ever, depending on the day.”) A few mornings ago, my kid brothers were about to go to school, and I was talking to them about how I would really like to adopt a hamster at some point this year. For the past several years, I’ve always had at least one hamster in my life. But the start of 2015 had left me hamster-less, and I yearned for a small critter that would fill the hole in my heart. Since Christmas (or perhaps even before Christmas), I had suddenly started to dream about hamsters almost every single night.
I told the kids that while I didn’t plan on getting a hamster that day, I was thinking of walking down into the city and trying to find out more information about where I might be able to adopt one. I had already gone to great lengths that brought no actual results thus far. I don’t believe in buying animals from pet stores, and while in the U.S. it’s quite easy to rescue animals of all kinds, it’s not so easy here. (An Italian friend of ours says that “Nothing is easy in Costa Rica!” But oh mae, do I love this country.) It’s certainly possible to adopt dogs or cats here, but if you don’t want to get hamsters from a pet store (or buy them from some random person), then you’re in a muddle. Something else to keep in mind is that they pretty much only sell Campbell’s Russian Dwarf hamsters here. No Winter Whites, Chinese hamsters, or Roborovskis. It is possible to find Syrian hamsters, but you might have to do some searching. And of course, I had my heart set on a female Syrian.
So after the kids left for school, I set off to the city with my golden dog, Buzz, and our human friend don (Mr.) Ubaldo. Just as we were about to cross the little bridge that would take us into the city, we stopped to let Buzz drink at the river. I was happily surprised to find hundreds of tadpoles swimming about!
Buzz enjoyed a few minutes of exploration.
Then we arrived. I am firmly convinced that you can find absolutely anything in this particular city, if you look hard enough (and get creative). My mother once asked don Ubaldo and me if we could go find some plastic black party hats (the kids needed them for a science project about the solar system). While we did not find plastic black party hats, we did find neon blue ones and a can of black spray paint (just another path to success!).
After stopping to inquire at a veterinarian’s office, don Ubaldo and I were directed to look for a man who owns a pet store nearby and has a lot of contacts. But before we went looking for him, don Ubaldo decided that we should go to the other destination that I’d had in mind. It was a store that sells fish and supplies. However, when I first went there a long time ago, there were also some baby Syrians for sale. I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to go talk to the shop owner. We finally found the store and went inside (we asked first if it was okay to bring Buzz in), and I got to talking with the lady who owns the store.
I explained to her that I was looking to adopt a hamster this year, specifically a Syrian, and that I do not buy animals from pet stores. I asked if she currently had any Syrians.
“Well… I have two,” she answered. “But they are not so young anymore.”
“That’s okay,” I said, getting excited. “I’d love to see them anyway. Do you have a female?”
The hamster was not in good condition. She had a scabby wound on one side of her body, holes in her ears, and eye issues. One eye seemed to be functioning, but it was barely open. The other eye did not seem damaged, but a little bit of lining around the outer part of the eye was missing.
I also noticed that the hamster had some skin issues. She was missing some fur and had flakes in those areas. There was also something different about her mouth and teeth. No matter how she moved, it always looked like her mouth was a little open.
Of course, I thought she was one of the most beautiful things that I’d ever seen.
The store owner explained that the male hamster had attacked the female on more than one occasion. (Though they are now separated, the two hamster had previously been kept together because the woman used them for breeding purposes. The female hamster had given birth multiple times. The store owner actually had two of the more recent offspring there, but they were not for sale, since she used them to produce more litters.)
I asked the lady what she intended to do with the female that I was holding and the single male in the little plastic container. Really, I was wondering what she had in mind for the hamster that was in my hands. I personally think that Costa Rica is a lot like Las Vegas (in the sense that you can do all kinds of things here that you can’t in other places), but even in Costa Rica, you can’t sell a hamster in such a state. The lady replied that she would sell the male and give the female [for free] with him.
“And if someone just wanted the female?” I asked. The lady said that if I really wanted her and I would take good care of her, I could have her. I thanked the lady profusely, thrilled by this unexpected development. There I was, with my golden dog and my new golden hamster, and everything inside of me felt golden, too.
Then I explained that we had walked all the way from my house (which wasn’t actually very far away… except by foot). Going home would involve us trekking uphill for quite awhile (sometimes in the sun), so it would be better to return to the store later and pick the hamster up then.
“Is it okay if we take her home on a motorcycle? Would you be comfortable with that?” I asked. Don Ubaldo has a blue motorcycle, which has been a true blessing and led us into some of our best adventures. Luckily, the lady didn’t mind us taking the hamster home on it.
But before heading home, don Ubaldo, Buzz, and I stopped at the little pulpería (tiny grocery store) by the bridge. It was there that we celebrated our good fortune by eating my favorite popsicles in the entire world, which are made only of moras (mulberries), water, and sugar. They are everything juicy, flavorful, refreshing, and delicious. The best parts of life on a stick. We also ran an errand to buy some brown sugar from another store, and then we began our journey home.
Once back, don Ubaldo and I rummaged through the laundry room. We were on a mission. (Buzz rested on the cool tile floor, panting, and just watched us.) We were in search of a large plastic container, which was full of old hamster supplies and would also serve as temporary housing for Leelah, until we can acquire an even bigger bin. I washed up the bin, a couple of hides (“hamster houses” for sleeping and resting inside), some wheels, and bowls. Then I began to set the bin up for her. And I told don Ubaldo what I had already known for days–that her name would be Leelah.
We hopped onto our blue mechanical steed and zoomed off to the city.
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A couple pictures of Leelah (after we brought her home):
Here are some pictures of our lovely lady ham (the night after don Ubaldo and I brought her home). She really is a dream come true. 🙂
My sweet, precious, beautiful girl.
^ My mother loves this picture of Leelah.
Because a house just isn’t a home without a hamster.
P.S. The kids love her.
* “Mae” is arguably the most common word used in Costa Rican slang (or maybe just in Costa Rica, period). It basically means “dude.”