February 2009

The strange saga of Frodo and Sam

By Suzanne Strazza

Price of a baby hamster: $8

Price of dinner for two at the Kennebec: $75

Price of taking mangled, chewed-up hamster to the vet: OUTRAGEOUS!!!

Just before Christmas, trapped in our house, watching the snow fall and fall and fall and fall, four young boys played. While we stared dreamily at the packed car, wondering if we would ever be able to leave for our Idaho vacation, human brothers and hamster brothers played in a wooden, rodentsized Disneyland. Giving up on driving out of town for the day, I called the four boys out to breakfast. Two sets of human brothers came to the kitchen table while one set of hamster brothers realized that they had ended up in the same cage.

Pandemonium erupted.

Bowen noticed that Asa had left the bedroom door open (a major no-no in a house with cats and hamsters), and ran in to close it. Just as he reached for the doorknob, he heard the angry lionlike roars of Sam, attempting to slaughter his smaller, runt-brother, Frodo.

Bowen began screaming and crying. Asa, Simon and Everett raced into the bedroom wondering what the panic was all about. There was blood spurting, fur flying and teeth gnashing. Children were howling, cats circling like sharks and the dog hid under the couch.

We managed to get Frodo out of the cage. He was still alive, but there was a lot of blood. His right eye looked like it might fall out of its socket and his left leg was about to drop off.

Bowen, the animal-lover in the family, wailed that not only was Frodo going to die, but that it was all his fault because he was the one who, in a distracted moment, put Frodo in the cage with his bully brother Sam.

Yes, we have read “Lord of the Rings,” and no, the irony of the fact that OUR Sam and Frodo detest each other is not lost on us.

We recently have lost a dog, a kitten and two hermit crabs. Over time we have lost many more pets than that. This has taken a grave toll on the kids and the idea of another death was unacceptable.

I called Don Schwartz, aka The Saint. He actually said that on a busy day, two days before Christmas, he would accept Frodo as a new patient.

We took Frodo into Don’s office, cold, shaking and traumatized. (The hamster was, too.)

Stephanie and Don took a look at the poor little guy and slowly shook their heads.

“He has to be sedated. I need to know how much he weighs so that I don’t overdo it.”

Well, duh, weigh the guy.

Oh, except the scale is made for dogs and horses, not hamsters. Little Frodo didn’t even register on it.

Next thing we know, I am in the post office, bloody hamster in hand, pushing through the line of pajama- clad folks lined up for the last chance to get presents to their destinations by Christmas Day.

“Excuse me, Don told me that I needed to get my hamster weighed over here, can I cut in front of you?”

Yes, I was in Mayberry.

The very kind gal behind the desk put him on an Express Envelope while faces I know from the school and the library looked on.

“Five ounces!”

Murmurs of “ohhhs” and “poor little guy”s rippled through the room.

“Do you want to put him into the Express Envelope to carry him?” “No, thanks, I’ll just stick him back in my pocket.”

Can you imagine at this point how much Frodo must have wished that Sam had killed him?

Back to the vet for a sedative and a haircut. Just as Don was preparing to shave him bald, I sent Tom and the boys on an errand so that I could tell Don, “If this is ridiculous, then let’s stop all the nonsense and let the rodent die.”

“I saw your son’s face. I am going to save this little guy, by God, if it’s the last thing I do.” Or something along those lines.

Once all of his fur was shaved off, we saw the damage that Sam had done. There was not one teensy bit of skin that was not broken and chewed upon. Don bathed him, warmed him up and shot him full of antibiotics. Tom and the boys came back and Bowen looked as if he had single-handly tortured and killed his best friend. When he found out that Frodo would live, he nearly fainted with relief.

It was this look that made me want to kiss Don Schwartz’s feet.

We brought Frodo home, called off the trip to Idaho and began the process of nursing little Frodo back to health.

He was scary-looking. The thing that makes a hamster cute is that he is fuzzy. Frodo had only a lion’s mane around his head. From the neck down, he was chewed up and scabby. So not cute.

We brought him out for Show and Tell when we had friends over for Christmas dinner.

They didn’t laugh.

One month and $102 later, he is healthy and well. He limps a little and his right eye looks a bit like a pirate’s. We have gotten over our collective anger towards Sam but each of us has a special place in our hearts for the priceless Frodo.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.