Saturday, May 15, 2010

So Long Marianne

A few days ago, I found Marianne dead in her cage. I have no idea what happened. She liked to climb the cage walls and frequently fell off - maybe she hit her head. Maybe she really was messed up because of inbreeding, as a worker suggested when she first arrived. Whatever it was, she was gone. I took her back to the shelter and that was it. After three months, I was done with her.
Except something's bothered me since I found her.
Marianne's life was not much. Probably bred in some dirty backyard hamster mill, she ended up in a Montreal shelter immediately. She was picked out by one of our workers because she was cute, loaded into a truck, and driven to Toronto. There it was discovered that you couldn't touch her, so she was sent to my house. In my house she got a nice fancy cage, but I was busy and couldn't work with her very often. When I did try to tame her, it didn't go well. She bit. She spent her days climbing the walls and falling off. She picked at her food; her coat was dull and sort of ugly and she never plumped up or played with toys. She ran on the wheel and climbed the walls and that was it - three months later she died.
What was the point?

I love classical music (music history is my minor). One of my favourite sections of music of all time (it's not even a full piece, it's just a section) is the conclusion of Beim Schlafengehen, one of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs. Strauss wrote these four pieces, not even intending them to be a set, right before he died. They represent his life - the beautiful soprano is his wife, a well known singer. The supportive horn part is his father, a famous horn player.
Not to bore you with music history, but the Romantic Era was all about rage and passion and defiance. That's not what these pieces are about, nor are they a mournful eulogy. The Four Last Songs are calm, serene, and thoughtful - they are a quiet celebration of life, a peaceful reflection of a life well-lived. In my opinion they're some of the most beautiful music out there. You should Youtube them.
In an ideal world, every life could end that way. A celebration of life and love achieved. No life would be reflected on as a waste.

I can't say that about Marianne. I know she was 'just' a hamster, but she was a life nonetheless, and that life was wasted. Who's at fault? The irresponsible breeders. The shelter that didn't or couldn't bother to help. Me, the foster home that did too little too late, and had one excuse after another to ignore her. Maybe even Marianne herself is at fault, maybe she just didn't try hard enough. I don't know. It just seems that collectively, we all failed, and a life was wasted. This thought won't leave me alone. Sometimes I think too much.

I didn't even like Marianne. I didn't even get a decent photo of her.
What a waste.

Rest in peace, little one.


Caroline said...

Hi Laura,

Her life was what it was, you made it better by offering her a safe home in the end. I find it less sad when animals die than when they suffer, you made sure she didn't suffer. You're great!


Laura HP said...

Hi Caroline,
It's true that she didn't suffer, hopefully she at least enjoyed the end of her life.
Your comments always make me smile! Thanks for the compliment and for reading =)

selkie said...

You gave her shelter, food and safety- no one poking or prodding or frightening her. There are worse fates for little hamsters. I know how you feel, though, we had a gerbil once that i HATED - that bloody thing ATE through an entire hamster habitat and KEPT escaping no matter what I did. He was bad tempered, irritable and bit anyone that came near him. I found myself guiltly glad when he escaped and I coudln't find him (I DID look).. of course for months later I worried myself sick he was eating his way through my wiring!

And it's not that I don't care about little animals - as I once spent $140 treating a hamster my daughter dropped (and no, wasn't careless, was cleaning his cage and put him in a small cage on top of a VERY TALL bookcase - my 18 month old climbed up the bookcase when we weren't looking) - and spent 5 nights getting up every 4 hours to feed and water him with a dropper - and yeah, he survived!

Social Mange said...

You never know what's in an animal's mind. Perhaps Marianne was just grateful for peace, quiet, enough food to eat and something to do (even if she wasn't very good at it). When it boils down, what is the point of our lives?

Laura HP said...

Thanks everyone for the comments!
I think what really bothered me about Marianne was that she lacked that 'joie de vivre' that all other hamsters seem to have. But maybe she was really happy and just very coy about it - as Social Mange said, we can't see inside their heads.