We have… had a black bear hamster. We had him for about a year. Very suddenly, he died on us this evening.
I have three children. I have a five year old daughter, a six year old son and an eight year old son. The younger two (who were never that close with the hamster seem to have accepted this turn of events. My older one, however, is a bit different.
First, a little background. This is an extremely bright kid who loves animals. He adores them. He probably knows more about animals in general (at age eight) than I knew when I was twice his age. His favorite computer game is Microsoft’s Zoo Tycoon. Whenever he has free time, you will usually find him glued to a book about animals.
This hamster was his first pet. Even though it was really the entire family’s pet, he took a special liking to it (as you would imagine based on the above). Naturally he took this turn of events very hard. I sat with him and we had a good cry together. For me, it wasn’t so much the hamster (we had other hamsters before my kids were born) as the memories that it brought back of me as a ten year old when I lost my first pet (a Cocker Spaniel that I had since birth and was, in a way, my first friend). He understands that it’s normal for him to be hurting and that the hurt will last for a while. I told him that Corky (the above-mentioned Spaniel) has a special place in my heart and that it’s OK for him to do the same for this hamster if he wished.
He has already asked for another hamster. I think, at this point, that maybe it might be best to wait a little while before getting another one. Maybe a few weeks. While I think that getting another hamster right away might “mask” the hurt (and maybe allow to “forget” that a hamster died at all [especially if the new one looks like the old one]), I’m not so sure that that’s the best thing for him. Or would I be “robbing him of his childhood” by “forcing” him to mourn for a while before replacing the hamster?