A lazy Sunday calls for a lazy dinner. Pizza usually dominates the top spot of that list and luckily for me, I couldn’t live much closer to a pizzeria if I tried. It was on the very short walk back to the apartment with my girlfriend, pizzas in hand, that I noticed a shoe box. The box was on the corner of a busy street in Rotterdam next to the wall of a building. I nearly walked past without a second thought, we all know litter can be a common sight in any populated area, but it was the holes poked in the top that caught my attention. I approached the box and gingerly lifted the lid, expecting (or hoping) to find nothing but an empty box that never made it to the bin.
The box was not empty. Under the lid was a poor hamster that had been abandoned on the street corner. Petrified eyes almost bulging out of his head. No food or water was with him, just a sprinkling of some old looking sawdust. There was no telling how long he had been there, he could have been dumped while we were waiting for our food, or he could have been there for hours. My girlfriend and I exchanged a look and a third box came home with us: two pizzas and a hamster.
Before we could sit down for our dinner I grabbed a bigger box from the recycling pile, made a shelter out of a plastic takeaway container so he had somewhere to hide, placed a little pot of water down and a small platter of food I hoped would be suitable for a hamster: a crisp, two peanuts, a blueberry and some sweetcorn. It was a bit of an ordeal trying to get him from one box into the other, the poor guy was pretty freaked out. Eventually I managed to scoop him up on some cardboard and transfer him to his temporary new home.
I had noticed when moving him from one box to the other that his underside and behind were red, the fur around his back legs was matted and he looked damp. I don’t think he was very well. There were traces of mould in the sawdust that accompanied him in the shoe box and I was a little worried. On a Sunday night there was little else that could be done.
The next morning he was still with us and he had eaten a peanut and some sweetcorn. This gave me hope for the little guy and we affectionately named him Pinda (that’s Dutch for peanut). Our flat mate was kind enough to let him stay with us, so I immediately went on the hunt for Pinda’s new home.
Throughout my work day I found a second-hand enclosure online with a water bottle, fresh sawdust, food, and some hamster furniture for €20 and snapped it up. That evening after work my girlfriend and I went to collect it and I got to work cleaning and preparing Pinda’s new playground.
That evening though, brought more worry for Pinda. I’m sure it had been a very stressful few days for him and I when I lifted his make-shift den to place him in his new home I saw he was not looking good. He was on his back, breathing rather fast, his rear was yellow and red and he looked very wet.
No doubt adding to his plight, I had to remove him from his den to throw it away and get rid of all the horrible looking sawdust so his new bedding would not be contaminated. I had fears that he would not survive the night, but at least he might be more comfortable in a clean environment. We suspected it was diarrhea, which can be fatal for hamsters. He was likely dehydrated and all we could think of trying was to offer him water on a teaspoon and see if he was willing. Much to our delight, he drank more than expected. We left him alone for the evening, our fingers crossed he would recover.
The next morning before work I saw that he had taken some food from the bowl. This was a great sign and I went to work very hopeful. A couple of days went by and I caught sight of a little someone looking much healthier!
Pinda was still very skittish and scared for a while, running to hide at any sign of movement and noisily grinding his teeth in protest. The poor guy had been through a lot, but he was getting braver each day.
Over the next week with patience and some tasty treats I had gained some trust, enough for him to investigate my hands.
As I write this it has been 11 days since finding Pinda in a shoe box.
He’s becoming comfortable with his surroundings, has gained some weight and now he looks very healthy. He’s a big fan of digging, pumpkin seeds, dried carrot and raisins, he also likes to nibble fingers. Hopefully one day he’ll be comfortable enough to let me lift him out of his playground for a fuss. But for now I’ll happily watch him sit in his food bowl stuffing his chubby cheeks.
I wish I could tell the person who left Pinda outside that there are other routes and options for animals that you cannot or do not wish to care for. Abandoning anything helpless is not cool. I’m just glad I had the resources to turn things around for him.
Helping one animal wont change the world, but it will change the world for one animal.
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