As I just posted, we have been away on our annual camping trip with friends. Prior to leaving, Duck had to arrange for a 'hamster-sitter' for the week. Taking care of a hamster isn't hard so it was easy finding someone who would take him. The two days before we left (Thursday and Friday), both my husband and I were working the night shift so Duck was sleeping over at a friend's house. Her job on Thursday was to give the hamster cage a thorough cleaning so that the sitter didn't have to worry about it. She completed the task and we all left the house for the night.
About mid-afternoon Friday, as Duck is getting the hamster and his accoutrements ready to be delivered I get this mournful cry from her room "MOM!". Now hamsters only live 1-2 years, and Teddy Bear is over the annual mark. So right away I think she has found his little body without signs of life. Automatically I start rehearsing 'the speech' in my head about life and death. However, when I arrive at her sobbing side and she regains enough control to talk, I find out the hamster is not dead. The hamster is missing. When she had cleaned the cage the day before, she had left a door open.
Keep in mind that we had been out of the house all night. The hamster had the run of the house, along with the dog.
A frantic search began, without a lot of hope. When I could get away without too many questions, I went out to check dog poop. Yes, I checked dog poop. No fur or bones, that was a good sign. The dog was not showing signs of indigestion either. Also a good sign.
After almost an hour of fruitless searching, I sat down with Duck for a hard talk. The hamster was likely gone for good. Even if he was still alive in the house, he was curled up somewhere sleeping at this time of day. Then we talked about the error she had made by leaving the door open. Duck has been in a phase of life lately that has shown a lack of diligence. This situation was bringing that fact out to the forefront. A very hard lesson to learn.
We set out traps for the hamster that night, as we were all out of the house again. A hamster trap is the use of deep pots or buckets with a ramp for the hamster to get into the pot, but not be able to get out - fill the pot with food and a water dish to lure him into the trap.
Saturday morning...no hamster. We were leaving at noon for the camping trip. More tears. Duck was in her room crying out to the Lord (a blessing to hear even during this hard lesson). She wasn't just asking for Him to bring back the hamster, she was asking Him to help her learn greater diligence and gave thanks for having the hamster in the first place. Sigh! If I could have pulled a hamster out of thin air for her at that point, I would have done it. But God knew best.
As we were packing the car, our downstairs neighbour happen to be outside and I mentioned that Duck's hamster may find his way down to his apartment. I wasn't telling him so he could set out traps or anything - there is a dog and a cat in the downstairs apartment. I just wanted him to know where it came from if he did find a body. We did leave the traps out in our place with extra food and water. The final signs of hope for a return.
We left for camping and all the kids from our friend's family were told of the tragedy - and asked not make fun of it. Duck was really hurting when the topic came up. However, as hours and days past, she talked little about it and had fun on her trip.
Nine days later, we arrive home and find empty traps.
'OK, Ducky. It's time to clean up the traps and say goodbye to Teddy Bear for good.' Teary eyes, but no sobbing anymore.
We are still unloading and unpacking when there is a knock at the door. The downstairs neighbour knocks on the door. He smiles as he holds out a large spaghetti pot,
"I thought you would like to try some of the sauce I made this week"
Now, I like my neighbour well enough, but we do not have the kind of relationship where we share recipes. I look in the pot and there is Teddy Bear. Dirty with a funny blue colour to his head fur, but it is Teddy Bear. The neighbour found him the day after we left for camping and had been taking care of him all week. I thanked him profusely! And took the pot.
When Duck looked into the pot, the tears returned. Happy ones this time.
It is a minor miracle that this animal is now back in his cage (and he was happy to be back!). We don't know where the blue colour on his head came from and he has spent several days cleaning himself, but the lesson learned in all this is irreplaceable.
Maybe my emotional side wanted to solve the problem for Duck by just giving back the hamster (I even thought about buying a new one that looked the same and slipping into the traps). But God knew where the hamster was all along and what His plans were for the whole event. Just as scripture talks about His care of the sparrows, He cared for this hamster, too. All for helping a little girl grow in her faith and in her fruits of the Spirit. Duck is actively working on her diligence.
My faith has been increased, too. Nothing like a reminder from God, Himself to trust Him in all things. Even if the hamster had never returned, we would have studied how He takes care of all His creatures. Now we can study it with a Teddy Bear curled up in his little cage.