Well, it seems that the universal opinion is that I am/was an insensitive jerk about this. Mea Culpa!
I had hamsters and gerbils as a kid, and almost without exception, they all
tolerated handling very well. Herbie didn't. As a matter of fact, he would
attack the fingers of anyone who reached into his cage. Katie was actually
afraid of him, so her mother or I would have to be the one to take Herbie out
of his cage (wearing leather work gloves) when it needed to be cleaned.
I once suggested that Herbie might enjoy some 'companionship' but
apparently he didn't tolerate other hamsters either. Herbie had a cagemate
at one time (Hannah - who was bought at the same time as Herbie) but
after Hannah had a litter, he killed two of their babies and bit off one of
Hannah's ears. So Herbie got put into a cage by himself, and Hannah got
another cagemate, her surviving baby - Flower.
Hannah and Flower escaped one night and, despite an attic-to-basement
search of the house, were never found. (Rumor has it they were seen driving
a blue 1966 Thunderbird convertible, being chased by the police.
BTW, this little hamster soap opera occurred way before I came on the scene.
Other than feeding Herbie and cleaning his cage every other weekend, Katie
hadn't shown much in him, at least not in the year-plus her mother and I
have been dating. According to her mom, Katie's disinterest in Herbie seemed
to happen around the same time she discovered boys were no longer as icky
and gross as she had previously believed.
So, I was quite surprised when Katie insisted on a 'proper' burial for Herbie.
She read a poem she had written when we buried Herbie in her mother's back
yard on Thursday. She also found a nice rock she wants to use as a
headstone, once she finishes painting it. We are going to the craft store
later today so she can pick-up some supplies.
And now Katie says she wants a ferret.