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The End of the End

At the risk of sounding like a complete nutjob over a hamster, I need to tell this story.  To mark the end of Cozy’s life.

About three weeks ago, Cozy started biting me.  Little nips, but they were out of character.  I made up explanations.  Once he had been chewing on my sweater and I said that he must have mistook skin for material.  Another time I wondered if I had the scent of food on my hands.  I came up with a plethora of reasons, it’s just that none were why he was biting me.

On Tuesday night, we had a little cuddle and chat, and I remarked that he hadn’t nipped me once.  He had relaxed in the crook of my arm, and I ran my fingers over him, imagining that is what a hamster mother would do for her young to make him feel safe and protected; she would groom him.  As his mother, albeit one without hamster skills, I approximated.

The next morning, I started working beside him as I always do, and I noticed that he was sleeping at a strange angle.  He was holding his head up as he slept, something he never did.  So I went over every few minutes to check that he was breathing, that there was nothing else unusual happening.  And there wasn’t until noon when he stood up and wobbled over a few inches and began walking in a tight circle, over and over again as if he were chasing his tail.  He had wood shavings on his face and he wasn’t brushing them off, and two of them were stuck to his eyes, which were bulging out strangely.

I picked him up and he allowed me to brush the shavings from his eyes… and he didn’t blink.  He didn’t even nudge my hand away.  So I set him down and called the woman who sold him to us, an ethical pet dealer whose family has been selling small mammals for years.  She’s somewhat of a DC institution.  She loves animals intensely, so she is who I always call when I’m worried.  Every other time, she’s given me an explanation for my worry.  But this time, she gave me the name of a veterinarian a few towns away who could take good care of Cozy.

So I gently packed him in his pet carrier and put him in the car, keeping up a running stream of conversation with him as I drove to the vet.  I cried the whole ride over, telling him about the grapes I’d pick up on the way home.  That he may need eye drops which suck, but we’d have a cuddle afterward.  He just didn’t look right.  He wasn’t blinking.  He was hunched over, quiet.

The vet had been about to leave, but she waited for me.  I was embarrassed to be crying that hard in her examination room; I literally couldn’t get words out.  She told me that he had a pituitary tumour.  That hamsters, like humans, tend to show issues with their brain in a very acute, very sudden way.  In the wild, he would be eaten if he showed weakness.  So he pretended to be okay until he couldn’t pretend anymore.  She pointed out the way he was pretending to eat, his jaw not really working anymore, and said that he was still pretending for predators that he was fine.  But he really wasn’t fine.  She told me that he was in a lot of pain and the kindest thing I could do would be to euthanize him.

I didn’t know how to say okay.

I called Josh, I spoke to the vet again and again.  I wanted to be the sort of responsible person who would put an animal out of its misery, but I selfishly wanted him alive; would take him alive and not really himself than not alive at all.  But she gently got me to a place where I could say goodbye to him.  So I picked him up and nuzzled him to my cheek and told him how loved he was.  And when I was ready, her assistant took him from me and brought him to another room.  The vet admitted that she would probably cry doing it, that it never got easier.

And then I drove home.  The vet had decorated his box with hearts and his name.  I kept talking to him, even though I knew he couldn’t hear me because I didn’t know how to not talk to him.  I’ve been talking to him for two straight years, all day every day.  I talk out plotline with him and I talk about the twins and I talk about how cute he is.

And you all know what he is.  He’s my stand-in.  He’s my receptacle.  He’s where I’ve poured all the love I thought I would be pouring into another human being.

I got home and sat in the living room, but he wasn’t there.  And I walked in and out of the room, always looking for him in the corner, but he wasn’t there.  And this huge emptiness swallowed me, and I wanted to run out to the pet store and immediately bring home another pet.  The idea of being alone in the house felt unbearable.

I picked up the kids from school, but didn’t tell them that anything was wrong until we walked in the house.  “We need to talk about something,” I told them.  “Could you wash up and meet me upstairs?”  I didn’t want to tell them near his cage, but the ChickieNob ran straight into the living room and started screaming, “where is Cozy?”  So we all climbed into the glider and rocked and cried.  And I told them the story of the end of the end.  His nips had been his way of telling me that he was in pain.  It was the one thing I never guessed.

I told them that I needed another pet immediately, maybe before they were ready, and that this new pet wouldn’t be a replacement — Cozy could not be replaced — but I needed to put my love somewhere.  And talking about pets helped all three of us to stop crying, and we looked up various animals on my phone.  Part of me felt sick for moving on so quickly.  And part of me knew that I had to hold something this weekend or my heart was going to explode.

We worked on their science fair project, and then went out to dinner because I didn’t have it in me to cook.  After dinner, we ran into the food store for a moment, and that is where I said aloud, “I want a baby” as I pulled out a cart.  I heard myself say it, and then I continued on, “I want a baby animal.  A little baby animal.”

I loved Cozy on his own, as my furry confidant, as my sweet moosie, as our first family pet.  But I loved Cozy because he was home with me during the day, and he would cuddle whenever I wanted, and because he was tiny, and because he was simple.  As long as I gave him a steady stream of blueberries, he loved me hardcore.  He would never get bigger, never move away from.  I loved him because it was easy: I went to an ethical animal dealer and she gave me a beautiful hamster, and that was it.  There were no injections, no procedures, no blood draws.  There were no failures.  It was easy to love him because he was so easy.  And I just needed that.

It doesn’t matter how small you are; you can still be deeply loved.

Cozy in his Home


1 Natalie { 04.04.13 at 8:39 am }

I’m sorry. 🙁 it’s hard to lose a pet, especially when emotionally you need that pet, that little sidekick.

2 Kathy { 04.04.13 at 8:39 am }

Thank you for sharing Cozy’s story with us. I am so sorry for your loss. xoxo

3 Tigger { 04.04.13 at 8:52 am }

Oh Mel. I’m so very sorry you had to go through this. It’s HARD as hell to make that choice, but I AM glad you made it, for Cozy’s sake. To me, that just proves once again that you are a very good pet mama. Thank you for sharing Cozy with us over the years, and for sharing the end with us as well. *hugs*

4 a { 04.04.13 at 9:11 am }

Thanks for telling us what happened – I was wondering. And you’re not a nutjob. Everyone loves their pets.

5 A.M.S. { 04.04.13 at 9:19 am }

I’m here if you need me. You know how to reach me. I do have to go to the gym around 10:30, so I’ll be unreachable for about 90 minutes, but the rest of the day is wide open even if you just want to cry and know there is someone there, abiding.

6 LN { 04.04.13 at 9:28 am }

Oh, Mel, I am so sorry. I still cry every day about my sweet Dolly (poodle). Yes, you read that right, every day. I think it would be great to have a dog again, and I think E would really benefit by having one, but the pain of loss is still so intense for me. And the memory of her final days is still so awful. She was really sick, and her final night with me was torture for both of us. In the morning, we drove to the vet, to put her to sleep. On the one hand, the intensity of her final night was “good” because it made it perfectly clear to me what had to be done. She was never getting better; she was in tremendous pain; she needed me to step up and take over. On the other hand, I wish I had made that decision before she had endured that night, even if it had meant I would have wondered if I acted too soon.
Please know that no one is making light of this. I had hamsters as a child, and I loved them desperately. Be gentle with yourself. Do what feels right.

7 loribeth { 04.04.13 at 9:43 am }

You did the right thing, Mel, even though I’m sure it hurt like hell to do it. 🙁 (((Hugs))) for you & the family.

8 Tiara { 04.04.13 at 10:45 am }

I am in tears. I am sorry for your loss of Cozy but also for the deeper meaning behind your grief. My heart hurts for you & I’m sending you all my love.

9 Chickenpig { 04.04.13 at 10:50 am }

This made me cry. And not just because you lost your lovable pet, but because you summed it up so well.

We just adopted a dog because I can’t stand to be alone in the house either. But as much as I love this dog, she just seems to be amplifying the fact that she is NOT a baby, maybe because taking care of her is so similar? I don’t know. Anyway, you lost a lot more than a hamster.

10 Brid { 04.04.13 at 10:50 am }

Sorry to hear this, Mel. It’s always tough, and like you said, no matter how small.. xo

11 Catwoman73 { 04.04.13 at 10:53 am }

You don’t sound like a nutjob- in fact, I like you even more having read this. Pets, no matter how small, are part of the family. And losing them hurts like hell, particularly when you have to make the tough choice. You absolutely did the right thing. There is always a certain amount of guilt that you have to work through when contemplating moving on and getting a new pet… just do what feels right for you and your family. My heart really goes out to you, Josh and the twins. 🙁

12 Ana { 04.04.13 at 11:00 am }

Oh Mel I’m so sorry. Tears for Cozy and for you. Anytime I hear about pet death I can’t breathe for a minute or two, imagining life without our sweet sweet dog. It’ll come one day but we are never ever ready.

13 nonsequiturchica { 04.04.13 at 11:02 am }

I’m so sorry about Cozy. Pets are part of our family. We got our younger dog to fill the hole of infertility, so you are definitely not crazy.

14 Cassie Dash { 04.04.13 at 11:33 am }

Well, if you’re a nutjob, then apparently so am I, because I cried the whole way through this post. I’m an animal lover to the nth degree and I’m so sorry for your loss. Even the smallest little being can be missed with your whole heart. But you paid Cozy a beautiful tribute here and I know he will be remembered forever.

15 k { 04.04.13 at 11:43 am }

So many tears for all of you. ” There were no injections, no procedures, no blood draws. There were no failures. It was easy to love him because he was so easy. And I just needed that.”

This is how I feel about the cat who basically showed up at my door before my second miscarriage. I get it. And I’m so so sorry for your loss. <3

16 Another Dreamer { 04.04.13 at 11:56 am }

So sorry for your loss. You did the right thing, but sometimes that doesn’t make it any easier (*hugs*)

We lost both my dogs last year. I’d had them both 13 years… and even though I knew we did the right thing, that they were no longer suffering, it still hurts like hell sometimes. They really fill a whole and a need in our lives.

17 Wishing on a Snowflake { 04.04.13 at 12:50 pm }

I cried reading this post. There are no words to describe the love for a pet, and the sorrow that ensues when they pass away. I am sending you all kinds of hugs and want you to remember what an awesome hamster mom you were to him. So many animals in this world don’t get the love that Cozy got, especially in his final moments here on earth. Big hugs

18 mlo { 04.04.13 at 1:05 pm }

I am so, so sorry for your loss.

You are normal. I still mourn the losses of my first dog, Tang; Lady who saw me into adulthood; and, Hugo, my clownfish who kept me through the dark times I didn’t think I would ever find a mate.

My Smokey is getting older, and his health is failing. He is 14/15 and pekes usually live to 15/16. He is also my husband’s first dog.

Losing a pet hurts. It doesn’t get any easier with the type of pet. We love who and what we love. And, with pets, they give us love we may not even deserve. They listen. Some, like Smokey, may judge, but he is unusual, but they never stop loving us. I believe that the love between pets and humans are among the most special bonds in this world and deserve full mourning.

19 Lisa { 04.04.13 at 1:35 pm }

I’m so sorry for your loss. And this post made me cry too.

20 Pepper { 04.04.13 at 2:04 pm }

Oh, I am crying too. I have 2 ten year old cats and I dread the day… Because they are my babies, too. I am so sorry.

21 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.04.13 at 3:37 pm }

I have to believe that all the love you poured into Cozy is not gone, but maybe showering your corner of the world with pure, sweet love.

What a difficult thing you had to do yesterday. I’m so sorry, my friend.

Here’s to the baby that will come to you, one way or another.


22 Kimberly { 04.04.13 at 4:14 pm }

I’m so sorry, Mel. The loss of a pet is so hard regardless of the size or type of pet because no matter what, they took up the same amount of space in our heart. When my first dog Brandy got suddenly sick, myself and my family were beside ourselves with worry and grief. We took him to the vet and they told us he was in advanced kidney failure and that he was in so much pain. We opted to have him put down instead of letting him suffer. It was hard to do but we did it. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen my dad cry and that day was one of them. I still miss him to this day. I think about him, I have a framed picture in my room of him. But we were so lonely after Brandy was gone that we needed to find another animal to give our love to. We lasted less than a week before we brought home Duke. We love Duke and he started to fill that emptiness. It didn’t take over that part we had for Brandy but we found more room in our heart for both of them.

Don’t feel badly if you need to fill that emptiness. And know that filling that emptiness doesn’t take away from what you had with Cozy. In a way, it almost enhances it.

23 HereWeGoAJen { 04.04.13 at 4:30 pm }

I’m sorry, Mel. Lots of love to all of you.

24 Peg { 04.04.13 at 4:42 pm }

I was really sorry to read about Cozy Jackson. I cry when each of our pets have died from cats to geckos to frogs.

25 shelli { 04.04.13 at 6:39 pm }

I’m so sorry Mel. I understand how you feel, I’ve wept over every pet I’ve lost. I even cry over fish. Love to all of you….

26 delenn { 04.04.13 at 7:36 pm }

I am sorry for your loss, hon. We know how it is with the small pets oh so well.

27 Erica { 04.04.13 at 7:40 pm }

I’m so sorry, Mel. This is one of those things that just sucks and is hard and sad, and I’m sorry you and your family are going through it. I’m glad you were able to give Cozy Jackson had such a loving home (and that he was able to enjoy so many blueberries).

28 Rachel { 04.04.13 at 8:29 pm }

May Cozy’s memory be a blessing. I understand…I lost our dog Vashti a few years ago, and I still think about her all of the time. (Is that weird?)

29 Katherine A { 04.04.13 at 10:26 pm }

I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a beloved pet hurts so very much.

This post had tears running down my face. It just tears apart the heart to lose a beloved pet, no matter what (I knew Shadow, my 11.5 year-old rabbit, was getting up there in age but I was still heartbroken when he died a few years ago, and I still think about him often).

Cozy sounds like he was a wonderful pet and dearly loved. Many thoughts for you and your family during this difficult time.

30 Shelby { 04.05.13 at 12:09 am }

I’m so sorry. How easily I can relate. This one really hit home, having lost my 14-year-old cat just a month after our miscarriage several months ago and my beloved dog four years ago (that one also just months after our first miscarriage). I recently read that having a pet is making a contract with grief (or something like that-it’s a loose paraphrase). Frankly, though, it’s a small price to pay for what we are gifted with-unconditional companionship.

I felt badly for moving on, too, but the next day I was on petfinder and I admitted that I just needed to stop the loss and have some joy. Just two months later we brought home our 2 yo rescue lab who is such a ray of much-needed sunshine. And it was easy. For once, I could fill out an application (and get interviewed in person) and add a member to my family without years of toiling and heartache. It was strange to have something so big in our lives come so easily. We’re not even close to being used to that.

31 Mali { 04.05.13 at 12:16 am }

I too have tears in my eyes. I remember just a few years ago having to make the same call to the vet, and drive, with my darling Cleo (a cat I had for 18 years), only 8 months after our other companion (Gershwin) had left us all. Cleo in particular would sit in the office with me, at my feet, or in a box under the window, or (dangerously) behind my chair, and I would chat to her throughout the day. (I realise that we have this in common -= self-employed people who are home all day need someone to talk to, bounce ideas off, rant about problems, etc!)

Our pets are members of our families – they provide comfort until they can no more. And then it is our duty to do the kindest thing we can for them.

I’m sorry too that this brought up other issues for you. We can never really escape them, can we?

Thinking of you and the twins, and Cozy Jackson of course.

32 Geochick { 04.05.13 at 12:23 am }

So sorry that you had to put him to sleep. Hoping you find your next furry-baby as easily as you found Cozy Jackson.

33 Mina { 04.05.13 at 6:06 am }

Oh, dear, I am so sorry to hear this… My hamster died of a tumour too, and I too cried my eyes out, in the office, nonetheless, and my boss called me crazy for it. It is such a terrible, awful thing to lose a member of the family. Especially one who has brought only joy. Hugs to you and the twins…

34 Steadfast Warrior { 04.05.13 at 9:42 am }

Okay, this made me teary. So Sorry Mel… truly.

35 Rebecca { 04.05.13 at 1:29 pm }

I’m the same with my cat. She’s the baby I thought we would have.

36 kimberly { 04.05.13 at 4:54 pm }

Oh, I am so sorry to hear it. I’m crying like, well, like I understand. Hugs.

37 Justine { 04.05.13 at 11:49 pm }

Oh, Mel. There are no words for this. It is so hard to let go of the living things we love … it is so hard to lose the place where love goes, when it has finally found a home we think we can trust. I know that you’re looking at new pets, and that’s good, but I am also crying for you, and holding you in my heart. The universe feels so fucking unfair sometimes.

38 luna { 04.06.13 at 2:47 am }

I’ve been sitting on this all day until I had a chance to really write something… first, I’m so sorry. it’s so so hard to lose our furry family friends. it doesn’t matter how small. once they nuzzle in and become part of the family, well that’s what they are. and yes, surrogates for our love, or maybe receptacles. our pets — when we had them (before our girls) — were the most loved on creatures. I used to take our pup for walks in the hills and talk out my life to her. I’d ugly cry with her and she’d just love me back, no questions, maybe even moreso when she knew I needed it. so yeah, when they leave us it sucks.

it’s also so hard to know when to let go. you can only hope for a humane vet to offer guidance and comfort that you’re doing the right thing. once we didn’t have that and it was awful. anyway.

there will never be another cozy but you will love again. xo

39 Emilie { 04.06.13 at 3:26 am }

This post really resonated with me.

“He’s my stand-in. He’s my receptacle. He’s where I’ve poured all the love I thought I would be pouring into another human being.”

Yep. Been there, didn’t realize I was doing that. And now I’m crying.

40 Amber { 04.06.13 at 8:41 am }

I’m so sorry your family has had to go through this love of a beloved pet. Rest in peace, Cozy.

41 JustHeather { 04.06.13 at 9:34 am }

Awww, so sweet and sad. I’m truly sorry for your loss. This reminds me of the hamsters we had growing up. Cinnamon, Sammy and a couple of others I can’t remember their names. I used our hamsters for a science fair project. My parents helped me make a maze and I tested them through it to see if they could learn to go through it faster. Thanks for the memories!

42 Battynurse { 04.06.13 at 6:58 pm }

I’m so sorry. I too relate to this post a lot. It’s so hard to lose a pet who is a friend and loved member of your family. Hugs to all of you.

43 Alexicographer { 04.06.13 at 11:12 pm }

Oh Mel. I’ve been away, and I’m so sorry. But glad that Cozy was loved until the end and also that you know what happened, what was wrong (and, sadly, what to do about it).

It’s so true about pets and being easy to pour love into them.

44 Julie Ross Godar { 04.09.13 at 6:34 pm }

This brought back the day several years ago, when I had to do this, like it had just happened. It sucks. There are no other words but to say I’m sorry for your loss. Big hugs to you, Mel.

45 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 04.14.13 at 7:21 am }

I’m so sorry you lost him. I hope your new baby is as lovable as Cozy was.

46 Northern Star { 01.01.14 at 10:42 am }

Oh Mel, what an amazing post. Thanks for including it on the list… Had me in tears from start to finish.

47 Em { 01.01.14 at 10:59 am }

So sorry for the loss of dear Cozy. It was difficult to read, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was to live that loss. Thank you for including it in the Creme.

48 sharah { 01.01.14 at 8:50 pm }

We had to put our dog down 3 years ago, and it still hurts. Pets become part of our families and it’s losing someone you love.

49 Smallstones { 01.02.14 at 5:14 pm }

Your post was beautiful and makes me wonder if I need to get a pet to love. I am so sorry for your loss.

50 Tiara { 01.07.14 at 11:54 am }

I know I commented on this when you posted it but I am back since you picked it for the Creme. When I was deciding which post I would submit, it was easy. I hadn’t written much in 2013 & knew which post I was post proud of 7 wanted to share. But I thought of you & wondered how you decide out of all of your posts. I am glad you choose this one. It moved me back then & it still does now.

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