Seven in 5

Another thing the month of August reminds me is how this clan had started.

It was five years ago when I first saw these two (later bacame the first couple), with the rest of the litter, helpless as they were, “sucklings” to their mother. Their owner was my wife’s friend, a former “suki” in our cross stitch and framing business.

The following month (September 2003), she offered us to adopt a pair of these hamsters. Her auntie didn’t want to keep these “bad luck” critters any longer, and was thinking of disposing all of them soon. (You have to squeeze your way in to reach the innermost end of this blog’s sub-terranean tunnel for details… Take this shortcut.)

I’ve been keeping records of my hamster’s “chronicles” even before I gained access to the internet:

19 had lived and perished before I started to blog.

One passed away soon, less than two weeks after I launched this blog.

13 were left to be seen “on-live” in my posts.

Out of the 13, nine are still living as of this day.

The following presentation was also produced in their pre-blogging chronicles (Ispidbol’s appearance was added just later). CLICK the photo.

NOTE: WordPress does not allow a .pps-file upload anymore, so this is a .ppt (powerpoint) presentation. Wait for it to be downloaded, open the file, then hit F5” on your keyboard to play and watch the presentation. “ Less than 3 minutes. Nakakaaliw ito, para sa mga “batang” paris ko! 😉

ADDENDUM (2009 Nov 16) : PPS format can be uploaded again; Just open the .pps-file after the download and watch. Thanks!

Hamster cages and wheels are kinda expensive, so I learned to improvise.

One of my utmost concerns is what to do when a hamster got sick, or how to prevent incidence of illness. That was the first topic that I researched upon gaining internet access in August last year. My searches led me to Wikipedia, then to fellow pet- and hamster-bloggers. Eventually I thought on blogging at WordPress, signing up with Flickr and YouTube ONLY as photo and video hosts. (My blogging is another story, so much about that next month).

I am not a breeding expert. I was quite disappointed when I learned that what I’ve been doing is not a “good” practice. I knew some basic rules about genetics, but I was not seriously aware about the ill-effects of in-breeding. I stopped “marriages” among closed relatives since the last litter of June 2007 – after I have gone through seven generations.

Amboy’s ♂ ‘good side’

Seventh-line descendant Amboy. Will he be my last hammie?

Amboy is my 33rd hamster. He belongs to the 7th generation (maternal line; see my first comment below) and is the youngest. He had gone past midlife but still celibate – a forty year-old virgin, at that. 😆 Now he is faced with the question:

“To breed or not to breed?”

FLOOD for thought:

Remember that the Ark was built by an amateur, Titanic by professionals.

Pamana ng isang DAGA

The storyteller behind Ikabod tower. Right: The Tower, “aerial” shot.

Kilala nyo ba si Bitoy?

Bitoy and Bebang are the names of the first pair of hamsters in this family: They are the ancestors. If you want some detail, you can go to the second post of this blog:

A tribute to Bitoy and his girlfriend

Yung mga alerdyik sa daga e okey lang kung DI nyo type ang blog ko, no problem. Meron nga dyan alerdyik sa pusa, o kaya sa aso — maski sa surot pa nga. Alam ko naman ang feeling ng mga me “allergies” na paris nyo.

Pero TIP lang: If you have a phobia (irrational hate or fear) there is something wrong with you — maski tanungin nyo ang bespren nyong saykayatris… Learn to overcome it. Okey lang kung hindi kayo magkahilig sa kinaa-alerdyik-an nyo, just do away with the “prejudice”. Hindi ko naman ipipilit sayo itong blog ko. Maglaro ka ng apoy hangga’t gusto mo ahehe. Daig mo pa ang sumuntok sa buwan.

Dun naman sa mga tatay na alerdyik sa ingles: Maghintay lang kayo, hane? — Tutal nakakaintindi naman kayo. May foreign readers din kasi ako (Yang allergy sa foreigners, xenophobia yan. Dapat balanseng pananaw sa bagay-bagay). Usap tayo mamaya tungkol sa mga DYUNYOR nyo. Pramis, mananagalog ako…

I was a former government employee — a desktop artist, still cameraman, video editor (sometimes), exhibit developer, and scale-model-maker. As a research photographer I loved shooting small insects in rice fields for crop protection. When public officials here and from abroad were visiting our Institute I also shoot them. Mga scientists, ambassadors, congressmen, senators; May mga barangay kapten barbel pa kung minsan, escorting presidents from Cory thru FVR (to Erap) — Sayang hindi ko na inabot si madam GMA… So that was one of my jobs — shooting insects and politicians. Nung kalaunan e hindi ko na malaman kung sino ang insekto at ano ang politiko. I resigned in 2000 — As a freelance servant, I have chosen custom-framing to earn my keep.

Now, in my framing jobs, moulding scraps littered every corner of my house. Instead of disposing, I used these materials to construct some domicile for my hamsters. Thru this, my wife and I are entertaining kids who visit our small home. Makita lang naming namimilog ang mga mata ng mga paslit sa tuwa at pagkamangha, kami ni misis ay masaya na. Entertaining these children was not part of the plan — nagkataon lang… I made the homecages because my hamsters need them; It just so happen that simple carpentry are among the things I enjoy doing.

“Bulwagang Bitoy” (Bitoy Hall) with the Lupindilayk Wheel

The hamster was Faramir, direct descendant of Bitoy. Faramir was the grandfather of Ispidbol on the father side. This video was taken in May 2005.

“Bahay ni Lola” (Bebang Pension House)

The hamster was Boromir, Faramir’s elder twin brother. Boromir was the grandfather of Ispidbol on the mother side. Taken during the house’s early stages of construction (03 July 2005).

“Mansyon ng Daga” (Hamster Mansion, still unfinished)

September 30, 2006. Ikabod tower is the structure at right. The hamster was Bebong, one of the offspring of Faramir, just like me, unable to sire. No big deal.
(Mga fathers, yung sabi ko kanina ha? Usap tayo.)

So that’s it…! A father hamster’s legacy to his sons and succeeding generations. “Ang pamana ng isang ninunong daga sa kanyang mga anak-anak at mga kaapu-apuhan.” (Yun lang? Anubayan…)

Mga bata, hanggang dito na lang tayo, hane? Maglaro muna kayo sa labas at kakausapin ko lang ang mga tatay nyo.

To my foreign readers, the next topic concerns a ‘national issue’ and is an Usapang-Pinoy lang. Thank you for reading about my hammies.

Redi? KLIK nyo dito.

The menopause litter

This is Bebang’s third and last set of offspring — a litter of eight.

This batch had gone through a crisis they were almost wiped out with their mother who contracted a wet-tail barely ten days after they were born. When I first saw their seemingly hopeless situation, I was worried that even if their mother would survive, the babies might die. Their small bodies were awfully wet allover. They were scattered and squirming helplessly all around their nursery home. The whole place was a mess and I could already smell the disease. Bebang didn’t know what was happening — I didn’t know what to do. It was already night; waiting till morning would be too late.

With my fingers cross, I took my last chance. I tried very small doses of AquadoxTM soluble powder, a veterinary antibacterial (with multivitamin + electrolytes) for poultry and swine. Using a small medicine dropper for human infant, Bebang was orally administered with the solution mixed with powder of Gano-ExcelTM capsule, a food supplement that I and my wife are taking. The litter received treatment through their nursing mother. In the morning, the mother got better, the babies were moving around (my last night’s vigil seemed to pay off), except for the three who were too weak to suck from their mother. After some follow-up treatment, mother and litter were obviously getting much better. To make the long story short, five out of eight survived.

Though I was so relieved to ‘save’ the mother and most of her babies, I don’t want to experiment. If my hamsters are lab rats or research hamsters, well and good, that may be their mission. But these are my pets. I always do the best for them and I know that in such cases where their health and life are at a stake, even my best may not be good enough. A vet’s job is always the best, but I hope finding more than an animal doctor — a Dr. Doolittle type, who possesses not only a brain but also a heart for his patients, who understands not only their bodies but their language.

After the incident, I decided that this litter would be Bebang’s last. I noticed that long after she gave birth to these eight, the area near the base of her tail was elongated. This was probably due to her repeated hamster-bearing. Kumupas na ang kanyang kaseksihan. So I decided, or more appropriate to say: she decided (to Bitoy’s dismay), she had enough. For after her giving birth to the 3rd litter, her husband’s mating calls and sexual overtures interest her no more. Never again did I see her in her usual once-every-fourth-day frozen in-heat posture.

All in all, Bebang sired and nursed a total of 22 hamsters.

Who says that plain ‘housewife-hood’/motherhood is a lowly profession? No, not Bebang. I am not saying that career, working women are not good candidates for motherhood. Many wives and mothers perform best in other, non-household jobs of their calling. For some, working is a necessity especially in an ambiance where single parenthood is becoming increasingly common. But I still say: mothers… please do have time with the kids. As for Bebang, it was not so difficult then, for her husband was still alive and able, and a good ‘family-hammie’ at that. (So, husbands, especially fathers… this is an urgent matter: be RESPONSIBLE… Hindi kayo mga hayop na ang layunin ay ang magparami lang ng lahi.)

Bebang was proud of her noble role, a task which she considered a higher calling. By her good modeling, the next mothers that came after her turned out to be good mothers also. She was more than 10 months when she sired the last litter, about 15 when she was widowed. She lived for another nine months to see her 20 grand offspring of the 3rd and “3½th” generations.

A tribute to Bitoy and his girlfriend

Ancestor hammie Bitoy, 01 June 2004.

He was just an ordinary hamster, a banded brown (inbred) male Teddy bear. He came to us in September 2003 with his sister (banded orange) when my wife’s friend offered us to adopt them because her aunt didn’t want to keep hamsters any longer. The hamsters were barely a month old; we “christened” them Bitoy and Bebang. From then on our household includes a family of more or less a dozen members whose roots can be traced back to this first pair. (click on this word: Genealogy )

This is Bebang, nursing two in a litter of eight of the second batch. She was very meticulous, neat and orderly in her cage. (photo 26 March 2004)

Bebang

Although at a younger age not so friendly to human or animals alike (hamsters were no exceptions), Bebang was a very responsible mother to all her 3 batches of litters.

This is one of Bitoy’s few portraits (wala pa ko digital camera nu’n). I was working on the construction of a scale model of a rice harvester. I always use my hamsters as models to give a clue on the relative size of every miniature that I make. He was caught here in a bad mood because he was awoken for the sole purpose of this pictorial. (05 April 2004)

Bitoy was a constant companion in our visits to my mother and in-laws not very far from Manila, and in our regular trips to Baguio (We live in a small rented unit in Nueva Ecija). In the evenings of these overnight stays, we let him stroll freely in the room. Lying in bed with the lights off, I could distinctly hear his footsteps as he ran across the wooden floor with reverberating outburst of vocal delight (Tududududududu…!!!). He really enjoyed the overnight stays, but I think the long trips had been indeed very stressful for him.

In November 2004, Bitoy got sick and lethargic. He was refusing to play on his wheel and had chosen to stay and sleep in his transport box. During the evening, in the hours when he was supposed to be active, I let him stay and sleep on my chest while I was lying down; he just stayed there as if he was getting some comfort.

About seven days later I knew he was dying. He solemnly took his last breath while in my hands. (Incidentally, I was playing a country-western version of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” in my PC’s CD; I cannot help but cry silently.)

I admired him for his struggle to survive (as most animals do). He didn’t seem to worry about his infirmity even until he was at death’s doorstep – he still ‘ate and moved on’ – as long as he was able. When he died, I even found a fresh sunflower seed in one of his cheek pouches.

He lived for only 15 months — too much shorter for the already short lifespan granted to such small creatures. But he left a lasting legacy.

I have had some small animal pets in the past (guinea pigs in 1975– , and hamsters in 1988– and 1999– ) but I have never been so attached to such a little creature before. Bitoy is no ordinary hamster after all.

His departure grieved me for a long time… but I must get over it. I knew more “passings-away” would follow…