OPINION: Animal crackers: snakes, hamsters and one odd rabbit

Phil Egan

I grew up in a family that wasn’t conducive to having pets. Between my parents and nine brothers and sisters there was little room for other sentient beings.

Also, my mother wasn’t a dog enthusiast. If someone brought a dog to the house and borrowed a bowl give it a drink, she’d pitch the bowl in the garbage.

Snakes also freaked her out.

When I was 10, I spent one spring morning in a field behind our house collecting garter snakes — 43 in all. When I carried the cardboard box inside to show my mother, disaster struck. She took one look, screamed, and the bottom fell out of the box.

The snakes fled. So did she. She refused to re-enter house until I had rounded up every one of them.

Hours later, I’d recaptured 42 snakes but told her I had all 43. She didn’t bother to count.

And we never did find the lone holdout.

Years later, my two young sons had hamsters – orange-furred Fluffy and her little grey brother, Bogey. The boys kept them in a cage but they were true escape artists.

Twice, Fluffy went missing for days at a time, only to be discovered in the basement heating pipes. We had to cut openings and lure her out with food.

Bogey was more of a homebody. He’d escape his cage to crawl up on the couch while I watched TV, sit on my chest and eat grapes. The little glutton would fill his cheeks to bulging before eating them.

Bogey lived almost five years; quite a lifespan for a hamster.

Rufus the Rabbit was another creature bought for the boys but which wound up spending most of his time with me. After I got home from work we’d “go for a run” around the living room. I’d walk briskly while Roofy chased along beside me. Occasionally he’s get tangled in my feet, but never seemed to mind.

Roofy also had an addiction. He wouldn’t touch lettuce but he loved a whole grain oat breakfast cereal called Cruncheroos. One shake of the box was all it took for him to come running.

Roofy ate all the buttons on the TV remote right down to their base, and he once jumped on my chest when I was sleeping on the couch to wake me with a nip.

Bogey and Roofy — like me, my mother would have loved them.