I am not, I think, a very responsible person. That is to say, there are many things I have been responsible for, but I don’t often rush to take on new responsibilities. Certainly at the ripe old age of however-old-I-am-now, I thought the three Tiny Weasels were enough responsibility for me to be going on with.
But, we’d promised that once we were settled in Canada, we would get a dog. I argued, quite persuasively, I thought, that the best time to get a dog would be in September, when the Weasels were back at school all day and Mrs Dim would be plying her trade, and I could adjust to life with a new puppy in a quiet and controlled environment.
So we got our puppy in June, and she fitted right in with the family. Her training was accompished by me taking her to a real Puppy Training school and being taught as severely as she was. And she’s pretty good, as small dogs go. She still has a tendancy to bark too often at things that aren’t worth barking at (Squirrels, small boys, trees, paper bags…) and she delights in bringing leaves into the house and shredding them under the coffee table, but all in all, she’s not a lot of work.
I think this was the idea behind Middle Weasel getting her Hamster at Christmas. Dim doesn’t have a lot of work to do looking after the dog, so if Middle Weasel wants a hamster, it’ll do her good. Teach her to be responsible.
Now, I definitely heard that last sentence being bandied about. It was familiar because I heard the same logic behind getting Biggest Weasel her rabbit, many years ago. Back then, I was dead against it, having the aged but saintly Sydney, Prince of Dogness to care for. Admittedly, since he was 126 in dog years, he didn’t require much care either – other than the occasional mopping up. All he wanted to do was sleep and be near the people he loved, a bit like a drunk at a party. Still, the rabbit arrived and we started the large-scale importing of hay and rabbit food and the export of small black pellets and used hay. When it became apparent that the Weasels were no longer using the garden playhouse, we cut a hole in the side of it, fitted the rabbit run to that and it became the Rabbit Palace. Much easier to clean, since you could walk in, and it gave the rabbit (hang on, there was a name, wasn’t there? Er…Lucy! Yes, Lucy Rabbit) room to wander around even when the weather wasn’t rabbit-friendly.
And here’s the thing, the cry of the parent since the first cave-child brought home a partially domesticated dog: Biggest Weasel would look after the cleaning and restocking of the rabbit palace if asked. On Sunny days she would rush to release the bunny and play with her in the garden. But on so, so many days, I was the one sweeping up the damp hay and replacing it. What, exactly, did Biggest Weasel learn from owning (so passively) this rabbit? Well, ultimately she learned that rabbits can be killed by an extraordinary range of diseases. Lucy caught a weird one that convinced her the world was actually upside down. She hobbled around unhappily, twisting her head around as far as possible to try and get things the right way up. The vet said that there were three or more possible causes, but none of them were really treatable, and so Lucy passed on to the Rabbit Palace in the sky.
Moose is a real pet. She interacts with us, comes with us on walks, learns to respond to commands. The Hamster (Maxi) occasionally runs in his wheel. He comes out to roll around in his ball (much to Moose’s bemusement) and gets stroked and brushed, but he’s another passive pet. I don’t see Middle Weasel learning anything about responsibility from being Maxi’s owner, other than “Responsible owners don’t leave their hamsters unattended outside their habitat when the dog is wandering free” and she only just learned that one in time (Lucky for Maxi, Moose isn’t very quick on her feet.)
Luckily for me, my own predictions of gloom have not come true. I’m not the one who ends up cleaning up after the hamster. Mrs Dim delights in cleaning out the habitrail and rearranging it in interesting new ways. She had mice for a while, as a child, and I think we got the hamster as much for her as for Middle Weasel. So I’m not complaining about Maxi joining the family. He may not contribute much, but he’s not much of a drain, and Middle Weasel is very happy to be a Responsible Hamster Owner, and a smile from her is worth a dozen hamsters.