Posted: August 19, 2014, 4 a.m. EDT
© Sarah Wilson
Natalie bonded with her hamster, Fuzzy, from their first day together.
Squeals of laughter can be heard emanating from the Wilson home in northwest Georgia. They come from Natalie Wilson, a 6-year-old girl with the most endearing, sparkling green eyes you could ever imagine. The source of all the merriment? A crazy-haired, honey-colored, teddy bear hamster named Fuzzy. Yes, that’s right. All of that jubilation comes from just one wee hamster.
What you wouldn’t know is the home that little Natalie Wilson shares with her mother, Sarah Wilson, wasn’t always filled with laughter, and still today, the family within it has to struggle to keep that laughter going. Leading the charge of much of that is Fuzzy. If ever a pet was born with a purpose, it would be this tiny bundle of joy who came into Natalie’s life at the exact right time one fateful night.
Natalie’s father, Glenn, was battling end-stage kidney failure and was in dialysis three days a week in 2013. This can be emotionally and financially trying for a family. What’s more, it can be a very confusing and difficult situation for a small child. In spite of it all, Glenn and Sarah kept life as normal as possible for Natalie and they enjoyed a rich life together.
As if her father’s illness wasn’t enough of a challenge for a little girl, she developed allergies to animals, which she loved so much. Opportunities for animal companionship were slowly exiting her life. Even worse, she had been dealing with a life-threatening allergy to nuts since birth. Imagine how frightening it is for a small child to know that something so common and found seemingly everywhere could endanger her life. She didn’t’ have to just live in fear of accidents, but at times she had to fear ignorance. One ugly day, a neighborhood boy threatened to smear peanut butter on her because he was mad. Yet little Natalie bravely faced the world each and every day with the loving support of her family.
Then something wonderful happened. Natalie went to the doctor, completed an allergy challenge, and found out that she was no longer allergic to almonds. Sarah explains how hard the test was for her daughter and how brave she was to attempt it.
© Sarah Wilson
Natalie spends lots of time with Fuzzy; he is her "special someone."
"She was terrified to try almonds after being told her entire life that nuts can kill her,” Sarah said. In celebration of passing the test, she took Natalie to the pet store afterward for a surprise. In the past, they considered the possibilities of inviting a pet into their lives. They checked out several books from the library to research hamsters.
"I learned if you treat them good, they’ll treat you good,” Natalie said.
At the store that day, she chose a teddy bear hamster and fittingly named him Fuzzy. That night Natalie turned to her mother and said in her sweet little voice, "Fuzzy and I both had to do something scary today. I had to try almonds and he had to get a new home.” Sarah believes this really bonded Natalie to Fuzzy.
Why a Syrian hamster as opposed to another kind? "I chose the Syrian hamster because they are supposed to do better with people handling them,” Sarah said. The fact that Syrians cannot live with other hamsters was a plus for them, as they could not keep a lot of furry pets in the home due to Natalie’s allergies. Another plus in selecting a Syrian hamster was that keeping a single animal gave the little girl the opportunity to focus on building a strong bond with a single pet.
The entire family enjoyed spoiling the little critter with mini hamster cookies, mini "milk bones” and many other treats made specifically for hamsters. Natalie and Fuzzy enjoyed days of sharing toys and cuddling in front of the TV together.
"He definitely bettered our lives,” Sarah said. "He immediately was nice to Natalie. We slowly eased him into being held and didn’t force ourselves on him. He just always seemed so calm and trusting of Natalie.”
The little hammie provided many giggles with his antics. Sarah loves taking photos of him in various poses with props, her favorite being a toy school bus. They are beautiful, and Fuzzy’s gentle nature can be seen in them. Natalie’s favorite activity is racing with Fuzzy when he is in his ball. The two of them take turns running and chasing each other back and forth all around the house. Glenn and Sarah loved watching the two together.
© Sarah Wilson
One way Fuzzy provides entertainment is by posing with props for photos.
Glenn had been doing better and things were settling down for the family when the most unexpected, tragic of things happened. One sunny day, while taking a routine walk to the mailbox, Glenn collapsed. He passed away in Sarah’s arms from sudden cardiac death. On May 27, 2014, a little girl and her mother’s lives were changed forever.
Fuzzy soon became more than just a pet hamster to Natalie. He became a very important someone whom Natalie could rely on to always give her unconditional love — a little someone to snuggle with and talk to.
"He gives me lots of love,” Natalie said. He has not only helped this little girl in healing from the loss of her father, but her mother has benefited greatly from him also.
"When I hold him, I feel my stress level go down,” Sarah said. "I never expected to be a widow in my 30s, raising a child alone. Fuzzy is just a pure, little, furball of love.” It is amazing how much love and comfort can come from within such a tiny package.
Natalie has a bright future despite the challenges in life. The Sunday before Glenn died, she was accepted into the gifted program at school. Her grandmother sent her a gift card as a reward for the accomplishment, and she immediately thought of her little friend first and foremost. "Natalie insisted on using some of the money to buy Fuzzy his favorite treats,” Sarah said.
Mother and daughter are staying hopeful that over time, Natalie’s more dangerous allergies subside. And in the meantime, the little girl with the sparkling green eyes and her mother are healing and working to build a new life together, with the help of little hamster named Fuzzy.
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