Posted: May 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I am writing to try and seek some comfort. I am pretty sure I accidently killed my hamster, Little George, a few days ago, and I simply cannot forgive myself. He was fine the night before, totally normal. But I woke to find him in a terrible state. His breathing was labored, he was making a terrible noise, his heart was beating fast and he wasn't moving around very much. I booked him an appointment at the vet and then went to work.
When I came home from work he was worse — just sitting in his food bowl, in a strange position with his eyes half-closed. I was scared. I tried giving him a bit of water to keep him hydrated, but I may have pushed too hard with the syringe. He started freaking out, could barely get a breath. He literally rolled over and died.
I know he was probably on death’s bed anyway, but I pushed him over the edge. It was my doing that ended his life. I know it. I am now wracked with guilt and shame. I should have left him alone, but instead he went out in an undignified manner. The struggle is so hard, because I loved the little guy so much. It's weighing heavy on my heart. The last thing I did was let him down in a fatal way. How could I have been so careless?! I am looking for advice as to how to stop the last image of the furry friend I loved to be that of discomfort by my hands.
A: You are correct; if Little George could not swallow, it is likely that he was very near death and was not responding to anything you did. His body was just doing whatever it could. Knowing you had only a small chance to help your hamster, you still tried.
There is no shame in trying to render aid, even when the circumstances are so dire. It is natural that you might feel helpless and frustrated when unable to help someone you love. This is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Please don't let that one moment of helplessness overshadow all the loving kindness you showed Little George, the special relationship the two of you shared, and the truth that you did everything you could to help him.
Those who have been caring for hamsters for decades still have that very same experience, and feel the same nagging guilt when facing the difficult situation you faced. Being loved and cared for is something most hamsters, and most animals, never experience. It is such a rare and wonderful thing in the world, and it always confers dignity on both parties.
See more hamster questions and answers>>