My sister came home for her "spring break" from school in February. Usually, whenever any of us kids have to travel somewhere by plane, we ask our father to do it for us. Since his work takes him all over the country on a regular basis, he has a quick and easy program on his computer that makes it happen in the most efficient manner for the right price. This time, Heather did not stick with her original travel plan. She changed her tickets from a United flight to a Delta equivalent--similar timing, arriving in the same place....so, why the change?
Well, one very small thing distinguishes these two reputable airlines. United will not allow pets to fly on board. Delta, with a few exceptions, will.
Heather arrived at the airport with a very small plastic cage in her purse. Inside were two fairly substancially sized hamsters--a male and a female. The female was dubbed "Nevens," although I am unclear as to what this name represents. The male carried the very plebian name "Hamster," given he was a replacement for his predecessor, Kenevil, who tragically died upon meeting up with a friend's pet dog that still retained some hunting instincts. Heather brought them upstairs and put them into the bathroom that she and I share. Half an hour later, I entered the bathroom only to find one hamster present. Nevens was comfortably lodged behind the toilet by the door. Hamster, on the other hand, could not be found. We looked through every room on the second floor save one--our parents had retired to bed leaving one of the doubled doors to their room cracked to allow access to the cat population. After hours of searching, we concluded that he must have gone in, and we had to abandon our efforts.
At about 6:30 in the morning, my father presented a sleeping Heather with Hamster. He had gotten up at his usually early hour to find Hamster in an overturned can of peanuts on the carpet by his side of the bed. Fortunately, he did so before Harriet, our oldest and most capably mouse-catching cat, came into the room, sniffed out the peanut can, and followed the scent to the closed door of Heather's room outside of which she sat for the next few hours.
Heather flew out to Colorado the following weekend, leaving Hamster and Nevens in our temporary care (although I beg to ask how temporary). Because the two of them did not get along, we gave them each their own cage. Nevens has her own space with a removeable plastic top and a few nooks and crannies she likes to sleep in. Hamster, the most athletic of the two, has a wire cage that is higher than it is wide, but it includes a wheel in which he will run for hours to make up for the lack of floor space.
Their cages are cleaned once a week. A few weeks ago, my mother brought both of them downstairs and proceded to change their fluff and add extra food and water--a process the hamsters, as hoarders who enjoy filth, never quite appreciate. She finished Nevens' cage last and left it on the countertop overnight. The next morning, the entire top of the cage had been removed and Nevens was nowhere to be found.
A search was immediately mounted. At first, it was concluded that she must have been injured by the fall from the counter to the floor and perhaps limped off somewhere nearby. However, an inspection of the all of the closest undersides of cabinets and appliances revealed nothing. My father put out small piles of food in random places, and they all remained untouched. Ironically, there was never a point when they assumed that one or more of the half a dozen cats in the house had got a hold of the innocent creature and brought it to an untimely end. As the days went by, the active search became a recovery mission. Nothing turned up at all. We resigned Nevens to the long line of unsolved residential mysteries.
One evening, my mother and I were sitting in the living room--it had been about five days since we had last seen Nevens. My mother turned down the volume on the TV set--she heard scratching somewhere, she claimed. Once the set was no longer interfering with this scratching sound, I also heard it, but I thought it was the printer on the second floor resetting itself in the usual "contacting the printer planet-like" manner. However, my mother was not content with that explanation. She walked over to the opposite wall and peered into the air conditioning vent on the floor closest to the TV. Lo and behold, there she was, scratching about on the metal grating under the floor plating. She reached in and brought out Nevens. With very little protest, Nevens was returned to her cage five days after officially breaking out. After a quick nibble, a little water, and some rummaging of the new fluff, she was comfortably asleep in her usual spot as if nothing ever happened.
So much for having a house full of felines.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare was promptly placed on top of her removeable cage top to prevent a repeat of the recent events. Due to good behavior, that has been downgraded to The Joy of Cooking. If this trend continues, the American Heritage Dictionary is next.