Kids, Life

Grief and happiness, in one day

I barely have the emotional energy to write this post, because I just feel kind of exhausted, mentally. To get to the point, our other hamster, Steel, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Tuesday morning.

I shared recently that Ethan’s hamster, Flint, had to be put down in June. (Read my tribute to him here.) That whole experience was so hard and sad- my stomach tightens up just thinking about it.

(There is part of me that feels sort of ridiculous making a “big deal” over the deaths of our hamsters. Like part of me wonders, are people reading this rolling their eyes? Thinking, “oh good heavens, it’s just a hamster! Everyone knows they don’t live a long time!” Which is true. And I know they are just little pocket sized pets, not like a dog, or a cat….but I don’t know….they still felt like part of the family. And it’s hard not to get attached to the little buggers.)

Anyway, I don’t really have it in me to write some perfect tribute to Steel at the moment, but I did want to at least share this. The whole thing was a real shock, because he was TOTALLY fine last week! In fact, despite being the same age as Flint (approaching 2 1/2 years old, so pretty old in hamster years), Steel always still looked and acted like a baby.

Flint, with his cancerous tumor, had started to look a bit ragged and just older before he died. But we even commented that Steel looked so young and active and fresh yet…we thought we had quite a while left with him. There’d been no indication of illness.

Monday evening he suddenly started acting more lethargic than usual, out of the blue- sleepy, just sitting in our hands- just off. It was odd. By Tuesday morning we could tell that something was definitely very wrong. He was breathing rapidly and his eyes looked glassed over. I knew he was dying.

Fortunately, I guess, he passed away quickly, within a few hours. I really don’t know what happened. I read that oftentimes hamsters develop sudden heart failure in older age. Who knows.


It was awful, though. Asher was absolutely distraught, and I had that terrible, uncontrollable feeling of hating the situation but not being able to do a single thing about it. That quote “the only way out is through” ran through my mind, as we basically held him and waited for him to die. No way around it, we just had to get through it.

Here are a few pics of him from over the years:

On the day we got him
May 2020- with his brother Flint
My favorite pic of them- Steel on the left

He didn’t have all the many nicknames like Flint did, but he went by “Steely Wheely” most of the time. 🙂 ❤️

Later in the day, after he dried his many tears, Asher said, “I can’t imagine not having a hamster anymore! Do you think we could just at least go look at some at the pet store? Not to buy any, just to look.”

I said okay, if he really wanted to….though I wasn’t sure if this was the best idea. I mean, it was very soon. But on the other hand, he was so sad, and I just wanted him to feel better. And looking at cute animals always makes people feel better.

You might be able to sense where this is going.

I won’t beat around the bush. We ended up buying another hamster that very night. Yep. I feel weird admitting this, because it feels…a little wrong? Disrespectful to Steel? Insensitive?

We looked at several of the same breed (Winter white dwarf), but the ones we saw didn’t seem right. We were about to leave, when the girl mentioned that the two female Chinese hamsters seemed very sweet. We’d never had that breed before, nor a female hamster, so we hadn’t even considered them. Asher decided to look at one and she did seem really sweet.

She was active but not hyper, curious but not overly nervous or skittish acting. Long story short, Asher felt immediately drawn to her and decided to bring her home.

To be honest, I don’t think these Chinese hamsters are nearly as naturally cute as the Winter White Dwarf hamsters, who are sort of furry and roly poly looking. I find them to be absolutely adorable. This breed looks more like a mouse!! She has these huge ears, is longer and skinnier and is tiny.

But she’s cute in her own way, and besides, it’s kind of fun to try a different breed.


Her name is Summer, and Asher is very smitten. 🙂

TO BE CLEAR, she is not a replacement for Steel. I think we are actually glad that she is so different- there’s just no comparison.

Whether this was “right or wrong”, I’m not really sure, but she has been a welcome distraction. She is very active, LOVES to dig and burrow (much more so than our previous hammies) and yet can also be so docile that she will fall asleep in our hands sometimes, sort of “purring” while we stroke her head.

I’ve already nicknamed her: “Little One”. 🙂

We still can’t believe Steel is gone. Poor little buddy. He was the cutest!! We miss him so much.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for the happiness the hamsters have brought the boys over these past few years.

15 thoughts on “Grief and happiness, in one day”

  1. I am so sorry! Those hamsters were part of your family for several years so the grief you are feeling is only natural. We get so attached to animals and it’s so sad when they pass, especially when it’s unexpected. I am glad that it happened when you guys are home and not last weekend when you were in SD! And I don’t think you have to worry about it seeming like you are ‘replacing’ steel. Asher has a hole in his little heart and was ready to give love to another hamster! She does look very cute!


    1. I know…, I am glad it didn’t happen while I was away. In some ways, I would have been happy to “miss” the hard part, but in reality, I needed to be there for Asher. He needed his mom!


  2. The loss of a pet is SO hard. In some ways, it’s worse that they only live for a couple of years because you’re losing them more often! I’m sorry for your loss and I hope Summer brings you and your family comfort.


  3. I would be the one rolling eyes before we got Cookie (the cat). Now I totally get it… it’s part of the family and death of family feels bad/unfair. I also understand why you agree to get another one to make Asher feel better but at the same time feel wrong about it. I would have done the same and wish there’s similar ways to do that for humans.
    Summer looks cute.


  4. I’m so sorry Kaelyn!
    It’s NOT AT ALL RIDICULOUS to mourn the loss of something you love, and Steel was so, so loved. It’s such a tribute to your family’s care for him that you are so sad. Steel had a wonderful life and that is such a testament to you, Ivan, and the boys and your genuine affection for the sweet little creature.
    I also think it’s a wonderful way to honour Steel’s memory to get a new hamster and agree that having one that’s a different breed could also help with the transition.


  5. As everyone else has said – of course it’s not ridiculous to mourn a pet! they were part of your family for years. And yes, they’re small, furry creatures who don’t live long – that doesn’t mean that we don’t love them! I know EXACTLY what Asher is going through – I held my hamster when she died when I was… hm. Maybe in 8th grade? I remember her last minute and then yelling for my dad. 😦 So yes, it’s traumatic. And yes, doing SOMETHING helps. I love that Asher has such a big heart he wanted to get another hamster right away. I have a feeling you will rarely-if-ever be a pet-less family. 😉


    1. Thank you for the kind words, Anne! Interesting, isn’t it, how that experience from so many years ago stuck in your mind! It is a tough thing at any age, and especially as kid going through “death experiences” for the first time, really. Part of life, but doesn’t make it any easier…


  6. I never had a pet sadly (I KNOW, RIGHT?) but I’d definitely cry over a hamster. I am very sorry that Steel died so expectantly…. and I don’t think anybody thinks that you replaced him with Summer. She’s just another cute hamster who needed a home. Good for you for giving her one where she’s loved and taken care of.


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