As recently as Sunday, little Hefner was healthy and full of beans. On Tuesday night, he showed signs of serious illness, with a belly full of scabs and infection. I brought him to the vet on Wednesday, where the kind Dr. Gibbs gave him a shot of cortisone to slow the growth of (suspected) cancer and a shot of antibiotics to kill the secondary infection from his chewing on the growths. She said that if he responded well to those, she could compound him treatment to give him another week or two. Then he had a healthy and relatively energetic night and day today. Wouldn't you rather go when you felt well than suffer for a week or two? So we fed him his favorite foods - blueberries and nuts - and cuddled the little boy, then brought him over to the vet.
The nurses at the front desk didn't even check us in, saw the teary eyes and brought us straight to an exam room. After some time alone with the sleepy Hammie-Boy, Dr. Gibbs took him to the euthanization room, and a few minutes later he returned asleep but not breathing in his ball. She said that he was full of tumors when she felt him after the procedure, so we had made the best decision.
I dug a hole in the rodent cemetery in the back yard and buried him in his favorite toy, his ball, with a pint of blueberries.
Hefner was the gentlest, most easy-going, but most curious hamster I've ever known. He would run in his ball for hours. He let little kids squeeze him and wouldn't bite. He would sleep in your lap. He loved peoples' shoes. He took food so carefully from your hand that he'd sometimes drop it. He invented the litter box for himself so he wouldn't have to sleep in a mess. He was the best hamster ever.
We get so attached to our little friends. I'm not sure I want to keep doing this every few years. Perhaps a bit of a break before another little Rodent-American.