Friday, January 21, 2011

What Are The People Thinking?

A few more inches of snow came last night.  This weekend, temperatures are predicted to plunge to single digits.
I am not sure how the birds get their "weather reports," but they obviously get them.
The scene was very different last night at Harlem Meer from the night before when the mallards and BradJolina had been taking it easy and relaxing on the ice in the above freezing temperatures.
Last night, all the birds were swimming frantically on the small pool of water as if knowing that the tiny pool would once again be in danger of freezing over.  There was an urgency in the constant swimming and bobbing up and down in the water.  Even the indulgent, normally feisty mallards were for once, diligently pitching in to aid BradJoLine in the pressing job of the moment.  More snow, after all, was on the way and all the birds seemed to be well aware of it.
After all the ducks had finished eating (mostly from my hands), they immediately returned to the job of trying to keep the 8 foot in diameter open pool from freezing. 
I began, with my dogs, to make our way out of Harlem Meer by walking towards the 106th street exit.    But, we didn't get very far.
As we made our way passed the small "Knish and Knash" building that normally sells snacks and potato knishes in the summer, Tina (my Corgi mix) became very excited.
"What is it, Tina?  A raccoon?"
But, when following Tina's gaze, I soon discovered what all the excitement was about.
There, running around in the frozen snow was a hamster!
And a few feet away, another, much smaller hamster!
Oh my God, where did they come from? I wondered.
But, the answer to that question came quickly, too.
There, in front of the empty concession building was a white shoe box with holes punched in the top of it.  The lid was partially off from at least two hamsters having escaped it.
I walked over to the box to look inside.  Incredibly, there were three other hamsters inside huddled tightly next to each other!    One bigger hamster and two tiny ones.
I figured it must have been a family of hamsters.  Did the owners not realize that a pair of opposite sex hamsters would have babies?
If they did not want the hamsters, why did they not take them to the Animal Control shelter which is mere blocks away?  How could they abandon these tiny creatures on a bitterly cold night with more snow on the way?
There was, of course no time to try and figure out answers to the questions.
I had to try and get the two wandering hamsters and get them back in the box.
I tethered my two dogs to a park bench and basically set out on a "wild hamster chase."
But, it wouldn't be easy on the icy grounds with tiny, frightened animals who move quickly.
For more than a half hour, I tried to cajole and win the trust of the tiny creatures.   At one point, I got close enough to scoop one of them up in my gloved hands, but was afraid of hurting him if holding too tightly.  The result of that miscalculation, was that the hamster quickly squirmed and jiggled right out of my hands and scurried away.  Both hamsters then ran out on to the frozen lake and disappeared.
I could have kicked myself for being such a woose in trying to rescue small hamsters.  Being "expert" in the rescue of cats and dogs does not make one proficient in the rescue of other animals.  Fact is, I don't know a damn thing about hamsters and have never held one -- until last night. 
And I failed miserably in that endeavor.
I then began to think of the hamsters still in the box.
It was more than a mile walk back to my apartment.  I would have to try and hold the box in one hand and my two dogs in the other.   But, what to do when I got home?  How would I hide the box of hamsters from my cats?  True, I could bring the hamsters to the shelter in the morning, but how would I protect them overnight?
All of these things were bounding in my head, while still keeping an eye out for the runaway hamsters.
Then,  I noticed a man and woman walking a small Boston Terrier along the park path.
I walked up to the couple and asked if they lived in the neighborhood?
"Yes," was the answer with some measure of bewilderment.
I then showed them the box with the remaining hamsters and then after explaining my situation, asked if they would take the hamsters home overnight. 
"The Center for Animal Care and Control is just a few blocks from here. -- 326 East 110th Street." I told them.  The shelter opens at 8 in the morning and you could bring the hamsters there."
The people were extremely nice. Disturbed as I was that someone would abandon the tiny, fragile animals on a bitter winter night, they thankfully agreed to take the box of hamsters home with them.
Wow, what a God-send! I gratefully thought.
After the people left with the box of remaining hamsters, I stayed a while longer to look for the other two. (I figured I could stuff them in my hand bag if being lucky to catch.) But, they were no where to be seen.  Apparently, my first failed attempt at rescuing them, had merely scared them away.
I can only hope that perhaps with the day light, others more proficient than I am on the rescue of small animals might see and help what might be a mama (or papa) hamster with his/her baby.
But, that of course is a long shot.
Four more inches of snow fell last night and tonight the temperatures plunge to the teens.
The wild birds of the park might be able to predict and adapt to the brutal weather, but can domestic pet hamsters?
What are people thinking when abandoning vulnerable, fragile pets to streets and parks during the darkest days of the merciless winter?  -- PCA

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