Winter 2010 Newsletter

The Birth of Haven for Hamsters

By Cynthia Cribbs

My adventure into the world of animal rescue started on a cold snowy day in November. I had gone to the City of Albuquerque's eastside shelter to pick up a guinea pig for Melvin's Place Guinea Pig Rescue. While I was there I saw a photo of a little white Teddy Bear hamster. I owned two hamsters growing up and I really enjoyed them. Now I was newly single with two dogs and a fish I wasn't sure I could take on another animal. But, something kept tugging at me about that little guy so I talked to the staff and found out to my horror that there are people who come in and get the hamsters and rats to feed to their snakes. Needless to say I had to rescue him; I paid the adoption fee of $2 and unbeknownst to me at the time Haven for Hamsters Rescue & Sanctuary was created.

I named him Franklin but quickly realized Franklin was unlike any hamster I had ever seen or had. He was very upset and very mean. He would lash out at anyone that got too close to him. He would stand on his back legs and hiss and scream until you backed off. Having never rescued a hamster before, I did not understand the dynamics of the situation. I'd rescued dogs before but they were always so happy to have a loving home they worked very hard to make their new family happy. Hamsters are not like this at all. Most rescued hamsters are usually older and have already been through a lot.

The only thing I could think to do was to research and watch any show I could on rescued animals. Then I used the same techniques on Franklin that are used on dogs and cats. I gave him a place of his own where he could feel safe and comfortable. I started building his trust by talking to him everyday. Any time I walked by his cage, I would tell him how much I loved him and that he was safe. When I was feeding him I would quietly talk to him and hold out small treats in the hopes he would take them from my hand. Over time Franklin did start to trust me and to know that no harm was going to come to him. He stopped lashing out and trying to bite me. I learned to respect him and the space he wanted. If he did not want to be touched, I left him alone.

Shortly after taking in Franklin, Lance arrived at my door. Lance is a Robovorski hamster or more commonly called a Robo Dwarf hamster. His family had to move across the country and could not take Lance with them so he came to me. Unlike Franklin, Lance is not only a different hamster but has different habitat needs. The large Syrian hamsters like to climb and the dwarf hamster like to burrow. Lance had a typical hamster cage but he did not like it, the family shyly brought out the habitat that Lance preferred and it was a very large plastic bin. They told me he loved the bin. He ran around, buried things and dug all he wanted. Lance joined our group.

Over the past 18 months that Haven for Hamsters has been active I have taken in all types of hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs. Some found forever homes and some of the animals are what I consider "non-adoptable". Those with a history of abuse or neglect do not get adopted out. They live the remainder of their lives in peace and harmony within the sanctuary. They are treated with love and kindness. Whatever special needs they have are met. If the hamster has personality problems such as aggression or is extremely shy he will remain in the sanctuary. There are a few hamsters who can escape from any cage you put them in. Unless an adoptive family is absolutely positive the hamster will be safe if he gets out, the hamster is considered non-adoptable. However, if an animal comes into the rescue and is a happy well adjusted animal, he is put up for adoption. Luckily we get more adoptable animals than non-adoptable ones.

Currently the sanctuary houses an interesting mix of permanent residents. Guinevere and her brother Parker are Teddy Bear hamsters. Sasha. a shorthaired Syrian hamster was severely neglected and abused. She came into the sanctuary aggressive and scared. Her family did not feed her on a regular basis so she would horde food and attack anyone who tried to get close to her. After six months in the sanctuary Sasha is now one of the friendliest hamsters we have and loves to come out and let people hold and pet her. We have several dwarf hamsters who are residents. Lance is still with us. Pandora, a Robo dwarf, is an expert at escaping from her cage. Laki, a black Russian Campbell hamster, came to us straight from the pet store and is extremely aggressive. Our brothers, Raja and Raavi, are grey Campbell hamsters who are also too aggressive to be held. We have one gerbil, Tommy, who was surrendered with severe personality issues. He is not aggressive but he does not like to be handled or touched. We also have Dharma, the mouse, and our Dowager Duchesses, Zoe and Zara, who are guinea pigs.

We have a few dwarf hamsters that are currently looking for a forever home. Interested families can visit the website to view their profile and see pictures of them.

Cynthia Cribbs lives in Albuquerque with her son Joshua, two very spoiled Yorkie/Maltese dogs; Tau and Kali and her newly adopted grand-dog, Dorian; as well as the always changing residents of the sanctuary.

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