"Sorry I haven't written. Chipper died today. I have no idea why. He is buried about 30 feet from my window beside some trees. I'll explain more tomorrow. Your friend, Jennifer, Muffie, Chipper."
When Muffin died, Jennifer was in quiet shock. When Chipper died, Jennifer wailed in her bedroom for hours! Her level of grief did not match the lifespan or emotional connection she had with her hamster. She wailed for everything she lost. She sobbed until her stomach hurt, she pulled at her hair, she refused to eat and she wanted to be alone.
Her, soon-to-be, step-dad became a little irritated/concerned for her. He thought all of this was over the hamster. It was a monster overreaction which probably denoted mental instability to all who watched. It wasn't the best way to get to know his new step-daughter. He didn't get it. Nobody got it.
Jennifer goes on to describe Chipper's final, dreadful hours:
April 23, 1983 Saturday
"Chipper was sort of dead. Then at night, he started breathing again but in the morning he died. I really miss him. I loved him. He never bit anyone in his life. It seems all my animals are dying. It is horrible to see no cage in my room with Chipper running on his wheel. I don't have many pictures of Chipper. Well, I gotta go. Bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer, Muffie, Chipper."
"He never bit anyone in his life"--high praise for a rodent!
I asked Jennifer what she remembers about Chipper's death. She answered me with half-amused embarrassment. In a desperate attempt to reverse fate, Jennifer administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Chipper. Yes, she did! She found him lying on his cage floor--dead for sure. But she couldn't deal with it. She pulled him out and applied mini-chest compressions while blowing into his mouth. She cried and tried to revive him for what felt like an hour (probably more like 15 or 20 minutes). Her parents walked in on her doing CPR on the hamster. No wonder they were concerned about her!
She stayed with him the rest of the day. That night, he started gasping for air!! Jennifer remembers screaming. Now the family ran into her room and saw her fawning over her little half-dead rodent. She was momentarily gleeful. Jeff couldn't deal with it. Chipper gasped for hours but never opened his eyes. Eventually it was just creepy (even to Jennifer). By morning it was over. Chipper was stiff and cold.
Jennifer was trying to put life right again, that's all.
April 24, 1983 Sunday
"Today I just lolled around. Mom and I went shopping for food. And I got Men At Work's album, 'Business as Usual'. I really miss Chipper. D.B. bites sometimes. Mom got me D.B. from her boss. His name before I got him was Chippy. Well, I gotta go. Oh, Mom showed home movies. Bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer, Muffie, Chipper."
So it must have been Jennifer's parents who named D.B. Anyway, I'm sure the home movies helped Jennifer feel less homesick (yeah right!).
April 25, 1983 Monday
"I had a little homework today. Not much. School is okay. I can find my way around. I have written a lot of letters but I still have to write more. I can't write long, so bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer, Muffin, Chipper."
April 26, 1983 Tuesday
"Here is my school schedule:
1st--Math, Mr. Anderson
2nd--Social Studies--Mrs. Werner
4th--P.E. Mrs. Palik
I gotta go so, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer, Muffie, Chipper."
Art and P.E. were everyday!?! Times have changed at the public schools....
April 27, 1983 Wednesday
"Today is the Track meet. I did great. I think I got second place in the mile. I did it in 6 minutes and 14 seconds. I got 3rd place out of 7th grade girls and boys for the half mile which I did in 2 minutes and 48 seconds. In the mile I got second out of the girls. Cheri beat me by 20 seconds. I beat her for the half mile. We had dinner at Mr. Day's house, Mom's boss. Well, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer, Muffie, Chipper."
A mile in 6:14 is a good time for a 12 year old girl with less than a month of training!! Running was, and still is, easy for Jennifer. Through running, she began to carve out a little place for herself in Alaska. It offered stress relief too, even though Jennifer was unaware of that side-effect.
Jennifer still runs--in fact she ran today. She's happiest running 2 to 3 miles at a fast pace. She doesn't sprint and she doesn't enjoy exhaustion--just a happy clip and a couple miles of trail with her ipod sets her up for a pleasant day!
Jennifer asked God the question, Why? over and over again after Chipper died. Muffin's death was tragic. She felt guilty for moving away and not being there for her dog. But Chipper's death was just plain unfair. She was angry and wondered what she did to deserve the punishment. Chipper had also received a clean bill of health from the vet. His death didn't make sense to her.
A few weeks after he died, Jennifer received a vivid dream. It was one of those dreams that commands you to pay attention. In the dream she saw Chipper. He was alive. He walked on his hind legs. He was hunched over and he needed a cane to walk. His hands shook and the hair on top of his head was gray. Jennifer woke up knowing that Chipper died of old age (she had thought he was still young.) The dream brought her peace and she no longer felt cursed.
Recently, Jennifer's daughter got her first "room pet". She was trying to decide between hamsters, rats and guinea pigs. Jennifer did research on all three animals. She learned that the life span of a hamster is about two years. She never knew this!! Chipper lived for over two years--he really was an old man and he lived to a ripe old age! Jennifer's dream was true. (Her daughter decided on guinea pigs by the way--they live 5-7 years :)
April 22, 1983
"He never bit anyone in his life."