Checkmate was the last of our hamsters named after my sons' favorite
game of chess. We got her on July 3, 1997. Just 11 days later, she had 8 babies.
What a fun surprise! Well, it wasn't a total surprise. After all I had seen "interesting
activity" among her siblings at the pet store. And the pet store salesperson
said she might be pregnant. Plus, a couple days before she delivered, she was
extremely hefty and LUMPY!
Despite this unplanned pregnancy and her being new to us, Checkmate
warmed up to us rather quickly. That probably had something to do with the fact
that she was given milk and extra treats to keep her healthy while she was nursing.
All 8 of her babies seemed to be doing fine, but at 12 days old, one suddenly
died. It was surprising to us, because the babies had fur and were starting to
eat solid foods. I wondered if the fact that the father was related to Checkmate
could have made the baby deformed in some way. Another one died the next day.
Both dead babies were albino, when all the others were tan and white.
Checkmate was an excellent mother. We had such a great time with
her babies, that we couldn't just keep one. We especially liked a little one,
who always did the opposite of what her mother wanted. When the baby would escape
from the nest and go into a tunnel, Checkmate would dutifully bring her back,
only for the little one to run off again. When Checkmate would try to grab her
in a tunnel, the baby would run off in the opposite direction. I fondly nicknamed
this baby, Michaela, after my often oppositional son,
Michael. Well, how could we part with her after that?
A second baby caught our attention, because he was the first explorer
of the bunch, and subsequently went off on many explorations. We nicknamed him
Columbus. Columbus was
kind of a biter, and we worried about giving him to any of our friends, so he
became a member of our family as well. With time and patience, he was just as
friendly as any hamster we've ever had.
We ended up with 5 hamsters in our household after that: Knight,
Blizzard, Checkmate, Michaela,
Checkmate died on November 22, 1998, at the age of 1 year and