2019 has, in a nutshell, been challenging and it has probably been the most challenging year in the hamstery’s history. Those that have been following a while from our social media channels will know that we’ve had a few struggles since the death of The Janas in 2017 and the skin splits that followed not long after. I still believe that Matthew, the star of Team Metallica would have got his champion certificate if it hadn’t have been for those skin splits but that’s in the past now and unfortunately my Matthew has been gone over a year. Losing Matthew was hard but not as hard as the multiple challenges that faced us in 2019.

Lord James, the legendary hamster that started Metallica Hamstery’s showing career was ailing at the start of the year with his third chest infection in four months. He was well over three at the time and his final bout of chest trouble was one that he couldn’t fight off. I found my precious boy had finally made his way over the bridge on 30th January 2019. He was three years, five months and three weeks of age. His ‘shelf mate’ and favourite ‘wife’ Cora pined for weeks as she paced up and down the side of her cage as if she was looking for him. It was heartbreaking to see her like this. Cora was diabetic and had been stable up to that point but a gradual decline in her condition saw her join James at the bridge in April. Cora and James’ son, the nervy Alexander also succumbed to diabetes and was PTS less than a week after his father’s death alongside Jodie, a baby Chinese who had become diabetic at six weeks old. Not long after that one of The Metallica Guinea Pigs died suddenly leaving his companion Benny. This resulted in a rather concerned conversation with a more Guinea Pig savvy friend whilst we discussed what was best for Benny. I am at least pleased to report that Benny is quite happy living on his own now that he lives indoors in a busy room.

After Cora died, I had hoped that we would get some relief from the diabetes but it was short lived as it reared its ugly head again in the principal show team members John and Benjamin. Both had consistently placed and had COMs but I had no choice but to retire them for their own welfare. A new arrival also became diabetic at a similar time and returned to her breeder where she has undergone a carefully supervised treatment programme for her illness. Although her departure from Metallica Hamstery was for the best and she’s still alive because of it, I still go through spells when I feel either guilt and/or sadness over what had happened.

I honestly believed in May 2019 that we had hit rock bottom. I had literally given up hope of ever getting back to where we were in the days of James, Victoria and Matthew. Instead I had to focus on dealing with whatever struggles fate had to throw at us. Ben ended up being PTS in August and John in October.

There were more deaths as Juno, my little ray of sunshine developed an ovarian tumour and had to be PTS in May, from Joshua my first Roborovski who died on a breeding loan in July, Cyclone and Storm who were part of the Campbell Rescue Herd and Lord James’ surviving son Lord Jack.

In amongst all this sadness there was very little joy. The show team, much weaker since the retirement of John, Ben and Jack, were still developing and were only just managing to scrape together a couple prize cards let alone get anywhere near the top of the table and The Embejack litter were culled at some point in the first week of their life and The Pentha Pairing resulted in an empty nest despite Samantha giving so many encouraging signs. I have my suspicions that she may have had a phantom pregnancy and whilst Samantha appeared to recover, the disappointment over another litter lost has not helped to salvage what has been a horrible year.

In a year like this, I feel like I have been tested and I hope that it has given me a greater understanding on the importance of what I am trying to do. It has shown me how lucky I am to have been part of such a supportive club of hamster enthusiasts who have been there with words of encouragement and it has made me appreciate those that I am closest to in the hamster fancy even more.