Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Bestowing great love on a small pet

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 28, 2016

My mother had a severe aversion to keeping fuzzy creatures in the house. She harbored a deep dislike for fur-covered couches, not to mention fleas, so there was little chance her daughters would be allowed a pet mammal of any kind.

There was, however, a cat named Dolores that lived next door to our turquoise home in Miami—and this friendly feline became a surrogate pet for me. She even showed up in some family photos, sitting nearby, unbeknownst to us until the film was developed.2016 04 28 GB MURRAY Bestowing great love on a small pet 001

When Dolores, much to my eternal delight, gave birth to a cluster of kittens, I rushed over to play with them as soon as they were large enough to wobble away from their doting mother.

During our marriage, my husband and I had a series of cats, but one day we decided to down scale to smaller creatures. We then got our first Syrian, teddy bear hamster—whom we named Ignatius after the saint from Antioch.

Caring for hamsters soon became a down-home example of Mother Teresa’s admonition to do small things with great love. You see, for a hamster, a simple green bean becomes a feast and a sunflower seed a cherished treat.

They are quiet, humble animals, and although they only live about two years, it’s a joy to make that timespan a happy one.

And like other pets, they can be a reminder of God’s love, as Father Gerald Vann writes in “Taming the Restless Heart.”

“If you think sometimes as you stroke your cat how good it was of God to make something so lithe and lovely and give it to you to look after—then the cat, at other times, will remind you of God.”2016 04 28 GB MURRAY Bestowing great love on a small pet 002

Our latest Ignatius died on Good Friday—and it was a crushing blow because my husband was the one who always went to the pet shop and selected a hamster and brought it home to me.

At first I thought I wouldn’t get another pet, but after two days with an empty cage—and no munching sounds emanating from the living room—I couldn’t stand it any more.

I headed to the pet store determined to get as young a hamster as possible, but when the clerk scooped out a fuzzy fellow that was six months old, I suddenly changed my mind.

The hamster was, you see, languishing all alone in a cage, the last one in a litter that had long since been adopted. I can’t say for sure, but it might have been his bright red eyes that discouraged folks.

The salesman placed the feisty critter into a small box, which I placed into a plastic pail on the car seat next to me, just in case the inhabitant was an escape artist.

Sure enough, about five minutes down the road, I looked into the pail and there was the hammie, who had chewed through the box and was staring at me as if to say, “Well, that was easy!”

When I was a child, Dolores brought me great joy—and now a much smaller creature has taken her place. All in all, he is a fine reminder that we find God in the small moments—and creatures—of each day.

Artwork by Jef Murray. Lorraine has written three cozy mysteries featuring a hamster named Ignatius. Her email address is