DEAR HARRIETTE: I made mistake. I impulsively purchased a hamster with my friend; we were supposed to have "joint custody" of it. This hamster has been traveling back and forth from our apartments every few months, and I cannot believe how stupid I was to agree to this. The hamster smells, it is impossible to play with it and I definitely overestimated the lifespan of this animal. I brought up not taking the hamster back, and my friend got angry with me because I agreed to "raise" this hamster with her. It is just a rodent, and I feel she likes the hamster more. Is it rude of me to refuse to take the hamster back? I never signed a contract or anything, but I do not want my friend to be irreparably mad at me. -- Hamsterdam, Silver Spring, Maryland
DEAR HAMSTERDAM: Take a deep breath and calm down. The average lifespan of a hamster is 2 to 3 years, so your few months is a proverbial "drop in the bucket" in terms of how much longer you have left. If you are unwilling or unable to commit to that period, you need to have a serious conversation with your friend. You should not simply relinquish your responsibilities. While a hamster is a rodent, it happens to be a rodent that you agreed to protect and nurture.
If you feel like you cannot last the duration of the commitment, look for safe options. Do you have any other friends who might enjoy joint custody of a hamster? Since these are popular animals, chances are you can find someone who would be happy to help. If not, check in with your local pet store. You could also offer to watch the hamster in case of emergency but not on a regular basis. Work hard to work it out together -- while respecting the animal.