Mae. A pale tan dwarf hamster with a thick white ruff of fur around her neck and back, seen in profile, crouching on a black surface against a black background.

While Jennifer was in Chicago on book tour and I was in Austin for a friend’s wedding, our Chinese dwarf hamster Mae West Armstrong Davis died. She’d had acute pneumonia, we think, a couple months ago, and two rounds of antibiotics from St. Mark’s Veterinary had stabilized her only temporarily.

Mae and her sister Dorothy Parker Armstrong Davis, who died last year of diabetes, were Brooklynites, born in the Petsmart on Atlantic Avenue. They crossed the Brooklyn Bridge in a taxi when they were girls and lived the rest of their lives in Manhattan, becoming fixtures of the East Village social set. Although Dorothy made a show of gallivanting about our apartment in her clear ball, Mae preferred indoor pastimes such as building mounds of fluff in her cage, or climbing upside down on its wire roof.

Mae shared her namesake Mae West’s taste for white fur collars, but not her disposition: Mae the hamster was a mild lady, happy to spend hours in contemplation or quiet companionship.

Mae. A dwarf hamster sitting in a plastic wheel in her cage, seeming to stare into the camera.

Images © A. Jesse Jiryu Davis