Our Chinese hamster Hazel Scott Armstrong Davis died yesterday. Like her eponym, the jazz musician and activist Hazel Scott, Hazel combined a fierce disposition with impeccable grooming and elegance.

We had no intuition she was ailing. She spent her final days in her customary pursuits, dining on parsley, watching television with Jennifer, and engaging in vigorous nighttime constitutionals on her wheel. If there was any intimation of her death, it was the behavior of her sister Gertrude. In recent days when Hazel retired to the corner of the cage, Gertrude lay stretched over her, pressing her paws on Hazel’s side as if to protect or warm her.

Domestic harmony came only lately to the sisters' home. They had quarrelled frequently and Hazel was the bully of the two, biting Gertrude’s ear so often it resembled frayed lace. We fretted that they would need to be separated before long. We placed two little houses in their cage to offer each of the girls a place of her own; instead, Hazel claimed both, and chased Gertrude out whenever she entered one. Many mornings we found Gertrude sleeping out on the floor of the cage while Hazel luxuriated in whichever house she preferred.

Unaccountably, in the same week the governor’s order made our apartment a hermitage, peace settled over the girls' relations. They slept in the same house every day, curled together so tightly we could not tell whose feet were whose. Hazel relented her attacks and Gertrude’s chronic anxiousness eased. I cannot attribute this sudden change to any cause, except grace. In the end all disputes were forgotten and Hazel died in her sister’s embrace.

Images © A. Jesse Jiryu Davis