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How I Lost a Chinchilla, Freed the Crickets, and Ended up at the Dentist

The day started innocuously enough.  I made the rounds feeding all the pets, as I do every morning. I drove the kids to school, stopped at the pet shop to pick up more crickets for the lizard, and then I came home. And that is when I saw it:  The door to the chinchilla cage was open and the chinchilla was gone.

The day started innocuously enough. I made the rounds feeding all the pets, as I do every morning. I fed the fish, the dog, and the chinchilla. I let the dog out. I let the dog in. I drove the kids to school, stopped at the pet shop to pick up more crickets for the lizard, and then I came home. And that is when I saw it: The door to the chinchilla cage was open and the pet chinchilla was gone.


This was a problem for several reasons:

First of all, we were going on vacation and finding a lost chinchilla was not on my list of things to do before we left town.

Secondly, chinchillas are very fast and thus, very hard to catch.

See the problem?

Scanning the crime scene, I quickly noted that Henry, the pet chinchilla was nowhere in sight. However, the good thing about having a rodent for a pet is that when they do escape, they actually leave a trail for you to follow to find them. It’s not a nice trail of breadcrumbs, like Hansel and Gretel left. It’s actually kind of a disgusting trail of little poops. But it is a trail nonetheless. So I started at the chinchilla’s cage and followed the trail.

Doing my best impression of Lewis and Clark, I saw that Henry had left the cage and meandered into the kitchen. Next, he sashayed through the dining room and on into the bathroom, where he decided to investigate the inside of the bathtub.

Did I mention that chinchillas can jump?

Apparently he jumped into the bathtub, and then jumped out of the bathtub, hopped up onto the toilet seat, which, fortunately was closed, back onto the floor, out the bathroom, into the hall, down the hall, into the office, out of the office, back in the hall, down the hall, and to the bottom of the stairs.

This is when the trail came to a dead end.

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While chinchillas can jump, I was pretty confident that they could not do a whole flight of stairs, so I retraced the poop trail and found... nothing.

Did I mention that this was a problem?

Concerned that I still had a bunch of things to do on my vacation to-do list before we left, I decided to take a break from the chinchilla hunt and hope that Henry would emerge from his hiding place before it was time to go.

Taking one last look around, I grabbed the bag of crickets I had bought that morning, and went upstairs to feed the last pet, my son’s lizard. Of course, in the space of five minutes I had totally forgotten all about the lost chinchilla and therefore was completely stunned when Henry suddenly darted out from under my son’s bed, scaring me in mid-cricket feeding.

In my shock at seeing the fleeing chinchilla, I gasped, flung the bag, and sent sixty crickets ricocheting off my son’s bedroom wall.

Clearly some of the crickets must have been boomerang crickets because a few of them bounced off the wall and landed back on me. Since I am not a big fan of insecty-things, I screamed, and dove down to rid myself of the crickets. Unfortunately, when I dove, I smacked my chin on the edge of my son’s steel bed and chipped off a large piece of my lower front tooth.

Sitting on my son’s floor with a chipped tooth, crickets hopping all over the place and a freaked out chinchilla, I decided that there was really just one thing I needed:

A vacation.

©2009, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy Beckerman at, and check out her hilarious new book “Rebel without a Minivan” at Amazon and

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