Two Communication Lessons to be Learned from the Late “Sonny the Hampster”

HamsterThis is a hilarious true story that happened to my friend Paige. Have fun reading it, but see if you can pick up two communication lessons that can be learned from it’s telling. The names of the people have not been changed to protect we who are truly innocent???


Jake, an eight-year-old boy, went to his bedroom to play with his hamster, Sonny, only to find the little creature lying on the bottom of its cage, all four feet straight up in the air. He raced down the stairs where his mother, Janet, was preparing a cake for his brothers birthday.

“Mommy, mommy,” Jake squalled, catching his breath. “Sonny’s not breathing.”

“What is it, Honey?” mom asked, half listening. Jake spun in circles around the kitchen trying to get his mother to understand. “I said, he’s not breathing, mommy! You’ve got to come RIGHT NOW . . . or he’ll D-I-E!!”

Still too busy to really focus on Jake’s emergency, she said, “Listen, sweetie. Call Daddy. See what he thinks you should do, okay?”

Jake dialed his dad, pressed the phone to his ear and staggered into the next room.

Across town, his dad, Paige answered on the third ring, but the connection wasn’t good.

Jake blurted out, “Dad, it’s Sonny– he’s not breathing, I think Sonny’s dead.” Paige thought he heard his son say, “Dad, it’s Mommy–I think Mommy’s dead. I . . . I don’t think Mommy’s breathing.” Stunned, Paige told his son as calmly as he could, “Listen to me, Jake. Go back and shake her. Hurry.”

The eight-year-old ran past his mom, back to the hamster’s cage and shook the cage back and forth throwing the limp lump of fur that was once “Sonny” from side to side, then he tore back to the phone and reported to his dad. “I still think he’s dead.”

Still thinking Jake was talking about his wife, Paige said, “Listen, son, stay calm and stay right there. I’m going to call 911. Don’t worry, I’ll be home in a few minutes.” Paige hung up, dialed 911 and reported the emergency–his wife was not breathing and might just be dead.

Back at the house, with the cake frosting blended to perfection, Janet decided to check on Jake. She found the boy, cradling the dead hamster in his lap. “What did your dad tell you to do?” she asked, taking a seat next to her son.

Jake didn’t look up. With a sniffle, he said, “Dad’s on the way home . . . I think he called 911.”

Janet wondered why her husband would call 911 over the death of a hamster. She figured Jake must have heard the message wrong from his dad. An instant later, the distinct, wail of an approaching siren provided evidence to the contrary. It suddenly dawned on Janet what had happened.

She grabbed the phone, called the 911 dispatcher and explained the communication error. Her next call was to Paige, who rejoiced she was alive–and the hamster dead, not the other way around.

Later that evening, the hamster was lain to rest. (This is my favorite part of the story.)

That night, as any responsible parent would want to do, Paige and Janet decided to help their son cope with the loss of his pet hamster. Paige broke the silence. He asked Jake, “Son, aren’t you at least glad it was the hamster who died and not your mom?”

Jake considered that for a long minute. He folded his arms together, lips curled into a pout, then said to his mom, “I love you both the same.”

Just in case Paige and Janet thought that they had become the ultimate parents, their son had reminded them that they were not the top squirrels in the tree. They had a special place in their son’s heart… Right next to the hamster!

[reminder]What two communications lessons can be learned from this story? What miscommunication stories do you have to tell?[/reminder] ———————————————————
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