On your marks, get set — roll! That was the call Saturday afternoon at La Cañada's Petco, where local hamster lovers raced their pets in the store's 2014 Hamster Ball Derby.
Tiny rodents competed from inside clear plastic balls arranged on rows of plastic tracks. A checkered finish line marked the goal. The first to make it down the track won his or her bracket, plus a few edamame beans for a treat, before moving onto the next round.
Although nine hamsters were registered, only a few owners mustered the courage to show. So to round out the brackets, Petco employees enlisted the help of Dusty and Stinky, two store hamsters everyone agreed were aptly named.
Dusty and Stinky did well, while hamster Buddy seemed more interested in his human, 23-year-old Lucy Filippone, than the race itself. The big winner was Ham Ham, a dwarf hamster brought by Audrey Rivera, 10.
Rivera said she learned of the event earlier that week while cage shopping and thought Ham Ham might make a good contender.
"It sounded fun, and he loves his ball. It's his favorite toy," Rivera said. "He likes it way better than his wheel, because he gets to see more."
Ham Ham was awarded an exercise loop, specially designed to accommodate rodents with a need for speed, and was photographed with his entourage.
Rivera's mother, Caroline Murphy, admitted she wasn't initially keen on adding a hamster to the family pet roster, which includes a dog, rabbit and two Guinea pigs. But after a couple of weeks, she warmed to Ham Ham.
"I resisted getting a hamster because they can bite and they're nocturnal," Murphy said, "but he's the easiest one. And he's pretty cute."
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