MILTON, MA–Tragedy was narrowly averted in the Bourke household Monday, when Harry, the family's pet hamster, was violently thrown from the 4" by 4" payload of a toy Ford F-350 monster truck.
According to reports, the toy vehicle was racing through a living-room obstacle course–which included a coffee-table-coaster slalom, a cardboard ramp, and a Dixie-cup pyramid–when it swerved out of control and crashed into a Lincoln Log structure, sending the hamster flying through the monster truck's driver-side window and knocking over three nearby Fisher-Price Little People.
The scene quickly devolved into pandemonium, with the launched hamster tumbling humorously in mid-air several times before landing at the foot of the sofa and fleeing in shock. A frantic, living-room-wide search for Harry ensued and, after extensive search efforts behind the sofa, under the recliner, and behind the bookcase, the hamster was found between the vertical blinds and the sliding glass door, shaken but alive.
As of press time, Harry was resting in his cage, his condition described as "skittish but stable."
"This is a tremendous shock," said Bourke next-door neighbor Paula Gates upon learning of the mishap. "Harry is well-liked by all the neighborhood children, and for his life to be jeopardized in this manner is terribly upsetting."
Parental investigators have determined that the toy's two operators, whose names are being withheld due to their ages, successfully navigated the monster truck through the obstacle course numerous times before adding the hamster in an attempt to increase the activity's entertainment value. If found guilty, the boys, 7 and 9, could be sentenced to an evening in their rooms and fines of up to two weeks' allowance.
The accident's cause has been the subject of much debate. While many blame the toy's manufacturer, Playcorp Unlimited, for making a substandard product, others say the monster truck's operators are at fault. Angry at the operators, an unnamed Bourke parent is pressing for a strict ban on the use of family pets in play activities, with a penalty of three days without PlayStation for those found guilty.
Playcorp spokesperson Paul Ionesco expressed "deep dismay" over the crash.
"This is a flagrant and obvious misuse of our product," Ionesco said. "No Playcorp product is intended for the transportation of live cargo, no matter how cute and humorous the spectacle of a little hamster driving along in his little truck may be."
Monday's crash marks the fourth time that Harry, 1, has found himself involved in dangerous play. In October 2000, Harry was placed on the back of family dog Raggles, who ran through several rooms within the house before being stopped by mother Lorraine Bourke. On Feb. 20, he was strapped to an army-man parachute and dropped from a second-story window. Three days later, the hamster was placed inside his glow-in-the-dark run-about ball and pushed down a flight of stairs. Both acts occurred with no parents in the vicinity and were never brought to trial.