A lucky hamster narrowly escaped being crushed to death in the back of a dustbin lorry after being cruelly thrown out with bags of rubbish.
Eagle-eyed refuse collectors spotted the tiny rodent among heaps of trash moments before black bags from some communal bins were about to be pulverised.
“Garbage” the hamster, as she was later named, was saved by the cage she was left in and the council workers who noticed her just in time.
Martyn Eldridge was alerted to a tiny head poking out of an already squashed cage by his vigilant colleague Courteney Lawson while they were doing their rounds in Herne Bay, Kent, on Tuesday morning.
It took the pair around 20 minutes to finally grab hold of the nimble creature – but they then wondered what to do with the fortunate animal.
Martyn, who has been doing the job for 10 years, said he has never found a live animal in the back of a lorry before and it is the weirdest discovery he has made in his career.
The 59-year-old Serco worker said: “We were putting the bins in the back of the lorry and as we put them back we noticed a little head sticking out of the lorry on a bag.
“We saw that it was a hamster. The cage was completely crushed and it had managed to get out.
“It disappeared into the back of the lorry so we turned the engine off, got the muck out and we found it right at the bottom.
“We picked it up and put it in a cardboard box. It was quite difficult to get hold of because it kept running about.”
After putting the hamster in the lorry cab as they continued their shift, Martyn phoned his partner Kym Amos to tell her about the discovery.
She told him to bring her back to their home near Canterbury, Kent, and said she would take care of the animal because she has looked after hamsters in the past.
Kym, a family liaison officer, now has a makeshift cage and Garbage, as she was initially named, has joined their family of pets – which also include three cats, a dog and a guinea pig.
At first the couple had their hearts set on naming the hamster Garbage as a tribute to where she was found and her remarkable escape.
But since finding out the hamster is actually female, they are trying to think of a more suitable and feminine name.