Gerbil Tales

_________________________AGS NEWSLETTER_________________________

Editor: Janet Morrow
____________________________ARTICLES______________________________

    American Gerbil Society
  1. Letter From Editor”     by Janet Morrow

    Gerbils Health & Education

  2. Gerbil Breeding”     by Donna Anastasi
  3. Emergency Kits”     Compiled by AGS Members
  4. Code of Ethics”     by Janet Morrow

    Getting to Know Each Other

  5. Knolls Gerbils”     by Judith H. Block

    Fun & Inspirational

  6. Ellies”     by Matt Honigford
  7. Suna-Nezumi Suna-Nezumi”     by Keisuke Ohta

 

___________________AMERICAN GERBIL SOCIETY______________________

Welcome to the fourth issue of the AGS Newsletter. Our membership continues to grow with 200 members in 37 states, and 5 different countries. We would like to welcome our newest members: Deanna, Beverly, Pamela, Chancy, Gary & Sue, Ruth, Carrie, Warren, Eduardo, Katey, David Chris, April, Kylee, Michele, Tracy, Barbara, Jessi, Renee, and Dana. The AGS currently has 2500+ gerbils registered.

There will be two AGS Sanctioned Shows in 2003. The second annual North East Show will be held in Nashua, NH on Saturday June 28th. Make sure you mark June 27 and 28 on your calendars. Donna Anastasi is organizing the show again this year. Last years show was a great success! Not only did we give out the first points towards Championship status, but it was a great opportunity for AGS members to get to know each other better. We expect an even larger show this year. Donna will be posting details on the AGS eMail list, so watch for her posts. NE Show Map.

The Kentucky - Bluegrass show will be held in Lexington, KY on Saturday October 11th. Add this to your calendars now, so you keep the weekend open. Jo Kelly will be the show coordinator.

The Board used several things to determine the location of this show. First we looked at the membership map and found the general areas that would have enough members within a six to eight hour radius to support a show. Second we needed a long time active member to coordinate the show.

Jo’s experience at the NE Show and her long commitment to the AGS made her a logical choice. She also plans on attending this years NE Show, which would have her participating in two shows before October. When we looked at the map we were please to find thirty members within six hours and over sixty-five members within an eight-hour drive. Kentucky - Bluegrass Map

I would like to thank everyone that has contributed articles for this issue. Keep them coming. If you have a creative a gerbil story, poem, and drawing send it in.

Following the posts on the AGS list for the past year the Executive Board has become concerned with the number of unexplained illnesses and deaths that have been reported. With this in mind the Board has asked Donna Anastasi, ABC Gerbils, to contribute an article on “Breeding Gerbils.” Respected for her years of experience in gerbil husbandry Donna has written an insightful article that will benefit both beginner and experienced breeders.

The AGS is now accepting credit cards payments for membership and renewal. If you are not a member of the AGS you may join at: www.agsgerbils.org/About/MemberInfo.php. If you are due to renew your membership do it here: www.agsgerbils.org/Members/Renewal.php.

If you are not currently on the AGS e-group, and would like to join send me an email. (For information about the AGS mailing list, visit www.agsgerbils.org/Learn/lists.php.) If you do not want to receive the daily emails you can receive only special/important announcements from the AGS Board. This is the only way you will stay informed of AGS shows, activities, and votes.

Janet Morrow
President
American Gerbil Society Inc.

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__________________GERBIL HEALTH & EDUCATION____________________

Gerbil Breeding

by Donna Anastasi  “ABC Gerbils

Selecting the Breeding Pair
When breeding gerbils the most important factor to success and a good experience all around is the selection of your breeding pair. The choices are pet store or breeder. If you purchase your pair from the pet store, get the male and female from two different pet stores that are quite some distance apart. That way you are assured that the two gerbils are not related.

When selecting your breeding pair demand excellence in:

  • Health – I select the strongest from the litters to breed and avoid runts or gerbils that have had any issues as a pup, such as respiratory infection.
  • Temperament – The gerbils should be the ones that come right up to you to sit on your hand and beg to come out. By genetics and example their people friendliness will be passed on to the babies. The gerbils should also be gerbil gentle (which is a completely separate factor from how people oriented they are). This means they are easily introduced to other gerbils (especially to a pup) and stay clanned.
  • Color – Why is color so important? While great temperament and top health are the first considerations, breeding for the more popular colors will make placing your babies easier. REW/PEW, plain Agouti, and solid Black can be harder to place. Spotted anything, rich colors, and color points are in demand. Before setting up a breeding pair, it is good to understand basic gerbil genetics so you know what colors the pair will produce. 
The advantage to getting a pair from a breeder is that you can meet the parents. Do you love their temperaments? And you can ask the breeder questions: what is the overall fatality rate of the breeder’s pups? What is the fatality rate of the breeding pair that birthed your pup? What have their pups died from? (note that a fatality rate of 1:10 or less including stillborns is good) How inbred/related are the parents? (ask for a pedigree). Did the pup you are interested in have any health problems or injuries? Did it start as a runt, any respiratory problems, any difficulty weaning? Did any of the siblings die? From what cause? How are the parents with other gerbils? Has the breeder even had a problem with clanning them with an adult or pup in the past? A reputable breeder will be straightforward in answering your questions and appreciate your goal of raising healthy babies.Split Cage Introduction

Once you have your male and female gerbil, you will have to introduce them to one another. If they are babies (6-8 weeks) and the female is the same size or smaller, you might try a direct introduction. However, a split cage introduction is always the safest way to introduce two gerbils.

 
Breeding Environment
A Breeding PairOnce you have your male and female and they are fast friends, create an environment for them that is conducive to breeding. Your breeding pair should be located in a quiet and calm area of the house where there is not a lot of traffic nor sudden loud noises. You do want the pups to get used to people and sounds, though. Place the tank so that your gerbils have some privacy from other tanks and animals.

It is critical that you never breed with more than one adult female in the tank – gerbils are a matriarchy and the females will fight to the death over the males. A male-female pair establishes an intimate bond and is the perfect breeding arrangement.

It is important that you leave the dad in with mom to help her raise the babies. Otherwise the experience will be stressful for the mother gerbil and she may not be able to handle it on her own – especially a firstime or older mom. If you do split a breeding pair, leave a daughter from the last litter to help mom raise the pups.

Keep the breeding tank very simple. Parents chewing toilet tissue roll.Many people lose pups because they've fallen off ledges, got caught under or behind a box, or taken a run with mom in the wheel, etc. When I breed, I use only about three inches of carefresh, unscented toilet tissue, a waterbottle hung low for the pups to reach, and a towel draped over the tank. Nothing else. No material or fibers or "fluff" sold in pet stores even paper towels contain fibers that can be wrapped around a pup's leg or worse. I throw in a half toilet paper roll for the parents to gnaw up every day so they don't go too loopy.

What about the bedding material? I believe corncob is the safest. But because I keep the tank so simple, with Simple breeding setup.corncob there is not place to tunnel or hide and can make them more stressed or skittish, so I'd have to use a wooden or cardboard nestbox. Since I do not like to keep anything in the tank, I use Carefresh or a layer of corn cob with two inches of Carefresh on top. At the first sign of respiratory infection, I medicate with Ornyacline (see below) and switch over to corncob and unscented toilet tissue for several days. Using corncob and a nestbox versus Carefresh is a tradeoff. Breeders using corncob have reported no problems with respiratory in pups whatsoever.

Special Care
A pregnant gerbil does not require a lot of special care. Make sure to handle her gently and do not drop her, especially in the last days of the pregnancy. Give her a high quality gerbil food with at least 15% protein. I feed L&M Vita Vittles Gold. Some breeders supplement with extra protein, e.g., dry kitten food or scrambled egg. I fish out the peanuts for the mother gerbil. A pregnant and nursing gerbil must have a constant water supply. Check that the water bottle is filled and working properly at least once a day. If the water bottle runs dry the mother gerbil may have to resort to sacrificing one of her pups as a source of liquid so she can continue to nurse the litter.

Mating and Birthing
Your gerbils will most likely mate at about three months of age. If one of the pair is older and especially if one is an experienced breeder, mating is likely to occur within a couple of weeks. Gerbils usually mate in the early evening and it is a two hour ritual of chase, "tag", and each checking their undersides. This site shows gerbils mating. A female gerbil will produce pups until she is two years old. A male gerbil will produce babies throughout his lifetime.

If this is a first litter or your gerbils are not raising/nursing pups when they mate, the gestation will be 24 days. Mark your calendar! The pregnancy might go as long as 28 days.Pregnant female

A pregnant gerbil does not "show" until a few days before the birth. She will start to feel heavier and become pear shaped with a bulge in the belly area.

When the babies are being birthed it is best not to disturb the parents. You might watch from a distance; but not too close and do not disturb the tank or handle the parents or babies. A female gerbil will reach down from underneath, pull out the baby, clean it, and eat the placenta. During the birthing or immediately after the gerbil pair will mate, again this may last for a couple of hours. Do not worry about the babies being neglected for that time, they will do fine. The mother gerbil should gather the babies into a nest, but sometimes might not do this until after the birthing and mating is complete.

The First Few Days
Most gerbils are excellent parentsMom a one day old pups. and would never cannibalize their babies (unless their water source ran dry). However, if a baby is stillborn or dies shortly after birth, the parents instinct is to "clean up" to keep the tank sanitized, if you do not remove the body right away.

If only one pup is birthed or only one pups survives the birthing, it normally cannot stimulate enough milk flow on its own. The best thing is to foster with a litter of young pups. A local AGS breeder www.agsgerbils.org/Find/Breeders/ might be able to help you.

After the birthing the father gerbil is usually kicked out of the nest for 24-48 hours while the mother attends to the babies. On occasion a dad gerbil will sneak a pup or two into his nest for company. I generally will return those to mom.

Always wash your hands before you handle the pups – though gerbils usually don't mind the smell of their people, foreign smells such as soot, strange gerbils, stale litter, etc. could make the gerbils reject or even attack the babies.Clamp Lamp

If the mother seems to be distracted and is running around, digging, or scratching in the corners, leave her alone in a quiet room, drape a towel over half the tank, and give her some unscented toilet tissues. You may want to warm one corner of the tank, but not too hot! I use a clamp lamp and a 40 watt grow light positioned several inches from the tank. Use a thermometer to make sure the temperature is not any higher than 85 degrees F.

A mother gerbil may move the litter from one corner of the tank to the other, especially if she feels nervous or threatened. This is normal and nothing to worry about. Usually after a few days this behavior will stop and the mother will keep the gerbils in one corner of the tank.

It is important in the first several days after the pups are born that you do not to change anything about the environment. Do not clean out the tank, do not move the location of the tank, do not give them cardboard or new toys, do not take anything out of the tank. Most definitely do not remove the father gerbil. Any change may cause the mom to spend several hours putting the house back in order, neglecting the gerbil pups.

When breeding gerbils, I check on the babies two or three times a day from day one, but try to leave raising the litter to the mom and dad without interfering. Female and male gerbils are usually wonderful parents. Sometimes in the first couple of days a pup will get separated from the nest. Put the pup back into the nest, but make sure to wash your hands first (or cover your hand with a plastic baggie).

The First Few Weeks
Before I handle the pups, I give the parents just a bit of cardboard to distract them and keep them busy for a few minutes. Or I give them some food.Cup pup in your hands to move.

I start taking the babies out of the tank starting when they get a light coat of fuzz – at about day 5-7. Be careful! Even at this age gerbil babies crawl fast, and being blind they will crawl, wiggle, and flip right out of your hand which could result in severe head injury. Always take gerbil pups out of the tank completely enclosed in two hands and hold them directly on top of a pillow or blanket.

At this age, I only take the babies out once a day and for just a few minutes. I let them get accustom to the smell and feel of human hands. After exploring you for a bit, and perhaps trying to nurse on your fingers, they will pile up in your two cupped hands and take a nap.Nipples on female pup.

At 7-10 days you should be able to sex the gerbils using the "nipple method". Only female gerbils have nipples and these appear as dents on the armpits, center/side of the belly, and upper thighs. At this point write down the colors and genders of your litter. This will aid you greatly in sexing the gerbils when you place them at about six weeks.

From 10-20 days the babies will be nicely furred and you should be able to determine their colors. See the AGS Color Strips for help doing so. 12 day old pupsAt this age the gerbil babies will become very comfortable in your hands, they may sit up and wash their faces, they are likely to try crawling up your sleeve. You can take out the babies one or two times a day for several minutes. You should still be holding the babies over a pillow or blanket – as the chances are good that they will crawl off your hands. You may want to split the litter in half and take out only 2-3 pups at a time, since they are getting more mobile now.

At about 17-21 days your babies will open their eyes. It may take a few days for all the pups in the litter to open both eyes. If one or more eyes remain closed you can try rubbing the eye very softly with a warm damp cloth.

Be very careful the day the eyes open and the few days after the eyes open. Gerbil pups that formally were calm and relaxed in your hands become jittery and are likely to take off like a shot across the room. The world is bright and confusing and baby gerbils are nervous as they figure out vision. They no longer recognize you – you are a looming giant rather than the familiar warm soft pair of cupped hands and sleeve tunnel.

It is important that you continue to take out the gerbil pups at this stage of development. Take them out a few times a day – carefully! Take the babies out one at a time for only a minute or two and keep them cupped and completely enclosed in two hands, so that they cannot take off.

After just a few days, the gerbils pups, now about 24 days old, are back to their old friendly selves. At this Up they go.point they normally are calm and relaxed and you shouldn't have to worry about them falling or leaping off of your hands. At this age try handling them when they are most active, in the early evening. Rest your hand in the tank and when a pup climbs on lift it up slowly. If the pup jumps off lower it slowly. When you take the pup out, give him a minute or two of fun out time, then put him back. Soon you should have a line of pups climbing onto your hand, up your arm, and sitting on your shoulders. If your parent gerbils already do this, the pups will follow them right up your arm.

Weaning and Respiratory Infection
Pups eating CheeriosAt about three weeks old the babies will start to nibble at food. They still require their mother's milk until almost five weeks old. Weaning is about a two week gradual process. You can feed the pups weaning food, such as peeled sunflower seeds, roasted peanut bits, Chreerios or Cornflakes, oat meal oats (uncooked), and soft seeds such as canary seeds, in addition to their regular food. There is nothing cuter than a three week old pup with a giant Cheerio the size of a donut between his paws. Make sure that the water bottle is positioned low enough to the ground that the babies can reach it. You may want to spray the side of the tank near the water bottle with drops of water to help teach the babies to drink from the water bottle.

From three to five weeks I start introducing some cardboard into the tanks. Toilet tissue rolls or half paper towel tubes and small light boxes. Note that a heavy box or a large box filled with litter can crush and suffocate a pup who crawls underneath. Remove the bottom of the boxes or use boxes that will be gnawed up quickly.

Sick pup being fed.Sometimes a pup may have trouble weaning or may during weaning experience respiratory infection. It is important that you aggressively treat the problem right away. Signs of respiratory infection are clicking (like the click of your tongue to the roof of your mouth), heavy breathing (see sides moving in and out), puffed fur, glazed eyes, scrawny tail, loss of weight, falling behind in growth from the rest of the litter.

My breeding emergency kit consists of three things: 1) Sick pup being fed.powered kitten replacement milk and infant medicine dispenser or eye dropper; 2) A clamp lamp with 40 watt grow bulb. and thermometer; and 3) Ornyacycline (brand name for tetracycline) which is sold in pet stores in the bird section. Treat respiratory infection by warming one corner of the tank to no higher than 85 degrees F, kitten replacement milk feedings three times a day and Ornacycline (use the dosage for a small bird) in the waterbottle with drops placed from your finger directly onto the pups lips three times a day. Do not mix the milk and the medicated water as the milk will lessen the effectiveness of the medicine.

If a pup starts out as a runt or is losing ground, supplement feed with kitten milk replacement. It is difficult to supplement feed before the pup is two- three weeks old. Make sure to wipe off the excess milk with a warm damp paper towel; it dries like cement.

Separating and Placing the Pups
Usually when the pups are about five weeks old, a new litter will arrive. (Though it may arrive anytime from 4-8 weeks after the first litter). You may want to remove some or all pups to their own tank when the mother gerbil looks very heavy with the next litter. Most mother gerbils don't mind having the older litter in the tank with the younger one, but on occasion a mother gerbil feels stressed or threatened by the older pups and may attempt to drive them away. Since there is nowhere for the babies to go (and most babies run right back to mom for security), you need to remove the older pups right away if this should happen. You can probably leave one or two with the mother.

Female and Male gerbilI recommend waiting until six weeks to place the pups. The babies will be bigger and stronger then, have had a little time to adjust away from the parents, and are easier to sex. At about four weeks boy and girl gerbils look identical, but at five to six weeks, the testicles on the male gerbils will become apparent.

I always ask anyone who handles the pups to wash their hands first. When you place the pups, give their new owners care information (such as the AGS pamphlet) and some of the weaning mixed with the adult gerbil food. Double check the gender of the pups right before you place them. You may want to ask the person to bring in their gerbil housing setup to make sure it is complete and everything is safe for the new babies.

The Golden Rules of Gerbil Breeding
Breeding gerbils reminds me of the movie "Gremlins" – there are few hard-and-fast rules. If you follow these all is well, but if not – Big Trouble. In summary:

  • The most important factor to success is the selection of your breeding pair
  • Feed a high quality gerbil food (15% protein) and provide water at all times
  • Create a low stress environment for them that is conducive to breeding
  • Never breed with more than one adult female in the tank
  • Keep the breeding tank very simple
  • Corncob is the safest bedding when breeding
  • After the pups are born do not to change anything about the environment
  • Leave the dad (or an older daughter) in with mom to raise the babies
  • Take blind gerbil pups out of the tank completely enclosed in two hands
  • Hold blind gerbil pups directly on top of a pillow or blanket
  • When pups first open their eyes they are very jittery – be careful with them
  • Immediately treat respiratory infection or slowed growth during weaning
  • Enjoy the babies – take them out for short positive sessions throughout puphood
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___________________________________________________________________

Emergency Kit

Compiled by AGS Members    Self-help

It is an excellent idea to make up a small emergency kit.  Gerbils are very small, and serious illnesses can appear with little warning.  By having the needed supplies you can start treatment immediately.

    Here are a few things to include:  

  • Kitten replacement milk:   Purchase the powder KRM, this way you can mix one teaspoon at a time.
  • Eyedropper or needless syringe:   A small infant medicine dispenser, eyedropper, or a needless syringe is used to give KRM, medicine, or to keep a sick gerbil hydrated.
  • Lamp with adjustable neck:   A desk lamp or clamp lamp may be used to keep a corner warm for ill gerbils.
  • Lizard heat light bulb:   A lizard bulb or 40 watt grow bulb will give a gentler heat that an ordinary bulb.
  • Stick on aquarium thermometer:   Keep the temperature around 80 degrees.
  • Extra water bottle:   Just incase one gets chewed through on a weekend or holiday.
  • Ornycycline:   Use to treat respiratory infections in pups or gerbils.
  • Neosporin:   Use on small wounds and injuries.
  • Corn syrup (Karo Syrup):   Mixed 50% Corn syrup with 50% warm water. This may be used for re-dehydration and to for gerbils with seizures.
  • Enough food for seven to ten days:   Incase of a snow storm, transportation problems, or money issues
  • Enough bedding to change the tanks once:   Incase of a snow storm, transportation problems, or money issues
  • Replace used supplies quickly
NOTE: Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with one’s own veterinarian.

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___________________________________________________________________

AGS Code of Ethics

by Janet Morrow   AGS Gerbils

This Code of Ethics is presented as a guide for AGS members to promote and foster the highest standards among breeders, owners, and gerbil enthusiasts.

The health and welfare of a gerbil rests squarely in the hands of its owner.
 
General Conduct
  • Have the welfare of their gerbil(s) foremost in mind and never knowingly or willingly do anything that compromises their well-being.
  • Provide suitable housing, food, and water to foster a healthy and enjoyable environment.
  • Guarantee that all gerbils in their care have access to necessary medical treatment.
  • Maintain mental health, socialization, and well-being through regular human contact.
  • Ensure that they have the necessary time and resources to properly care for all gerbils in their care.
  • Understand that the welfare of the gerbil(s) in their home is their responsibility. Primary accountability for the gerbil(s) cannot be transferred to others (children).
Breeding
  • Breeders should develop a short and long term breeding program, keeping in mind the health and temperament of the gerbils.
  • Breeding pairs should be selected with consideration given to temperament, health, vitality, color, and confirmation.
  • Understand the importance of socialization of pups with between ten days and six weeks. Breeders should realistically consider their ability to provide adequate socialization before breeding.
  • Breeders should have a good understanding of the symptoms and treatment for common health issue in breeding and raising pups.
Sales/Adoption
  • Pups should not be sold until they reach the age of six weeks.
  • Breeders will screen all prospective buyers in order to determine their suitability and their motives for acquiring a gerbil(s).
  • Gerbils placed through pet stores will be placed only to those that have been screened and are qualified: e.g., keep the gerbils in safe bedding and environment, sell them in pairs, and provide accurate care information.
  • Gerbils will not be sold to individuals or to pet stores as feeders. (To be used as snake or rodent food.)
  • Breeders should assume lifetime responsibility for every litter they produce. Accept the return of, or assist in re-homing, gerbils they have bred, should the situation arise.
  • The breeder is responsible to educate new or prospective owners before they take any gerbils home.
  • Gerbils that have mites or are ill will not be sold until the issues is resolved.
Registration and Records
  • Members should maintain records of individual gerbils, breeding pairs, litters, pedigrees, and pup sales.
  • Breeders will provide interested clients with a pedigree, gerbil registration numbers, breeder registration number, and AGS contact information.
Miscellaneous
  • Owners will never euthanize a gerbil unless it is for a compelling medical reason and is in the best interest of the gerbil. When a gerbil must be euthanized the procedure must be humanely performed.
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_________________GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER___________________

Knolls Gerbils

by Judith H. Block  “Knolls Gerbils

I’m Judith (aka “Hey, Jude” to Don of Wilderness Gerbils!). My husband, Stuart, and I own Knolls Gerbils of Riverdale, in NYC. Stuart first heard of gerbils in 1966, when he was going for his Post Doctoral at the Worcester Foundation at Clarke Univ. in Mass. One of the scientists had brought them to the Foundation as curiosities (not to be experimented with), and some of the scientists took them home as pets. Unbelieveably (giggles!), Stuart was not one of them! A few years later, some gerbils were kept as pets in the biology lab, in the college where Stuart taught. We met in 1970 and married in 1971. We both adore animals (neither of us would marry someone who didn’t!) and wanted a pet in our very pet-restricted co-op. Stuart mentioned gerbils. I had never heard of them. We bought our first gerbils, two agouti females, in Macy’s (they had a pet department, then) in NYC. We we were hooked!

We adore gerbils because they are intelligent, funny, artistic (as an artist, I appreciate their architectural talent in building tunnels and structures out of shredded paper), friendly, comparatively easy to care for, and a total joy to be around! We have had many gerbils through the years. Once, what the pet store said was two females, turned out not to be the case, and we had gerbil babies. What an amazing experience to watch gerbils being born! And what fantastic parents gerbils are! I remember, it was so funny! Vladimir kept looking down at his own groin area as Rosa gave birth, wondering why no babies were coming out of him. (They were named after the Godard film that was playing at the time.) Then he started running around, all excited, the typical expectant father! It was hilarious! After the pups were born, Vladimir tried to take one and nurse it himself! Rosa put him straight very fast! After he calmed down, he would watch the pups while Rosa exercised or ate. He was terrific! It was so exciting for us to watch the pups grow up!

You get so attached to gerbils! They are just so adorable, and miraculous, and charming! And you never get used to gerbil illnesses and deaths. The hurt never lessens. We wish they lived longer-that’s the hard part. Gerbils are heartbreakers.

Compo and FairfieldToday, Knolls Gerbils consists of three sweeties: Fairfield, a lilac, is a little over two. His partner, Compo, died last year. Fairfield is our “special needs” gerbil. He has a deformed paw, which, when he was small, made him an amazing wheel acrobat- he would run very fast to get momentum, then grab onto a wheel spoke and go around and around about three or four times. He just loved doing this! He is a big lug, now, and still runs the wheel, but much slower, of course, and with no flipping. We must take him to the vet every month to get his now, very deformed paw, cleaned out, and his nails clipped. A while ago, his top left tooth fell out and never grew back, so he must get the bottom left tooth clipped, too. Either I or the vet do this. Fairfield has such good character! He and Compo never got along- they tolerated and ignored each other. But when Compo became ill, and until he died, Fairfield would take care of him, keeping him warm by sleeping and resting next to him (they had previously always stayed apart). He is a gentle, loving sweety! Fairfield gets a special diet- he can only chew certain nuts and seeds, of a particular thickness, and also shares the foods we eat (we eat mostly vegetarian and organic, as much as possible).

Thanks to Karen Biehl of the AGS, we have three more additions to Knolls Gerbils! Karen, Gary, and I went “gerbiling”, i.e. visiting petstores in NYC, in mid Oct. Then, we went to Karen’s Bacchus and Dionysiusapartment, where, among her hamster and gerbils, she had two adorable baby male, spotted agoutis, and their father, Pan. The babies were to be a birthday present for a friend of hers. I fell in love! I called Stuart (he had warned me (giggles!) not to bring home any new gerbils, but, he sort of knew I would!), and then we went to the pet store and bought the two clowns I named Bacchus and Dionysius! We couldn’t tell them apart! Just recently, Stuart and I saw that Dionysius has become a bit larger than Bacchus (Bacchus is the champion wheel runner, and Dionysius was the champion eater of the family, until we put another wheel into the cage (the wheel sharing just didn’t work!). Now they both run and flip like crazy and just adore their wheels. They are so funny- If one takes a piece of raw kale before I can feed the other, both grab furiously onto the kale piece and together, run around the cage with it in their mouths! They really enjoy each other’s company, when they are not fighting over food! We just watch them and laugh!

About two weeks after we bought the boys, Karen informed me someone had bought Pan’s remaining baby, the little girl. This left the mom alone in the pet store cage. On Nov. 1st, 2002, I went to the petstore and bought Phoebe, mother Phoebeof Bacchus and Dionysius (in real life, not mythology!). She is so special! We never had such a friendly animal! She lets me pet her and touch her all over, while she chews her cardboard tunnels. (We are sort of shy with animals, afraid of hurting them- that’s why I don’t have gerbils climbing up my arm and resting on my shoulder, as some other gerbil owners do.) Phoebe has the softest, thickest fur I have ever felt in a gerbil. She is a real beauty, both physically and character-wise. She plays, and chews, and eats(!) and seems to be having a great time. I didn’t know whether or not to get her a little cagemate (female), -we were willing to do so- we want Phoebe to have a wonderful life! I contacted an animal communicator. She told me Phoebe said she enjoys being alone and doesn’t want to share her cage- that she is very happy and knows she is deeply loved. And she wants me to sing to her! (I wonder if she regrets that request, now- Let’s just say I have the good sense NOT to try out for American Idol!). Phoebe does stand up and look at me when I sing, though. And she hasn’t tried to bite me! Her favorite song is “You Are My Sunshine”.

All our gerbils bring us so much happiness and sunshine! We are blessed to be able to share our lives with them.

  é

_____________________FUN & INSPIRATIONAL_________________________

Ellie

by Matt Honigford

Small swirled bundle,
with stubby tail
and curious eyes.

She hid unexpected
intelligence behind
an active nose,

bounding around
on familiar furniture.
Looking for a way down

to the infinity
of the open floor.
She lived to dart

away from open hands,
permitting just a caress
before racing off again.

When tired, she would soften.
Take breathers on a shoulder,
surveying her surroundings.

She would relish the warmth
of her owner’s fleshy perch
before sliding down a shirt.

Constantly looking
for a new landscape,
a piece of cheese,

something to climb.
Simple pleasures
for a simple, happy creature.

Her face lacked a way
to express her content
but I could always tell

she found happiness
in making us laugh,
the one thing she did so well.

Suna-Nezumi
by Keisuke Ohta
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© 2001 American Gerbil Society Inc.

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