Gerbil Tales

_________________________AGS NEWSLETTER_________________________

Editor: Libby Hanna
____________________________ARTICLES______________________________

    American Gerbil Society
  1. “Letter From the Editor”    by Libby Hanna
  2. “Ethics Committee”    by Tana Lyman – Ethics Committee
  3. “The History of the American Gerbil Society”    by Judith Block

    Show Reports

  4. “NE Show, June 2004”    by Cara-lee Lafond
  5. “MW Show, October 2004“    by Ruth Divine
  6. “Points Summary”    by Jo Kelly

    Gerbils Health & Education

  7. Building A Secure Split Cage”    by Kylee Dickey
  8. “When to See the Vet - Interview with Dr. Sager”    by Libby Hanna

    The Pup Pages (stuff for kids by kids)

  9. “Ask Ruth”    by Ruth H., age 10
  10. “Why I Like Gerbils”    by Tara S., age 5

    Getting to Know Each Other

  11. “Aller Letzte Gerbils”    by Eduardo Machado
  12. “Meet the Champions - Patience–    by Tana Lyman

    Fun & Inspirational

  13. "Boris"    by Jimena Pimas
  14. ""Renata"    by Jimena Pimas
  15. "Gerbil Paradise"    by Nancy Layman
  16. "Rat!"    by Henrique Machado
  17. "Twas the Night Before Christmas" ~ Little Rascals style!"    by Tana Lyman
  18. "Day 18""    by Rachel Wall
  19. "Gerbil Protectors"    by Judith Block
  20. "Smell the Flowers"    by Bill Revis
  21. "Gerbil Eating Seed"    by Henrique Machado
  22. "Midwest Show Puzzle"    by Jo Kelly

 

___________________AMERICAN GERBIL SOCIETY______________________

Letter from the Editor

Libby Hanna, Shawsheen River Gerbils (Massachusetts)

Dear AGS Members,

As I write this, my first official communication as the new editor of Gerbil Tales, I am supervising an introduction between two eight week old pups (Barry and Billy, AKA “The White Boys”) and an exceedingly patient adult male Agouti, Willy-Harry, whose brother passed away. My faithful cat, Tabby, lies close by, enjoying the spectacle of busy digging and scurrying, and mulling her own secret thoughts about the whole affair. Downstairs, our parakeet is chirping loudly; outside my daughters and husband are carving a pumpkin. Elsewhere in the house, eleven other gerbils, another cat, and one visiting hamster are going about their business. Another routine day at Shawsheen River Gerbils!

We have been involved with the AGS only since June, 2003 when we found ourselves with one remaining sister from a clan of three gerbils we'd adopted at a 4-H show. As luck would have it, a Google search led me to Donna Anastasi. It turned out Donna was too busy to show us her gerbils that weekend because – of all things – she was officiating at the AGS Show in Nashua, New Hampshire. But, she pointed out, we could consider just stopping by – there just might be a gerbil there we would like to adopt!

You probably don't need much more of the story to guess the ending. Not only did we come home with 2 gerbils that day, our gerbil hobby has grown to include a little breeding in conjunction with Donna's ABC Gerbils, plus support for teachers in our elementary school who have adopted our gerbils for their classrooms. I am delighted to be able to contribute to the AGS's good work by editing Gerbil Tales. I'm also pleased to welcome my daughter, Ruth, as the author of a new column, Ask Ruth, a forum for kids to exchange information about their gerbils in a Q&A format. Ruth is 10 years old and has her own newsletter, Gerbilmania.

I've received lots of great ideas and wonderful support from AGS members already, and I am very much looking forward to working with you in this new role. You can contact me any time at gerbiltales@agsgerbils.org. Please send your ideas, articles, artwork, suggestions and criticisms. Together we'll continue the fine tradition of the AGS for an informative, educational and enjoyable newsletter.

Willy and the White Boys have snuggled up for a nap, so I'll chalk off two successful introductions completed today! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be your new editor.

Sincerely,

Libby Hanna

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Ethics Committee Report

By Tana Lyman, The Little Rascals (Missouri), Chairperson

The AGS Ethics Committee is now complete and is actively working toward our mission: enhancing Ethics and Education for all AGS members. We will investigate reports of unethical breeders within the AGS community and take action as necessary. We will also undertake projects aimed at increasing knowledge of gerbils and gerbil care.

“Unethical” here refers to the unethical treatment of animals. Issues such as “I didn't get my gerbil” or “I didn't get paid for my gerbil” should be handled by the people involved. The Ethics Committee will not get involved in personal disputes between members. The Ethics Committee will also not handle issues with breeders outside the AGS community.

We have a form available on the web site now to collect feedback about AGS breeders. Negative feedback will be investigated. All feedback will be stored and used for a rating system, similar to eBay with the stars after a person's name (except we are using gerbils!). You will notice the form asks for the name and e-mail of the person submitting feedback. This is so the Ethics Committee can contact them for further details if necessary. The information will not be shared outside the Ethics Committee. You can find the form at www.agsgerbils.org/About/ethicsreport.php.

We also would like to start on an educational project, and to that end are looking for ideas on topics. So far we have genetics as a topic, and also getting rid of mites. If anyone has an idea for a topic, let us know!

Thank you,

Tana Lyman
Carin DeVoe
Amy Paben
Susana Medeiros Massarani
Thomas Schwartz

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The History of the American Gerbil Society

By Judith H. Block, Knolls Gerbils (New York)

"I still remember mentioning my involvement with the American Gerbil Society at my daughter's sixth grade parent teacher conference. The teacher nearly fell off her chair, she was laughing so hard. What a ridiculous idea - a national society for gerbil owners."

So wrote AGS President, Janet Morrow, in 2001. This reaction is still all too prevalent. But to gerbil owners, especially those "just a little addicted" to gerbils, what could be more natural and more necessary? The English have their National Gerbil Society, the Swedish, Svenska Gerbil Föreningen (Swedish Gerbil Association), the Finnish, Suomen Mongolian Gerbiiliyhdistys(Finnish Mongolian Gerbil Society) ) the French, L'Association des Gerbilles Francophones, and the Dutch, their VEZ (Dutch Society of Fanciers of Exotic Mammals) .Certainly the USA could do no less!

To quote the American Gerbil Society web site, "The American Gerbil Society is dedicated to promoting interest in these wonderful pets, as well as supporting the responsible breeding of the species through shows in which gerbils compete. The AGS is also committed to spreading knowledge to allow owners to give proper care to every gerbil kept as a pet. Although we call ourselves the American Gerbil Society, members throughout the Americas and overseas are also welcome to join!"

The AGS was founded in April, 1999. It all started when Julia Colson and Amy Hicks began discussing how wonderful it would be to have a gerbil society in the US. At the time, the Gerbil Club of Missouri, which had been the only such club in the US, no longer existed. Julia had lived in Finland, had attended a Finnish Mongolian Gerbil Society show, and was good friends with several of the Society's breeders. She told Amy about this Society and its functioning. Full of enthusiasm, Amy e-mailed the GML (Gerbil Mailing List), the only truly active gerbil e-mail list at the time, with the idea. Several American gerbil breeders and owners quickly responded, including Elizabeth Heckert. In an entry on her website dated April 25, 1999, Elizabeth Heckert (who became the first AGS Secretary in May, 1999) wrote, "Great news! We're organizing an American Gerbil Society."

Thus, the first AGS was formed, with Amy Hicks as its first President. It had wonderful ideas and dreams: putting on gerbil shows, a paid membership, a group e-mail forum for the exchange of ideas and questions, a website providing gerbil resources and information on gerbil care, links to other gerbil organizations world-wide, and links to AGS members' gerbil websites.

Alas, Amy became ill, and without her leadership, this original AGS stalled and practically disappeared. But the idea of an American Gerbil Society was too good to die. Thanks to the efforts of Ann-Marie Roberts, Patrick Branciforte, and new members, Donna Anastasi, and Janet Morrow, the present AGS rose out of the ashes. Janet wrote the Standards, using those of the NGS as a model, greatly expanded the website and on-line services, and set up computerized membership and gerbil registration records. A wonderful addition to the AGS website was the Gerbil Care Handbook, put together by Janet, Donna, Elizabeth, and Katheryn Behm, with gerbil photographs donated by many AGS members. The Gerbil Color Strips, another invaluable website addition, is used by gerbil breeders all over the world.

Julia, Donna, and Janet, having been trained by European judges, helped train other judges. At present (2004), Donna and Janet are in charge of the training program. Potential judges are first given on-line training. If they pass this, they become probationary judges. They must then judge in two shows under an official judge. The AGS is a member of the International Gerbil Federation. It has over 200 members in 40 states across the United States, and in Canada, Finland, Japan, Argentina and Brazil.

Other AGS milestones include:

  • The present American Gerbil Society was incorporated in 2001, giving it both national and international recognition.
  • The first issue of the AGS Newsletter, Gerbil Tales, was published Nov.12, 2001.
  • The first AGS Virtual Show was in April, 2002, and the first live AGS Show was the North East Show, held in Merrimack, New Hampshire, on June 1st, 2002.
  • The extreme mottled male gerbil, Awesome, bred and shown by Gary Marfisi and now owned by Donna Anastasi, became the first AGS National Champion in June, 2004.
The most exciting new development in the AGS is the translation of the AGS website into Spanish by AGS member, Laura Pimas, of Argentina and into Portugese by AGS member, Eduardo Machado, of Brazil. These translations will make the AGS and all the wonderful information and help it and its members offer, accessable to thousands more people in Latin America, as well as in the US. Laura and Eduardo are hoping to come to the NE 2005 Show to complete their judges' training. If they are able to do this, they will then become the first official AGS judges in South America.

Our present AGS officers are:

Executive Board

President: Janet Morrow
Vice President: Donna Anastasi
Secretary/Treasurer: Ruth Divine
Board Members: Ann-Marie Roberts, Patrick Branciforte
Alternates: Cara-lee Lafond, Tana Lyman, Eduardo Machado

Ethics Committee

Tana Lyman, Chairperson; Carin DeVoe, Susana Massarani, Tom Schwartz

Official Judges

Janet Morrow, Donna Anastasi, Julia Colson, Kat Dunlap, and Carin Devoe

Probationary Judges

Laura Pimas (Argentina), Eduardo Machado (Brazil), Ruth Divine, Tana Lyman, and Shannon Sill.

Other Positions

Points Secretary: Jo Kelley
Newsletter Editor: Libby Hanna
Special Projects: Judith H. Block

Special thanks to Gary Marfisi, Julia Colson, Donna Anastasi, Amy Paben, Julian Barker, and Janet Morrow for their information, incorporated into this article - JHB

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___________________SHOW REPORTS______________________

Show Update - 2004 New England Show

By Cara-Lee Lafond, The New York Gerbil (Vermont), Show Coordinator

The 2004 New England Gerbil Show was held in Rutland Vermont on June 26th at the Comfort Inn. We had a great show of support from our AGS members and the public! About 40 members and their families attended. Even AGS members who could not attend supported the show by donating items for the AGS raffle and helping out with paperwork and such. Local businesses donated a good number of items for the AGS raffle and we even got publicity from local radio stations! The atmosphere at the show was very pleasant and active. There were a good variety of different small animals to look at, adopt, and get information about. Two of our members even brought their pet degus!

All of our volunteers definitely went the extra mile to fulfill their positions. We had a show photographer with an awesome set-up, a well-manned AGS table, and a Pet Class area with dozens of smiling little faces!

Turn out for the Gerbil Showing was excellent. The only regret was I didn't have larger tables for the pleasantly large number of gerbils shown. I am very honored to have been selected as Show Coordinator!

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Show Update – 2004 Midwest Show

By Ruth Divine, Ruth's Refuge (Missouri), Show Coordinator

After three months of planning and organizing, it was time for the Midwest AGS Show 2004! The last week was a blur of emails, little sleep and taking care of last minute details. Finally it was Friday, October 8th and people were starting to arrive in Springfield, MO. I was so excited that I was no longer tired. Donna was the first friendly face to arrive at the airport, than Janet with her warm hugs. Jo Kelley picked up Amy Paben who finally got in after a long delay in Dallas. Later that evening our guest Eisuke Sato from Duluth, MN was picked up by Mark and Tana Lyman and escorted to the Oasis Inn to join the gathering AGS members.

As each person arrived there were words of welcome, introductions to new friends and hugs all around. There is nothing like a group of gerbil lovers getting together to warm your heart. Hugs and smiles and lots of talk are a given at any show and this one was no different! Carin Devoe and Amy Smith traveled by car from Kansas. Katie McQueen and friend Nicole drove in from Oklahoma. Michele Rush arrived around 5 pm from Nebraska. Kat Dunlap, who gets the award for driving the farthest, made it safely from NY! Dani Marshall and company arrived by RV at the show site early Saturday to attend the festivities. During the day there was a pleasing number of the public that passed thru to see all the gorgeous animals on display. Everyone was very friendly and curious about the show. I heard many members educating these visitors about gerbils and gerbil care. We had snacks, arranged our tables full of gerbils, talked and talked and talked.

I have attended three AGS show now and I have never been sorry. I drove ten hours to Lexington KY for my first show and was overwhelmed by the friendliness of everyone. I made many new friends that weekend in October 2003. I flew to the 2004 show in Vermont and had a glorious time, meeting old friends in person for the first time and seeing again those I had met in KY. When I was asked to host the Springfield show, I first said no. But I knew that I had to give the Midwesterners a chance at enjoying their own show. It was only a mile drive for me to the Oasis Inn for the show but I was just as excited about seeing and being with the other AGS members as I had been for the first two shows.

I think that it will always be the same. When someone says “AGS show”, our ears perk up and we say, “when and where?” and pray that we have the money and the time off work to get there. The anticipation of visiting with the other AGSers and seeing all those beautiful gerbils will always excite me. I couldn't tell you my favorite moment of any of the shows. It is an incredible, intense time of fun, friends and gerbils. Perhaps it is fitting that after the show is over, we gather for a meal and really relax together as an AGS family. Do yourself a favor that you won't forget, attend an AGS show.

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Show Points and Breeder Championship Certificates

By Jo Kelley, Black Wolf Clan (Missouri), Show Points Secretary

So you finally went to a gerbil show and even brought home some ribbons! Now what? What are these “points” you keep hearing about and do you have to be a breeder to get them?

Well, glad you asked! As with most animal shows, be it dogs cats, horses, rabbits, or whatever, the animals are judged according to the standards for their breed or color. In our case, this would be standards set by the AGS for the Mongolian Gerbil, broken down into three classes: self, white belly and spotted. These classes are further broken down and judged on the colors recognized within each category; for instance, self includes lilac, black, and many more. More information on these standards can be found on the AGS website.

The AGS website also lists the following explanation for the points earned at every show, and the “Championship Scheme”:

Points & Championship Scheme

At every recognized AGS show, each winner in the breed/color class of five gerbils or more shall be awarded points as follows:

First Place: 3 points
Second Place: 2 points
Third Place:1 point

Best of Opposite Sex (optional per each class): 3 points

Best in Show and Best of Opposite Sex: overall winners receive an additional 3 points each.

When a gerbil reaches 8 points under at least two different AGS judges, the gerbil will receive the title “Champion”.

When a breeder reaches 15 points, for one breed/color under at least two different AGS judges, the breeder will receive a Champion Breeder Diploma for that color.

So far, the AGS has recognized two champions who have reached the 8 point threshold, according to the above standards. Awesome, a striking and well-named extreme mottled black gerbil, bred and shown by Gary Marfisi (Gary's Gerbils, NY) won his mottled class as well as Best in Show at the 2003 NE Show, giving him a total of 6 points. Shown by Donna Anastasi of NH (ABC Gerbils, NH), Awesome went on to win the mottled class again at the 2004 NE show, thus giving him above the 8 points needed to win his coveted championship status.

At the 2003 Kentucky Show, Tana Lyman (The Little Rascals, MO) showed a sweet little Siamese female named Patience. Patience won her colorpoint class and went on to win Best in Show. At the 2004 Midwest show, Patience once again clinched the colorpoint class and one of the coveted Best Of titles giving her a whopping 12 points. She became both our first female champion and the second AGS show champion overall.

Both Donna and Tana can now proudly claim their gerbils' championship status when selling pups descended from these lines. These pups may even go on to win at their own shows, as other descendents of other prize-winning lines have done before. Of course you don't HAVE to have a champion gerbil to sell and breed or own great gerbils, but for those who want to achieve such recognition for their kennel or their breeding lines, the points system is one way to reach this goal.

So what about the pup classes, how do those work? Each gerbil is judged on the standards for the color/class he or she would be shown in if he were shown in an adult class. If the gerbil pup wins, the points go towards that gerbil's recognized color. For example, if a lilac pup wins second place in the pup class, he will then have 2 points and can build on those points to be shown as an adult. The owner will have achieved 2 points for the color lilac to build towards a lilac breeder's certificate/champion certificate.

One other point should be made clear. When a gerbil changes ownership and is shown by the new owner, the new owner can apply any points earned by that gerbil toward his or her Champion Breeder points total for that breed/color. For example, Gary earned the points that Awesome won towards a mottled black breeder certificate, but after Awesome went to Donna, Awesome's second win was added towards Donna's mottled breeder certificate. Whether it is shown by one or many owners throughout its life, each gerbil retains its own points towards its championship status. Awesome, for example, earned the 8 points required to achieve his championship status under two different owners.

And finally, as you are shaking your head wondering how to keep up with all of this, well the good news that is MY job! After every show, I will be keeping track of everyone's show points. At the end of the year, active kennels who have attended a show within the last calendar year will receive an update on their show point status, both for their kennels as a whole, and for any gerbils they own who have earned points.

If your kennel and /or gerbil is eligible for a championship certificate, one will be awarded and mailed to you at that time, giving you the right to declare your kennel's or your gerbil's new championship status. This is especially nice to add to your website or mention when selling some pups, or just to hang on your wall!

So hope to see you soon at the next show!

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__________________GERBIL HEALTH & EDUCATION____________________

Building A Secure Split Cage

by Kylee Dickey, Twin Squeaks Gerbils (Nebraska)

My first adventure in split-caging was exactly that. An adventure. I bought some hardware cloth, trimmed the edges as well as I could, and wedged it into the tank as tightly as I could. After less than 24 hours of split-caging, I lifted the lid to swap the gerbils around and refill water bottles. Before I even had the lid all the way off the tank, Samantha leapt up over the divider, landed on Suzie's side, and lunged at her. Even though I knew better (and had gloves right next to the tank), I instinctively reached between the two. I split up the fight before anyone got hurt… except myself.

The next two weeks were uneventful, but I still returned from work every day, praying that the divider had held up and that I wouldn't find a dead gerbil. Every time I Split Cagelifted the lid, both gerbils would start scampering up the divider, and I'd have to gently swat them down before they could crawl over the top. Because of all the shooing off the divider and hasty replacing of the lid, Samantha and Suzie both started to get wild. They didn't like being handled anymore, because most of the handling they got was my chasing them down off the divider and away from each other.

After a couple weeks of this, I was ready to build a better split cage. I made three trips: the first to a pet shop to find a hinged lid, the second to a hardware store to search for something – anything – that might be used as a divider or some type of bracket for a slide-out divider, and the third trip to the local fish specialty shop to buy non-toxic aquarium sealant.

I found a variety of items at the hardware shop that I could easily adapt into a bracket for my divider, but eventually I settled on aluminum channel. This split cage is fairly easy to build and is quite sturdy. I am hoping that the design I came up with will work for others as well as it has for me. More importantly, I hope it can help others have fewer injuries, fewer deaths, and more successful split-cage introductions.

Supplies
To build a split cage that prevents escapes, has an easy-to-remove divider, is sturdy, prevents hardware-cloth injuries, and lets you feed and hand-tame one gerbil at a time, you will need the following supplies:

  • a 10-, 15-, or 20-gallon tank for a split-cage introduction (or perhaps a larger tank if you are creating a permanent split for a pair of loners who won't accept a tankmate)
  • 1/4-inch hardware cloth
  • tin snips
  • aluminum channel
  • non-toxic aquarium sealant
  • hinged tank lid
  • four tank-lid clamps
The Trip to the Hardware Store
You can buy aluminum channel aluminum channelat your local hardware store. It will most likely come in long rods of 4 to 6 feet, and you can have someone at the shop cut it down to size for you. Usually aluminum channel is standing in bins with other types of metal rods, and it is typically near the materials for screen doors, windows, and similar items. If you have trouble finding it, someone at the store should be able to help you locate “aluminum channel” or “aluminum channeling.”

You will need three pieces of aluminum channel. Measure the height of inside of your tank from the bottom of the tank up to the top of the rim. You will need two pieces of aluminum channel of that length, one for each side. Next, measure the distance across the bottom of the tank (on the inside) from front to back. The third piece should be about an inch shorter than the distance you measured (to give the side pieces of aluminum channel room to extend to the bottom of the tank). If you are using a standard 15-gallon tank, you will need two 11-inch pieces of aluminum channel (for the side brackets) and one 11.5-inch piece (for the bracket on the floor of the tank).

You will also need to buy hardware cloth. These days, I prefer to use 1/4-inch cloth rather than 1/2-inch cloth, because it's a little bit harder for a gerbil to bite through the divider this way. However, I've also used 1/2-inch cloth for less-risky introductions. Also, buy a pair of tin snips for trimming the hardware cloth to size.

Buying the Pet Supplies
You may need to search a little bit to find a hinged lid. Some local pet shops carry them, and most Petcos carry them as well. If you prefer to buy online, you can find them at Arcata Pet (http://www.arcatapet.com). The current URL for the 15- and 20-gallon hinged lid is www.arcatapet.com/item.cfm?cat=8197. If that link doesn't work, search Arcata Pet for “E-Z Entry Screen” or browse the Reptile section.

 ClampsYou will also need clamps for your tank lid. I use four clamps rather than two. This is because a persistent gerbil could crawl up the divider and push up on the lid at the hinge, causing it to bow up enough for an escape. It's unlikely but possible. I always err on the side of caution, so I place one clamp on the left side of the tank and one on the right side of the tank. Then I also place a clamp next to the hinge on the back left side of the tank. I place the fourth clamp on next to the hinge on the front right side of the tank. This is enough to prevent the lid from bowing.

Finally, you will need to buy non-toxic aquarium sealant. You can find this in the fish section of your favorite pet shop or favorite online pet-supply store. Make sure it indicates clearly that it is non-toxic.

Installing the Bracket for the Divider
Follow the instructions on the package of aquarium sealant to secure the aluminum channel to the sides and bottom of the tank. These will be the brackets that guide and hold the divider in place. Make sure you place them exactly in the center of the tank so the hinge in the lid will line up with the divider. Also, make sure you use the aquarium sealant in a well-ventilated area away from your gerbils.

The package of aquarium sealant will tell you how long it takes for the sealant to cure and how long you should wait before adding fish. Once it is safe to add fish, it should also be safe to put your gerbils in the tank. Aquarium sealant smells like vinegar while it is curing, so if you still smell a vinegar-like smell, wait a little bit longer before letting your gerbils move in.

After the Sealant Cures & Dries
Once the brackets are attached and the sealant has cured and dried, you can cut the hardware cloth to size and slide it down into the brackets. Remember that it is better for the hardware cloth to fit a bit tight than for it to be too loose. If you don't feel that the divider is secure enough, you have a few options. You can use two layers of hardware cloth together. You can also get a couple flat pieces of aluminum (or other gerbil-safe material) to wedge between the aluminum channel and the hardware cloth. As long as I have cut the hardware cloth to the right size, though, I have had no problem simply sliding it into the brackets. When you place the hardware cloth in the brackets, make sure it also fits into the bracket on the bottom of the tank. This will ensure that gerbils can't crawl under the divider.

The photos and captions below show a completed tank and some of its features.

Open Split CageTo the left is a photo of the completed tank. You can see here that it is possible to open just one side of the tank. This lets you feed, tame, and play with one gerbil without fear of the second gerbil coming over to visit. You can also see in the photo how the hardware cloth slides down into the aluminum channel brackets on the side of the tank and how it is secured by the bracket on the Side Bracketsbottom of the tank. The hardware cloth divider slides out for easy tank cleaning.

In the photo to the right, you can see how the side brackets hold the hardware cloth in place. More importantly, you'll also notice that any sharp edges on the hardware cloth are safely covered by the brackets, preventing furry residents of the split cage from hurting themselves.

Top Clamp If you look closely at the top of the hardware-cloth divider and at the hinge of the lid, you will see that two flat pieces of black metal will close around the top of the divider. This protects gerbils from the sharp edges at the top of the divider. These pieces also clamp around the divider and hold it in place, making it impossible for a gerbil to crawl over the divider to hurt the gerbil on the other side.

Tidy Tuft Split Tank Another great thing about this type of split cage is that it is sturdy enough to make a permanent split for a pair of loners. Tidy Tuft Gerbils used a variation of this design to build a permanent split cage for two females who would not accept any tankmate. This tank uses aluminum channel brackets, but it actually has two screen dividers about 1/2” apart to ensure that the gerbils can't hurt each other. (Photo courtesy of Tidy Tuft Gerbils)

A Split Tank
A couple of residents getting ready for a split-cage introduction.

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“When to See the Vet - Interview with Dr. Sager”

By Libby Hanna, Shawsheen River Gerbils (Massachusetts)

We love our gerbils for many reasons. Their curiosity, friendliness and energy are endearing and adorable. But certainly the sheer practicality of keeping gerbils contributes to their appeal, in part because gerbils are generally robust pets that experience few medical problems. However, even gerbils born with the strongest constitutions are not immune to illness and old age, and at some point we can expect to find ourselves with a gerbil that doesn't seem “quite right”, and face the question of whether or not to see the vet.

Danger Signs

Certain symptoms should be taken very seriously, reports Dr. Sager. Labored breathing is a sign that your gerbil is dangerously ill. If you can see your gerbil's sides moving rapidly or very noticeably, as if it was using its abdomen to assist in its breathing, call a vet immediately. A second very serious symptom in gerbils is diarrhea. Diarrhea is most frequently observed as wet or stained fur around the anus or the base of the tail. Unfortunately, the anatomy of the gerbil digestive tract predisposes them toward the rapid growth of dangerous bacteria. Diarrhea is often the symptom of such a bacterial infection. If either of these symptoms becomes apparent, contact a vet immediately.

More general symptoms such as lethargy, sudden “nippiness”, or a change in the quantity of droppings (more or less) are also symptoms of concern. While it might seem best to “wait and see”, keep in mind that gerbils are hardwired to hide their symptoms from you. This is a natural defense, which protects sick animals in the wild from becoming prey. For our caged friends, however, it means that the gerbil that seems “suddenly” ill has probably been ill for quite some time, and is finally too sick to mask its symptoms. Don't wait too long before you see the vet.

Even symptoms that strike you as odd without being obviously life-threatening might warrant a trip to the vet, albeit in a somewhat more relaxed manner. A young gerbil that suddenly demonstrates a “head tilt” or seems to have trouble with its balance or direction could be suffering from an inner ear infection. While such infections might remain low-grade or even resolve without help, others will worsen and can spread to the spinal cord or brain, resulting in paralysis. In short, you are the best judge: if something strikes you as strange, it probably is!

An Ounce of Prevention

While your vet is there to help your gerbil through health emergencies, his or her advice can also guide you toward health-promoting habits. Dr. Sager suggests that owners keep a close eye on tank and water-bottle hygiene as ways to prevent health problems among their clans.

Of all the many things we love about our gerbils, certainly the infrequency at which their tanks need cleaning ranks high. I have converted many reluctant parents to potential adopters just by mentioning that gerbils can go a few weeks between tank cleanings. However, Dr. Sager points out two very common illnesses in gerbils, bacterial skin infections and upper respiratory infections, are aggravated by insufficient cleanliness.

Sleeping in wet litter or on top of droppings creates conditions favorable for bacterial skin infections to take hold. While scant in quantity, gerbils' urine does contain ammonia, and ammonia is irritating to gerbils' respiratory systems, making them more vulnerable to infection. Therefore it is very important to make sure the litter gets changed before it gets too odorous or droppings-filled, and immediately if it gets soaked by a leaking water bottle.

All gerbils need water, yet their water bottles can actually provide a haven for bacteria in the gerbil tank. Dr. Sager reports this interesting fact: if you take the black gunk that can be scraped out of your gerbils' water bottle spout and culture it, the culture will grow many of the same bacteria that are responsible for gastrointestinal illnesses. To prevent this, keep a supply of pipe cleaners on hand, and periodically scrub the yucky stuff out of the water bottles. Don't share water bottles between tanks, either, to prevent transmitting bacteria between clans. Or adopt the practice of simply replacing bottles from time to time.

Also bear in mind that problems in one tank – for example, a skin infection – even if not contagious, could suggest a general problem, such as cleanliness, that could affect all your caged pets. If through one gerbil's illness you learn a new husbandry skill, apply it to all your gerbils to prevent problems in other tanks.

The Right Medicine

Ornicycline, a non-prescription antibiotic available as a medicine for birds in most pet stores, is a well-know “home remedy” for sick gerbils. (Ornicycline tablets are dissolved in the gerbil's water bottle.) This drug, a tetracycline derivative, is recommended as part of the breeder's emergency kit on the AGS web site, and has surely saved many a sick animal at minimal cost to its owner. Many of us probably have a beloved pet who owes its life to a well-timed dose of ornicycline.

However, antibiotics are serious medicines, and the problem of resistant bacteria is a real one. Dr. Sager provides some useful perspective on the use of ornicycline. First, while effective, ornicycline cannot be carefully dosed. The dosage depends on how much an animal drinks, and that further depends on how sick it is, how old it is, and how palatable it finds the medicine. Your veterinarian can provide other antibiotics which may be stronger, better suited, and easier to administer or dose, without the added risk that a gerbil might stop drinking all together. By all means, says Sager, keep ornicycline on hand for emergencies; but if an animal is ill and veterinary care is feasible, your pet may be better off with a more customized prescription.

Goodbye, Friend

With luck, your gerbils will live long, happy lives. However, “long” is a relative term – gerbils' life expectancy is generally 3-5 years. At some point – frequently, in a large clan – you will face the issue of what do about a pet whose health is failing.

If your elderly gerbil passes away overnight or declines so rapidly you have no time to react, obviously there is little you can do. However, if you see your elderly gerbil has come to the point where normal gerbil activities – moving around, eating, nesting, grooming – seem to be impossible, it may be time to consult with your vet about humane euthanasia. It is always a difficult decision and one we tend to delay, feeling we should give our animals the longest possible life. However, as a friend's vet once told her: “No matter how long you wait, it will be too long.” Regretfully, our reluctance to say goodbye can result in unnecessary fear and suffering for our pets. For their sake, consult the vet when it becomes clear that your gerbil is no longer living a normal, happy life.

To Your Health!

We who love gerbils are fortunate that our little friends are not only cute, amusing and friendly, they tend to be hardy and, as compared to other small rodents, fairly long-lived. With a little simple care and the occasional assistance of your vet, you and your gerbil clan will enjoy many years of happiness.

Dr. William Sager practices at Sager Animal Hospital in Acton, MA.

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“Ask Ruth” – An Advice and Discussion Column For Kids and By Kids

Beginning in the next issue, Ruth will answer questions and write about a variety of gerbil topics in this column. She welcomes questions, ideas and contributions. This month, allow us to introduce her. – Ed.

Hi, my name is Ruth and I will be writing the “Ask Ruth” column in the Gerbil Tales newsletter. I am 10 years old, and I have a sister, mom, dad and currently 14 gerbils. I also have 2 cats and a parakeet. I pet sit a lot, and I have sat for hermit crabs, dogs, hamsters and of course, gerbils. In my free time I swim on a swim team, and write for my school newspaper. As for writing, I also write a newsletter about gerbils (Gerbilmania) and a neighborhood newsletter with a friend.

You can contact me at askruth@agsgerbils.org. That's all for now! Please write with your questions and ideas. é

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Gerbils

By Tara S., age 5

I like gerbils 'cause they are cute and funny.
They like to sniff my nose.
They like to climb up on my arm and hide in my pocket.
They have big eyes.
Their whiskers tickle my nose.
They don't try to jump out of my hand.
Gerbils don't bite me.
They are fun to play with.
I like to watch them go on my Barbie swing.
They like cheese curls like me.
They have fuzzy tails, but don't pull on them.
They are my pets and my friends.
They make me laugh.

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Aller Letzte Gerbils

By Eduardo Machado, Aller Letzte (Brazil)

Hi, my name is Eduardo. I'm 45 years old, owner and breeder of Aller Letzte Gerbils in Brazil.. I live in the South, in the city of Florianópolis, SC (which in Brazil means Santa Catarina, not South Carolina!). I'm a biologist and I work with immunization against bugs, without poisons, all natural. I'm vegetarian and have loved animals since I was a child. I could never eat them!!!

My first pet was a couple of goldfish that I bought myself in a market and brought home in a plastic bag full of water. I didn't even have an aquarium, so my mom put them in a glass and I gave them a lot of bread to eat. They died one day later. I was only seven years old at the time, but since that experience I always start out with any new animal by learning a little bit about it first.

I begun with gerbils in February of 2001, only because my son Pedro was asking me for a new puppy, but we already had a dog. I went to a pet shop near my home and found four little animals: very curious, different than hamsters. Well, they were Gerbils or “Esquilos da Mongólia” as people calls them here. They were Pied Golden Agoutis and I bought one breeding pair. I really didn't know yet, and nobody told me, how they breed the way they do! However, since they were only pups they were not yet ready to breed. Several months went by, and I forgot about them.

One day, I was passing beside the cage and, noticed strange sounds coming from in there. Six little pink things, just like rats, oh my God!!!! After two weeks they were different than rats and different colors than their parents, and it took me by surprise! How did it happen? Why did they came in different colors? Are there more colors than those?

So I began to study genetics and gerbil colors, and here I am!

After travelling around to find the genetics I was looking for, the Aller Letzte begun to produce. Today the Aller Letzte Kennel has more than 70 litters registered, producing almost all known colors. We have 22 adults in 10 breeding pairs, and some alone, waiting for the perfect mate.

I'd trying to educate people from pet stores, giving them the AGS brochure, every time they sell my gerbils. Also another breeders from Brazil and Argentina came to Florianópolis to buy some Aller Letzte gerbils to start their kennels and I'm very proud of it.

In my web site I put a lot of pictures, the pups available, everything I know about genetics and colors, also sales of Corn Cob and Gerbil's Art T-Shirts, since the market for gerbils here in Brazil is small yet and these kinds of products are very difficult to find. The site is adeusbaratas.com/gerbil.html.

We have here a Club named Clube do Gerbil, that is frequently visited by gerbil breeders and owners. Our goal is the foundation of a Brazilian Society in a near future.

To finish, I would like to thank all the people from the AGS, who are always there when we need you!

NOTE: Since writing this article Eduardo has become the first International AGS Board member.

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Meet the Champions: Patience

By Tana Lyman, The Little Rascals (Missouri)

PatiencePatience was born on May 21, 2003, to The Little Rascals' (TLR's) Harry and Ginny. She loves to rearrange her tank, moving litter and bedding around. Of course she also loves her wheel! She is not much on climbing my arm like most of my gerbils, but she does sometimes like to be held and petted. She has also been an outstanding mother, producing 15 pups total with her former mate, Talesin. She has been probably at her happiest while mothering her little ones. Patience is now retired from breeding and living happily with one of her daughters, a PEW named Sophia.

As a side note, one of Talesin's sisters, Hope, placed 2nd in the colorpoint category at the 2003 Kentucky show. Another sister, Marshmellow, placed 2nd in colorpoint at the 2004 Midwest show. The next generation will be one of Patience's daughters bred with one of her sons. We are looking forward to seeing some excellent pups!

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_____________________FUN & INSPIRATIONAL_________________________

Boris

Boris

By Jimena Pimas, El Clan de Houdini (Argentina)   é

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Renata

Renata

By Jimena Pimas, El Clan de Houdini (Argentina)   é

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Gerbil Paradise

by Nancy Layman, Tidy Tuft Gerbils (West Virginia)

Gerbil ParadiseI hope you're up there playing
In endless fields of green,
That there are more sunflower seeds
Than any gerbil's ever seen.
I hope there's toilet paper,
Tons of cardboard tubes,
Some blue spiral-wire-toy thingies,
And hollowed out wooden cubes.
I hope there are plenty of chew sticks,
Rolled up manila file folders,
And always-full water bottles
In gerbil-safe hanging holders.
I hope that there are sand bowls,
Where you can dig and roll,
Your own special squeaky wheel,
And secret hideaway-hole.
I hope there are some glass jars, too,
For upside-down gerbil digging,
And tasty treats on every bush
Perfect for gerbil pigging.
I hope that there are plastic toys
That don't make gerbils sick,
That there are mountains of corncob
For you to dig and kick.
I hope that there's an angel
Who knows your favorite snack
And lots of friendly gerbils
To help you groom your back.
I hope, when you get sleepy,
There's a handy gerbil pile
For you to cuddle into
And nap for a little while.
I hope there are just-filled food bowls
Scattered everywhere.
I hope that there's a gentle hand
To give you loving care.
I hope that you don't miss me
As much as I miss you
And that you don't long for
The fun things we used to do.
I hope you've found a special friend
And the gerbils all play nice,
That you have everything you could ever want
In Gerbil Paradise.

~In memory of my Peeky and all the little ones who are up there playing with her.~

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Not Rat - GerbilNot Rat - Gerbil Not Rat - Gerbil by Henrique Machado, Aller Letzte (Brazil)

These graphics and more are available on t-shirts. Used with permission. (Copyright Henrique Machado)

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'Twas the Night Before Christmas
(Little Rascals style!)

by Tana Lyman, The Little Rascals (Missouri)

Gerbils in Stockings 'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a "running-mouse".

The gerbils were settled
All snug in their nests,
While visions of pumpkin seeds
Danced in their heads.

The stockings were hung
By the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicolas
Soon would be there.

After checking the pups,
Sherlock the dad
Had just settled down
For a well-deserved nap.

When somewhere outside
There came such a sound,
All the gerbils were startled
From their nests, with a bound.

They peeked through the glass
With their fur all mussed,
To see what had made
Such a noisy fuss.

With ears all perked
And whiskers all trembling,
They waited to see
What that noise was portending.

To their listening ears
Came a merry voice,
The sound of which
Would make anyone rejoice.

"On Dasher, on Dancer,
On Prancer, on Vixen!
On Comet, on Cupid,
On Donner, on Blitzen!

To the top of the roof,
To the top of the wall,
Now dash away, dash away,
Dash away all!"

And then the next instant,
They heard from the roof
The unmistakable sound
Of reindeer hooves.

The pups were frightened
And started to thump,
When down the chimney
St. Nick came with a “Whuump!”

The startled gerbils
Froze all in place
And stared at this fellow
With the rosy face.

His eyes how they twinkled,
His dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses,
His nose like a cherry.

His beard was as white
As an agouti's belly;
His stomach shook
Like a bowl full of jelly.

His voice was merry,
Yet soothing to hear,
And the gerbils relaxed,
Knowing they need not fear.

With a wink and a nod,
He turned to his bag,
Filling all the stockings
So full that they sagged.

The gerbils watching
With very bright eyes
Wondered if St. Nick
Cared for “people” their size.

Anxiously they watched
The presents appear.
Would there be something
For them this year?

Would they be remembered
With love and joy?
Or be forgotten
Like last year's old toys?

With each present
Their hopes did dwindle;
Their eyes grew sad
And lost their twinkle.

Their whiskers and tails
Dropped in despair;
It seemed that for them
St. Nick did not care.

When all the stockings
Were filled to the brim,
St. Nicolas turned
And gave them a grin.

To the gerbil tanks
He came with a bound,
And opened his bag
With a chuckling sound.

The biggest bag
Of pumpkin seeds ever;
A spray of millet seeds
That seemed to go on forever!

Wood toys, tubes,
And wheels galore,
He piled all these things
By the tanks on the floor.

The gerbils all jumped
And ran with joy.
He'd remembered them
And brought them toys!

With a wink at Sherlock
And a nod of his head,
He vanished up the chimney,
A blur in red.

They heard him exclaim
Out into the night,
"Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night!"

They gazed at their presents
Through the tank glass,
With sudden frustration
Up and down they danced.

The humans were all
Still asleep it seemed,
How were they going
To get to their pumpkin seeds?!?

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Day 18

Day 18 by Rachel Wall, Celtic Clique Gerbils (Washington)

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Our Gerbil Protectors

By Judith H. Block, Knolls Gerbils (New York)

Background: It has been reported that experiments were done using gerbils to sniff out people exhibiting high anxiety in airports, in the hope they could catch terrorists. The experiment failed because the gerbils could not distinguish between frightened passengers and terrorists. But what if they could?

The Scene: Kennedy International Airport, NYC; Memorial Day, 2003.

Fairfield and several other members of Gerbil Patriots for Peace, including Phoebe, Bacchus, Dionysius, Rodizio (Laura's little sweetie from Argentina – this is an international organization!) have temporarily volunteered their services to the CIA, to help protect innocent airplane passengers on this holiday weekend when the US is once more on “Orange Alert”.

Fairfield: So many people traveling to see their families today! Such a responsibility we have, for their safety!
Phoebe: I smell wonderful perfume on this beautiful, young woman. Scents of lilac, honeysuckle, and citrus, with a hint of bittersweet chocolate. Oops, the chocolate is on her fingers! Tee hee! I smell excitement!
A middle aged, rich-looking, balding man approaches.
Phoebe: Fairfield, come quickly!
Fairfield: Calm down, Phoebe. It's OK. Notice he is with the beautiful young woman you just smelled. He is probably having an affair. The way they are acting, she is NOT his wife. Notice also, he's wearing a wedding ring; the sweet young thing is not! Remember, Phoebe, the CIA was looking for "A Few Good Gerbils". They accepted us because we know how to discriminate between terror and TERROR. Now, you wouldn't want to make a crisis, have this man pulled over by airport police, have a panic created and his photograph probably in the New York Times; a big fuss made before they realized he was not a terrorist? Would you want this man to go through life lamenting that his marriage was ruined by a gerbil? Trust me, this man is not a terrorist.
Bacchus: Eeeew, this guy didn't wipe himself after going to the bathroom! I don't think I like this job.
Rodizio: I smell marijuana on these two teens. Lovely smell. Certainly no anxiety here, for sure!
Fairfield: Being a Nutmeg gerbil, Rodizio, you were especially trained to sniff out drugs, too, but they meant cocaine. Let the teens go. They are on vacation and are just being careless.
Argente Gerbil: I smell money!
Fairfield: You would!
Dionysius: Oooooh, lovely! I smell peanut butter. Mmmm! This little child didn't wash his hands, either. I smell anxiety, too. He's crying!
Bacchus: Move over! Move over, Dionysius! Let me smell too! I LOVE peanuts!
Fairfield: You are supposed to help the US Government sniff out anxiety in terrorists, not get giddy over peanut butter! This child is not a terrorist! No explosives have been implanted on him. He just ate a sandwich and does not want his parents to take him on the plane. He is a scared, messy little boy. Dionysius and Bacchus, your mother, Phoebe, tells me that you are messy little boys, too, so you should understand.
Bacchus & Dionysius We want to go home while we can still smell the peanut butter!
Fairfield: We can all go home, now. It has been a long day, and our shift is over. There are no terrorists on this plane. Everyone will have a safe trip. We have done our job. Thank you all. PEACE!
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Smell the Flowers

Smell the Flowers

By Bill Revis, Pet Smart (Illinois)   é

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T-Shirt Design

Gerbil Eating Seed

by Henrique Machado, Aller Letzte (Brazil)

These graphics and more are available on t-shirts. Used with permission. (Copyright Henrique Machado)

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MW Crossword Puzzle

By Jo Kelly, Black Wolf Clan (Missouri)

Crossword Puzzle

ACROSS

1 Another name for a 'light colorpoint black', also one of the more common colorpoint varieties know today
4 This Judge hails from New Hampshire and hosted the first 2 NE Shows
5 Name of the country where the most common form of gerbil sold in the US originated from…
6 A 'Presidential' Kennel located in chilly Maine
9 This spotting pattern consists of up to 75% 'white patching' mixed with the base coat color
12 Lots of hugs and lots of honey found in this kennel
13 This AGS member hails from Oklahoma and her kennel is the answer to another clue
16 Despcite the name, you will find gerbils and hamsters of ALL colors here, and not just felines
17 The darkest self color and on of the most common colors found among gerbils everywhere
18 Name the original 'wild type' coloring found in gerbils, when most gerbils only came in one color
21 The 'General's Kennel'
22 Another name for a colorpoint black… also one of the more popular colorpoint varieties
23 This Judge hails from Maine and serves as our current AGS president and webmaster
25 This kennel is made up of the combined names of its foundation parents: Pocahontas and Rafiki
26 Popular pet especially among AGSer's! (not a gerbil)
27 A Good Gerbil Education includes knowing your colors, 123's and the _____'s of this kennel
28 The first gerbil in AGS history to reach 'championship' status, also the BIS winner at the NE show in 2003
Two kennels have a member w/ the same first name… one is a long time AGS member w/ Gerbils NW of Oregon and the other is a new member from KS w/ Heartland Gerbils.

DOWN

2 Famous 'Romeo and Juliet' author or the name of the beautiful solid black BIS winner at the NE 2004 Show
3 The Shindao Dynasty is ruled by our first official Midwest Show Judge
7 Dispite the name, you probably wont find Spanky and Buckwheat in this kennel
8 A gerbil whose coat color is the same throughout is shown in the _______ class
10 What the furry tip of the gerbil's tail is called
11 For a howling good time, check out this kennel
14 Self color where a gerbil starts out creamy colored as a pup, but gets darker ticking as it matures
15 Double your fun with this kennel from Nebraska
19 What some people need more of … also the BIS colorpoint winner from the KY 2003 show owned by TLR
20 This white-bellied, red-eyed gerbil, is known for its golden coloring
24 A self colored 'grey' gerbil with red eyes is called a ________

NOTE: For a fee, you can use Crossword Weaver to print a nice copy of this puzzle (one that doesn't look like a web page). You can check it out for free by downloading the demo from www.CrosswordWeaver.com.

Click here for the answers.

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© 2001 American Gerbil Society Inc.

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