________________AGS NEWSLETTER, SPRING 2007_________________

Editor: Kylee Dickey

    American Gerbil Society

  1. “Letter From The Editor”   by Kylee Dickey
  2. “Welcome To New Members”   compiled by Kylee Dickey & Amy Paben

    Show Reports

  3. 2007 NE Show Announcement   by Libby Hanna
  4. 2007 Midwinter Show Report   by Libby Hanna

    Show Results

  5. 2007 Midwinter Show Results    Compiled by Jo Kelley
  6. Gerbil Health

  7. “Make The Most Out Of Your Veterinary Visit”    by Amanda Childress

    Gerbil Education

  8. “What Is A ‘High-White Gerbil’?”   by Donna Anastasi
  9. “Preparing Gerbils For Show”   by Donna Anastasi
  10. “Quick Links: Pup Development”  compiled by Kylee Dickey

    The Pup Pages (stuff for kids by kids)

  11. “Ask Ruth” by Ruth H., age 12
  12. “From The Bookshelf: Usborne First Pets: Gerbils by Caroline H.
  13. “Guest Artists & Authors” - Mrs. Davies' 1st and 2nd Grade Class

    Getting to Know Each Other

  14. “GerbilsNW”   by Amy Paben
  15. “Senior Gerbils”    by Judith Block, Kylee Dickey, Diane Nott & Susan Brown
  16. AGS & Gerbils In The News    compiled by Kylee Dickey
  17. Recent Kennel Happenings    submitted by AGS members

    Fun & Inspirational

  18. Guest Cartoonist   John Kovalic


Letter from the Editor

Kylee Dickey,  Twin Squeaks Gerbils (NE)

Dear AGS Members,

It's an exciting time in the history of the AGS, as we've recently seen a couple of turning points in our organization's history recently. This month, we took part in the ARF's (American Rodent Federation's) Midwinter Show. This is the first time that we've participated in an outside organization's event for show points. This is also the first time we've held three sanctioned gerbil shows within one year. Thanks to everyone who has supported responsible gerbil breeding and gerbil care to make these milestones possible!

You can read more about the ARF Midwinter Show in Libby Hanna's Midwinter Show Report in this issue of Gerbil Tales. You'll also find an announcement for the 2007 New England Show. I'd like to encourage everyone to visit the official 2007 New England Show page to learn more about how you can volunteer.

I'm happy to report that we now have a pair of recurring columnists in Gerbil Tales. Two of our members have a veterinary background and will contribute their experiences and knoweldge in each issue. Katie McQueen is our first veterinary columnist. She is currently a veterinary student at Oklahoma State University. She also runs Pocafiki Gerbils and is a probationary judge for the AGS. Katie's first column will appear in the next issue of Gerbil Tales.

Our second columnist is Amanda Childress, who is a relatively new member of the AGS. She worked as a veterinary assistant for several years and studied in veterinary school. Amanda has contributed an article about how to prepare for your trip to the vet. I hope you enjoy their columns. If you have a moment, please thank both of these dedicated AGS members for sharing their knowledge and experiences with all of us!

We've also added a new section of links to news articles about gerbils, the AGS, or AGS members. If you ever see a news article related to gerbils or the AGS, please send it to me, and I will be happy to include the link in the next issue of Gerbil Tales! We also now list Recent Kennel Announcements so that you can read about what's happening in fellow AGS members' kennels.

As always, you'll find several great articles in this issue. For instance, if you plan to show gerbils in the New England show, make sure that you take the time to read Donna Anastasi's article about preparing your gerbils for show.

As always, if you have any suggestions for how Gerbil Tales can improve, please don't hesitate to contact me. It's always great to have new ideas and new contributors to the AGS newsletter!

Wishing you and your gerbil clans all the best,

Kylee Dickey,
Gerbil Tales Editor


Welcome To New Members!

compiled by Gerbil Tales Editor Kylee Dickey & AGS Secretary Amy Paben

We've had several members join the AGS since our last issue of Gerbil Tales was published in November. Our latest members come from as far west as Arizona and as far east as New York, Florida, and several other East Coast states.

Please join me in welcoming our newest members, who include Emily Heenan from Florida, Amanda Childress from Texas, Rebecca Ward of Becca's Gerbils in Virginia, Albert Ledoux from Pennsylvania, Kelly Johnson from Wisconsin, Catherine Tannenbaum-Schirf of Perkworks kennel in Pennsylvania, Katie Anastasi of Cute N' Cuddly kennel in New Hampshire, Karen Markowitz of Woody Sarah Gerbils in New York, Matthew Porter of Gracie's Gerbils in Florida, Lynne Reed of Zeldagerbils in Arizona, and James Martin of jamm'ngerbils in Arizona. We look forward to all the things our newest members will contribute to our organization.

New members, if you ever have any questions about your gerbils, please do not hesitate to post a message to the American Gerbil Society Mailing List. We look forward to getting to know all of you. Thank you for joining the AGS!


___________________SHOW REPORTS______________________

2007 New England Show Announcement

By Libby Hanna

Do you have a momma gerbil with a big round belly? If you find brand-new pink squeakers in the nest on Monday, February 19th, then guess what?! They qualify for the Pup Class at the New England Show, to be held on Saturday, May 19th, in Bedford, MA. As always, we will have an action-packed Sanctioned Show with classes for Self, White Belly, Colorpoint, Spotted/Pied/Mottled, Other, and Pup (Juvenile), along with our ever popular Pet Class and Gerbil Olympics. We'll have experienced judges on hand and a number of judges-in-training. Libby Hanna and Jenn Bell are co-coordinators.

The show will be held at the Bedford Best Western, 340 Great Road, Bedford, MA. Bedford is approximately 20 miles northwest of Boston, just over a mile from Route I-95. It is accessible by public bus on Friday and Saturday (we'll arrange rides back to public transit on Sunday if needed). Parking is free. Rooms in the hotel are $79 per nightif reserved by April 19th. The hotel features a centrally-located heated pool and is convenient to gas, stores, and restaurants within walking distance. While this fact appears in no official directory, Bedford is a hot-spot of gerbil activity, and we expect an excellent turnout from local schoolchildren and families.

Our show will have new features, like a banquet dinner in the show hall at 6PM immediately following the show for hungry AGS members and guests. The Italian buffet dinner will include chicken parmigian, pasta, choice of salad, grilled veggies, breads, coffee or tea, and chocolate mousse. You can sign up for the dinner when you register for the show, or you can email Libby to sign up for dinner separately from your registration. We'll have our old favorite raffle, White Elephant, and merchandise tables along with wares from our many skilled crafts-members. New this year will be a Science Show/Art Fair for kids and a Silent Auction for some really wonderful gerbil-themed items. If you have an idea or a presentation, let us know!

Volunteers are needed to help in advance with publicity and raffle items, on the day of the show and afterwards. Please fill out our volunteer form or contact Jenn if you can help with any of the many jobs that need doing!

Visit the show site at www.agsgerbils.org/Shows/NEShow for details, directions, registration and health information, show schedule, deadlines, contact info, and more!

2007 Midwinter Show Report

By Libby Hanna

The 3rd Annual American Rodent Federation/4H Invitational show in Clayton, NJ on February 10th provided a new opportunity for AGS members to get together at a sanctioned show in a different part of the country. At the same time, we were able to make contact with many other small pet lovers. Judge Donna Anastasi provided the New Jersey club members with much-welcomed education and advice about gerbil show standards. The New Jersey club members were very interested to see living examples of large, beefy male gerbils and thick, well-tufted tails. Our judging also helped the Youth and 4H members showing gerbils to better understand common show faults, like the white paws and chin stripe so common on blacks and selfs.

American Gerbil Society Youth Members

AGS Youth Members made a strong showing across species.

Many of our AGS members brought along non-gerbil rodent pets. We were delighted to hear from experienced judges about how our mice, rats and hamsters stacked up against their official standards. For instance, we learned that dwarf hamsters are supposed to look like miniature teddy bears with a soft, round look, and that the two hamster brothers which looked nearly identical to us were actually of vastly different show quality.

AGS members Emily and Judy Poirier, Chris Vrba, Katie Anastasi, and Ruth and Caroline Hanna made a strong showing in the ARF Show. In the Youth division, Caroline Hanna’s Pearl won Best Youth Gerbil and her Thunderbolt won Youth Reserve. Emily Poirier’s Argente male Pistachio not only won Best Adult Gerbil, but took the Best in Show — All Species — Adult Exhibitors prize.


Caroline Hanna's gerbil Thunderbolt won Youth Reserve.

Exposure to a rapid education on other breed standards was not restricted to AGS show participants. Libby Hanna received a “head-first” initiation to multiple breed standards by serving as the 4H judge for all breeds at the show. After gamely wading through gerbils, mice, and chinchillas with considerable advice from ARF members and Judge Donna, Libby wisely pulled in rat expert Chris Vrba to finish the final 4H class with her thorough, thoughtful judging.

We really hope to see more opportunities to band together with other small pet organizations to hold this type of show. It was a mutually beneficial chance for the AGS to provide expertise on gerbils, to gather our members for a fun 24 hours of camaraderie in region not previously served by an AGS show, and to meet like-minded pet lovers, while enjoying the hospitality and organizational efforts of a sister organization.

2007 NJ Midwinter Show Results
Judged by Donna Anastasi
On-Site Show Secretary: Libby Hanna

Results compiled by AGS Show Points Secretary Jo Kelley
Non-Spotted Class
1st 2-year Argente M Judi & Emily Poirier (MA)
BOS 1-year LCPN F Libby Hanna Shawsheen River Gerbils (NH)
2nd 2-year PEW M Judi & Emily Poirier (MA)
3rd 1.5-year Grey Agouti F
Spotted Class
1st 3.5-year CPS Spot M Libby Hanna Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA)
2nd 2-year Dove Spot M Emily & Judi Poirier (MA)
3rd 5-month Mottled Black M
AGS Gerbil Championship Recognitions
FF's Luie Patuie,
2-year-old Pink-Eyed White Male
Seventh Champion in AGS History

Shown by Emily & Judi Poirier (MA)
Bred by Kecia Santerre of Furry Flowers (NH)
FF's Evil Mutant Ninja Chipmunk,
2-year-old Dove Spot M
Eighth Champion in AGS History

Shown by Emily & Judi Poirier (MA)
Bred by Kecia Santerre of Furry Flowers (NH)
SRG's Thunderbolt,
3.5-year-old Colorpoint Slate M
Ninth Champion in AGS History

Shown by Libby Hanna of Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA)
Bred by Donna Anastasi of ABC Gerbils (NH)

________________________GERBIL HEALTH________________________

Make The Most Of Your Veterinary Visit

Amanda Childress (TX)

I spent several years as a veterinary assistant and have personally seen what a difference the right preparation can make in getting the best treatment for a pet. Here are some guidelines to help you get the most out of your gerbil's trip to the vet.

  1. Write down any questions or concerns that you have before you go to the veterinarian's office. If your animal is ill, record any symptoms or unusual behaviors.

    This is one of the best things that you can do for your pet and your veterinarian. This way, you will not forget the important questions that you have been wanting to ask! Also, especially when your pet is ill, you don't want to leave out any symptoms that you have observed, because that information may lead to a completely different diagnosis. It is great to walk into an exam room and your client hands you a nice, detailed list of symptoms and questions. It saves times for everyone and makes for a better exam overall.

  2. Make a detailed record of your animal's husbandry to bring to the exam.

    By this, I am talking about caging, cage substrate (bedding), type of food, location in your house, etc. Wow, this one sure would have saved us a lot of time and trouble! Some vet clinics have an “intake sheet,” which would include husbandry questions, especially for exotics, but it is still a great idea to make up your own sheet. Inclue the following:

    • Type of cage or tank and its size (if not a standard tank size, give its dimensions, i.e. height x width x depth)
    • Type of cage cover
    • Type of bedding used and how often the bedding is changed
    • How water is provided and how often water is changed
    • Any toys, chews, and wheels in your gerbil's tank
    • Type and amount of food given and how often you give food
    • Location of the tank in your home
    • Average temperature in your home (or where the tank is located)

    By listing this information, the veterinarian will have a much better understanding of your pet's environment, and therefore, he or she will be able to help you correct any husbandry errors that may be apparent. Naturally, if you have been seeing your veterinarian for some time and they are familiar with your practices, you don't need to bring in this information every time. However, if you change something in your pet's environment, like food or bedding, be sure to mention this. As a last note, and I apologize for singling anyone out, but if you smoke, especially in your home, please don't neglect to mention this as well. (Smoking around pets greatly increases chances for respiratory infections or ailments.)

  3. Bring a notepad to write down information given to you.

    Yes, a lot of writing, I know, but is very easy to forget small but important details given to you. You will want to record things such as medicine-dosing information. Even though all medications should be properly labeled, sometimes they can get complex and difficult to read, especially if the dosages change day by day. Also, record whatever suggestions the vet may provide to you, like what type of feed he or she recommends. The vet may also instruct you what temperature to keep a “hospital tank” for your ailing gerbil. If so, write this information down, too. When our animals are ill and we are worried about them, it can be hard to remember everything that we are told.

  4. Don't be afraid to ask questions or voice your concerns!

    Don't forget that veterinarians are providing a service that YOU are paying for. You should be satisfied with this service, so be sure you get your money's worth. Obviously, this doesn't mean that you get to dominate the visit by asking all the questions you want or constantly second-guessing what the vet tells you. Rather, any concerns or important questions you may have had upon entering your pet's exam should be addressed and/or answered to the best of the vet's ability. If, by the end of the exam, you are still unclear about any issues, don't hesitate to convery this to the veterinarian. This way, he or she can clear up any uncertainties or misunderstandings while you are still there. If you feel that your questions or concerns were not answered to your satisfaction, it is perfectly fine to contact another veterinarian, who may better suit you needs.

A veterinary visit should leave you feeling better informed, like a better care provider for your pet, and, in some cases, relieved! You should never feel angry, cheated, or at the worst, victimized. As with any profession, there are “good” and “bad” veterinarians out there, and it is your responsibility as your pets' owner to provide them with a knowledgeable and compassionate pet health provider.

Wishing you and your clans a wonderful and prosperous new year!

Amanda Childress worked as a veterinary assistant from 2001 to 2005 and has studied veterinary medicine. Today, Amanda and her family are the proud caretakers of six gerbils.

______________________GERBIL EDUCATION_______________________

What Is A “High-White” Gerbil?

by Donna Anastasi,  ABC Gerbils (NH)

High white is an unofficial term for gerbils that have more than 75% allowable white spotting (according to the AGS standard for mottled). They have so much white that they look like white gerbils with black spots rather than what they truly are — black gerbils with white spots.
Vixen and Nix, who produce high-white gerbils
Vixen and Nix, ABC Gerbils' high-white-producing pair.
An spsp gerbil (which typically means not spotted) from a high white line has so much of an “extending modifier” (or the ability to produce very spotted babies) that it comes out as a big white bib, white paws, some belly white, and even a small white spot on the forehead.

I have a pair of gerbils, Vixen and Nix, who produce high white babies. Vixen and Nix are pictured to the right. These are two extreme mottled parents I put together to try to create a white blaze or “possum face.”

Some of the babies do have very white faces, but the more common result is either extreme mottled or high-white babies. Below, you'll see photos of two of their offspring, Explosion and Spot. I have found that Nix and Vixen's offspring are acquiring a greater percentage of white fur as they grow up; even the spsp “not-spotted” gerbil is getting more white hairs on his face. My gerbil, Explosion, has developed a very slight head tilt as an adult.

high-white spotted gerbil
non-spotted gerbil from a high-white line
Top: An Spsp (spotted) gerbil from ABC Gerbils' high-white-producing line.
Bottom: An spsp (non-spotted) gerbil from the same line. Although he is non-spotted, he, too, is exhibiting more white hairs on his face as he grows older.
A couple of people on the NGS (National Gerbil Society) mailing list had been breeding for high-white gerbils. Theirs have even more white (about 95%) and are lacking the white pigment around the ears and top of the head. From very limited breeding, they have found issues in this line of high-white gerbils, such as failure to thrive asbabies, head tilt, spinning, and hyperactivity. They have discontinued breeding that line.

We are extremely fortunate so far with the gerbils, because unlike other small animal “pocket pets,” we do not have mutations in gerbils that, when bred or bred together, cause all sorts of defects, such as babies that are blind, eyeless, toothless, or limbless or that have mental or behavioral issues. Given the experience that other species do in fact have problems with white animals (due to excessive spotting) and the limited evidence regarding the breeding of such gerbils, we as a society need to proceed with caution when breeding excessively spotted gerbils. My hope is that a member good with research and genetics across species will investigate the issue further and write the next article on this topic.

Editor's note: If you would like to research and write the article Donna proposed, please contact me. It would be great to include a follow-up to Donna's article!

Preparing Gerbils For Show

by Donna Anastasi,  ABC Gerbils (NH)

Everyone has their own way of getting their gerbil hopefuls ready for the show. This is how we do things here at ABC Gerbils.

Checklist for the New England Show 2007


  • February 19th — Encourage any pregnant females to go ahead and delivery those babies. This is three months before the show, and any babies born on or after the 19th can compete in the pup class.
  • Look over all the gerbils and come up with a preliminary list of whom to show. If you are new to this, look at the gerbils in the AGS Standards or ask someone who shows what they think. (For example, send photos of your gerbils to experienced AGS members and ask for opinions.) The list can be larger han the 12 that you will show, because usually you will have to scratch a few gerbils from the show for various reasons.
  • Make sure all of these gerbils are AGS registered. Register any gerbils that you will show, may show, or are breeding.
  • Start preparing gerbils who are the top show candidates. For example:
    • Give the chunky gerbils a wheel and less seeds and nuts.
    • Give the ones you want to mature and bulk up more protein (ferret food), seeds, and nuts.
    • I pull out my top contenders into pairs (if they are in larger adolescent groups or are pup-sitting in the nursery) to reduce the chances of over-grooming or bickering.
    • Feed only the highest-quality food (I feed the mix from Furry Flowers), and feed every day.
    • Give a dust bath at least a couple of times a week.

  • Come up with a final list of whom to show, and register these gerbils for the show.
  • Put your kennel into quarantine. Look every night at the tank to make sure that there are no mites."
  • Get into the habit of taking the gerbils that you will show out a few times a week to go over them like a judge would. Use hand sanitizer first so that they get used to the smell.
  • Order medium-sized Kritter Keepers from That Pet Place before they are sold out from all of the other AGS members buying them!

  • Print out all of the show information, including the hotel and show site, the quarantine form, the show schedule, and important phone numbers.
  • Bathe gerbils who will be shown in warm water using a fine layer of Head & Shoulders shampoo. Spot-clean with hydrogen peroxide any stains, especially on white bellies. Rinse thoroughly in warm water. Blow dry and then leave in front of a space heater on 80 degrees until completely dry.
  • Give a dust bath every day.
  • Handle every day for a couple of minutes before feeding.

  • Bring their normal food and water from home and give plenty of both before the show.
  • Give one last dust bath in their regular housing the morning of the show.
  • Get all of the show pens ready to go. Affix the labels (get these from the show secretary) to the pens and add fresh litter (judges prefer Carefresh Ultra). Add a carrot or celery (not apple or cucumber or other “wet” fruit!) and a big handful of food.
  • Pop the gerbils into their show pens right before they need to go on the judging table.
  • Give them a kiss on the head and tell them to shine.
  • Place your gerbils on the appropriate show table. As the show secretary if you have questions.

Good luck!!

Quick Links: Pup Development

Compiled by Kylee Dickey

Day-By-Day Photos Of Pup Development


Sexing Pups


Nutmeg Development


Breeding Guidelines


_________________THE PUP PAGES___________________

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

Dear Ruth,

I got two new gerbil pups from a breeder. I want to show them in the New England Show. What do I have to do?
— Emily, age 7

Dear Emily,

It depends on what class you are showing your gerbils in. To show gerbils in the Pet Class, all you need to do is show up at the showwith your gerbils. You don't even need to be an AGS member.

However, if you want to show gerbils in the breed show, you must be an AGS member first. After becoming one, you need to register your gerbils in the AGS. Then you have to register for the show.

To prepare for the show, you should set up a show box (Critter Keeper, size medium) for each gerbil, and fill it with bedding. You need to include a water source, such as a carrot. Because the gerbil will be in the show box all day, they must have a water source. Then put one gerbil in each box. If both gerbils are in the Pet Class, you can keep them in one box together.

Whether you get a ribbon or not, you will certainly have a blast. The show is always a great chance to meet other gerbil lovers and see other cute gerbils!

Hope that helps!
— Ruth

Dear Ruth,

I have been doing a science experiment on gerbils. We made a box with two compartments. One always has a treat to eat and the other has nothing. Over a period of about two months and with two gerbils, it seemslike one gerbil goes to the treat more frequently than the other. But I am not really sure if that gerbil is trained or not.

Can gerbils be trained?
— Anna, age 9

Dear Anna,

Gerbils could theoretically be trained, though I have never seen it done. However, if you want to try, I would suggest by starting with things that gerbils naturally do, like standing on their hind legs. From past experience with my rats and cat, I would say that the most effective way to do that would be to hold a seed above their head and say, “Stand.” Keep in mind that gerbils don't have very big stomachs and will quickly get bored. You could also try taking them out of their cage as a reward.

If you want a pet that will do more complex tricks, like an obstacle course, get a rat. No offense to gerbils, but rats are probably the most intelligent rodent, or close to it. My personal experience is that they catch on very quickly to training, and in fact, one of mine can do an obstacle course.

Nevertheless, gerbils are quite smart, too, and might learn to do tricks. After teaching beg and come, you could try other “gerbilly” behaviors, such as chew or dig. Whether it works or not, give it a try, and your gerbils will certainly enjoy playing with you and, of course, eating seeds!

Good luck!

Please write to  askruth@agsgerbils.org with your questions about gerbils.

From The Bookshelf:
Usborne First Pets: Gerbils, by Laura Howell (2005)

Usborne First Pets: GerbilsReview by Caroline H., age 9

Usborne First Pets: Gerbils is a wonderful book for children, with bright, adorable pictures that illustrate the gerbil care ideas summarized on that page. It also has color pictures of gerbils. The facts in this book are accurate, and I like the way some gerbil-related Internet addresses are printed on the pages. The captions are well-thought out. Also, the tips in this guide are, too, very accurate. Flipping through this book, my eyes are drawn to the section headings, all of which are short and to the point.

I favor this book over other simple gerbil books because it is perfect for younger pet owners, with its easy-to-understand text and informative captions. However, I do not approve of the way this book makes it seem that pet stores are the best option for acquiring gerbils. Occasionally someone will get lucky, but in my experience with pet store-bought gerbils, they are nippy and aggressive. Overall, I think if you are looking for a quick, cheap, and simple guide to the care of gerbils, this is the choice for you!



Guest Artists and Authors

What is more exciting than new classroom pets? Mrs. Davies' multiage class (Grades 1 and 2) has owned gerbils for several years. After the passing of two of the original three, the class got two new gerbils in January. (Their remaining gerbils Crystal Sparkle, went into retirement with her great-niece Cynthia at Shawsheen River Gerbils.) Here's the story of new gerbils in the classroom as reported by the kids.

Artwork by Kyle
Outfitting the tank just right is very important.
(Artwork by Kyle)
Wowie! We got new gerbils in our class. They are very little. They are brothers. Both of them are males. One of them is grey, and the other one is brownish-grey. The gerbils are six weeks and they are very cute. They are also rather nice.

Baby gerbils are called pups. Gerbils have long tails and four legs. Gerbils can be any color. They have claws on all four feet. Gerbils usually sleep all day.

Gerbils are a great class pet. Our old gerbils were very good chewers, and I hope our new gerbils are great, too.

When we got the gerbils, they ran and they played. They run on the wheel, and they eat corn. They keep peeking out of their house.

The gerbils were delivered to school just before we are about to get ready to go home. Mrs. Hanna came in to our class with Caroline her daughter. Caroline told us about the gerbils.

There is a job in our class when two kids get to take care of the gerbils. We are going to vote on the names. I and a ton of other kids are voting on the names Thunderbolt and Lightning.
by Melanie, Alyssa, Toby, Maya, Noah, Rachel, Kyle, Elizabeth, Mia, Zaria, and Graham

As experienced gerbil owners, Mrs. Davies' class knows that things don't always go perfectly with classroom gerbils. . .

Grasshopper Buttercup's Adventure
by Gus
One afternoon we were going home after a long day of school. The next morning, we found that the gerbils were gone. We found them by the math table.

Taking Gerbils Home
by Jon
The gerbils in my classroom came to my house, and my dog thought they were an appetizer!


Getting to Know Each Other:

Myst and Silver Girl
Myst & Silver Girl of GerbilsNW. Myst lived past 4 years of age!
GerbilsNW (OR)

by Amy Paben, AGS Secretary

How I Got Interested In Gerbils
I got my first pair of gerbils in the early '70s. I had them for a year or two and then gave them to a friend. I didn't know very much about gerbils then and didn't understand when I saw them “eating” one of their babies. (Now I know that the pup had likely passed away and that they were naturally disposing of the remains.)

I didn't get back into gerbils until 1996. Our children had each had Teddy Bear hamsters. When they passed away, our son wanted dwarf hamsters, while our daughter wanted gerbils. Of course, gerbils! We got a male and a female and had pups in no time. Jo-Jo Gerbil's second litter was the subject of my daughter's 4th Grade science project. She followed the pups' development, keeping a journal and documenting their growth with pictures.

When we went online to research gerbils, I was amazed that gerbils now came in more colors! Jo-Jo was a golden agouti and his mate, Sandy, was a schimmel. Their pups were either golden agouti or schimmel. I was very interested in how to genetics worked to produce the different colors. I arranged to get a Siamese gerbil. Then I wanted a grey agouti. I was thrilled to find a dark-eyed honey at my local pet store. As a pup in one litter grew, I saw that she was black and white and practically speckled! I had a heavily mottled gerbil. Her parents were a spotted black and dark-tailed white. Why did this pup come with so many spots? I joined the Gerbil Mailing List, looking for answers. I learned how to make my own Web site; I had to put one up about gerbils! I joined the Gerbil Club of Missouri. I was just a little addicted!

Enter The AGS
I was involved when the AGS first formed and served on the first Board. However, I got out of breeding my gerbils in late 1999. My hobby had gotten out of control. More pups were being born than I could find homes for, and I found myself with over 100 gerbils! That was much more of a time commitment than I had the time to spare. I resigned my Board position and withdrew from being active with the e-list. I rehomed as many of my gerbils as I could and kept the others until they passed on. I did have just a couple of litters in 2000, and then a couple more in 2002. But sadly, my original lines died out.

MarblesMy kids were getting older, and as I had more time available, I started getting involved again. The AGS, through the efforts of Janet and Donna, was growing. Things were happening! I couldn't wait to attend an AGS Show! I finally got my wish in October 2004. Too fun! It was great meeting everyone. And since I was assisting with health inspections, I got to cuddle and hold all of the sweet critters that were there! I have attended each show since my first Midwest Show. Luckily, I was able to get some gerbils descended from my original lines back from Idaho in 2004. And when you attend an AGS Show, there are many beautiful gerbils available. Twice, through the help of a dear friend, I was able to bring some gerbils home to Oregon by airplane. This last shipment, I also got some breeding pairs of Roborovski dwarf hamsters.

My Current Role In The AGS
I serve on the Executive Board of the AGS as Secretary and handle memberships. I also became a certified Judge last year.

What's New At GerbilsNW?
Since 2000, I have been very selective about breeding. I have gerbils from show-winning lines from the Black Wolf Clan in Missouri, the Dragon Clan in Massachusetts, and ABC Gerbils in New Hampshire. I also have gerbils from the Midnight Sun Rodentry in Alaska and Bewitched Gerbils in Idaho. Keeping the gene pool of my gerbils as diverse as possible is important to me. I currently have 28 gerbils (counting five pups). I do have two or three more litters planned this year. My breeding goals are for friendly gerbils with good conformation: colorpoints, as well as extreme-mottled gerbils. I also want to keep grey agouti, slate, and dark-eyed honey gerbils in my kennel, as they are some of my favorite colors. I would dearly love for there to be an AGS Show west of the Mississippi. Someday, I want to enter one of my gerbils in an AGS Show!


Better With Age:
Tales Of Gerbils Who Grew Old Gracefully

by Judith Block, Kylee Dickey, Diane Nott & Susan Brown

Many of us in the AGS focus a lot of our energy on pups. How could we not, when there are so many of the little squeakers in a breeder's home?? ;)

However, in this issue, we'd like to take the opportunity to honor and remember some of the older gerbils who lived into their senior years and who reminded us that gerbils just grow sweeter with age.

AGS members Judith Block, Kylee Dickey, Diane Nott, and Susan Brown share stories about their outstanding senior gerbils. We gathered much of the information for this article a while ago, so sadly, these gerbils are no longer with us. However, there are still many things we can learn from the way these gerbils lived their lives and the type of care their human friends gave them.

Bacchus & Dionysius
Kennel: Knolls Gerbils (Judith Block)
Age at time of writing: Nearly 3 years, 6 months old (September 2005)

Bacchus and DionysiusWe feed all our gerbils only certified organic whole, uncooked grains and seeds (“people food”) and raw, organic, dark green leafy veggies (small pieces of kale/collard greens/dandelion greens). Sometimes they get a small piece of organic sweet potato, Hass avocado, or some cooked organic sweet peas, or a tiny piece of baked (no oil) artichoke (these are their only cooked foods). They also get Poland Spring Water in their water bottle, and each get two 8-in-1 brand Ultra Vite Vitamin/Mineral Treats (for hamsters and gerbils) each day (NO sugar, dried fruit, sweeteners, or anything artificial of any kind). They also get 1/2 tsp. organic wheat grass juice powder each day (they eat some but not all of it). They have half a cuttle bone in their cages. The cuttle bones are full of teeth marks! Our gerbils also get an organic, raw almond or walnut as a treat each week after their cage is cleaned. No sunflower seeds.

When then were much younger, Bacchus and Dionysius were amazing wheel runners and chewers (very hard cardboard tunnels). They now sleep A LOT (in each other — SO SOFT!). Sleep is VERY important (regeneration and healing can occur in sleep), but they still also exercise on the wheel (they each have their own wheel), and they chew cardboard and paper plates, though definitely not as much as they used to do. They still play together.

We believe genetics is a powerful determinant with gerbils. Both their parents died. Phoebe, their mom, died of genetic liver/kidney failure, at age 1 year, 5 months. We also gave her only organic foods. Their late father, Pan, owned by Karen Biehl, was also fantastically well-cared for and loved, and given only the best quality foods. Bacchus did have a cancerous sebaceous gland tumor removed about two years ago, but he did fine afterwards, as if it had never occurred.

We are trying to compensate for their genetic predispositions, and trying to keep them healthy, by giving them all organic, raw foods. BUT, they might also be, genetically, a throwback to their grandparents or great-grandparents, who, by genetic shuffling, did not have the genetic defects that their parents did. We have no information on this, one way or the other. We feel Bacchus and Dionysius know how deeply we love them. We are just trying to give them, as we do all our gerbils, the best, happiest life we can, and we cherish each day that we have with them!

Kennel: Twin Squeaks Gerbils (Kylee Dickey)
Lived to: Over 3 years, 9 months old

Pippi with KyleePippi, an agouti, was one of my first four gerbils. Despite coming from a pet shop and maybe not having the strongest genes, she was a healthy, friendly, outgoing gerbil who never lost her sense of wonder about the world around her. She had charisma and a really charming personality. Whenever anyone met all of my gerbils, it was Pippi who stole their heart. With all the gerbils in my home, it was always Pippi whom visitors gravitated toward.

If you had asked Pippi about the key to her long life, she probably would have told you that the key to longevity is Cheerios. But that's only because she lived for Cheerios. If Pippi were honest about it, though, I think she knew that the real secret to a long life was remaining happy and active into her senior years. Pippi enjoyed running in her exercise wheel up until the end of her life. She also made time to run around in the bathtub and crawl all over me as if I were a giant jungle gym.

I supplemented Pippi's standard food mix with Kashi Pilaf and Red River Cereal, and I'm convinced that both of these foods, made up mostly of grains, were a key factor in Pippi's long life.

After Pippi's sister Annika passed away, we felt that Pippi was too old to pair up with another gerbil. We didn't expect her to live as long as she did. We moved Pippi's tank into the main room, right next to the couch, so that she would be in the middle of things, where she'd get plenty of attention. Instead of growing lethargic and depressed after Annika's death, Pippi became more convinced than ever that she needed to remain active. She continued begging to come out of the tank, and we were always happy to give in to her begging and let her have some playtime outside of the tank.

Pippi also spent a couple of years answering kids' gerbil questions on her “Ask Pippi” Web page (now Ask Nellie & Herman), so perhaps it was the love of her many young fans around the world that gave Pippi the strength to live to such an advanced age? I'll never know for sure, but I do know that Pippi was one of the happiest gerbils I've ever known, and we can all learn something from her. The key to a long life may be to enjoy every moment we have.

Cloak & Dagger
Kennel: Heavenly Heart Gerbilry (Diane Nott)
Age at time of writing: 3 years old (November 2005)

Cloak and DaggerThese are my two senior gerbils Cloak and Dagger. Cloak is the brown one, and Dagger is black. I asked them about the secret to long gerbil life. They both agreed it was seeds. Lots of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Also good food and the occasional treat, all the cardboard they could chew, and a shoulder to climb. These two were rescue gerbils from Maggie's Hamster Rescue. They were just going on two years old when I got them. The rescue had them since they were only a couple of months old. They grew up together being the best of buds. I think they are sisters, but I am not sure. They were extremely human-friendly when I got them. Cloak came out onto my hand when I had them a few days. They both now love to come out and crawl all over me. Cloak likes to nip my fingers, but that is only because she smells food on them no matter how much I wash my hands. The only time I don't get nipped is after hand-washing some dishes. They are good girls. I learned a bunch from these two and my other two girls, Speedy and Gimpy. They are only a little over a year old. I love my “kids” so much.
Note from 2006: Speedy and Gimpy have also crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Dagger became extremely active after her partner Cloak died. She always wanted to come out to play. We gave her “out of cage” play almost every day. She died a few weeks later, but I think she was a very happy gerbil.

Stub Tail
Kennel: Gerbils R Us (Susan Brown)
Age at time of writing: Over 4 years old (November 2006)

Stub Tail will be 5 years old on December 14th. She is just a sweet, big girl. She thinks that she is a hamster with her little stub tail. She stopped having babies early. That may be part of why she's lived so long. Her mate will be 5 years old on February 26th. They are just gerbiling.
Note from 2007: Stub Tail and her mate have both since passed on, one in January 2007 and the other in February 2007.


AGS & Gerbils In The News

Compiled by Kylee Dickey

Starting with this issue, we'll include a list of links to news articles about gerbils, the AGS, or our members. If you see any news articles about any of these topics, please email me so that we can include the link in our next issue!


Recent Kennel Happenings

Compiled by Kylee Dickey

  • Katie Anastasi has joined the AGS as a youth member and established her own gerbil kennel called Cute ’N Cuddly (or CNC) gerbils. Her spotted lilac female Possum raised two litters, including five foster babies and Katie plans to show some of the gerbils she bred in the upcoming New England show.
    — Submitted by Donna Anastasi

  • Furry

    Furry (left),
    Aug. 2003 — Jan. 2007

    On January 2, 2007, we lost a really special gerbil, ABC’s BWC’s Winter Fury, or "Furry" for short. Furry was born in August 2003 at Black Wolf Clan in Kentucky. Furry was the very first mottled Siamese ever born at BWC and one of the first to distinguish himself as the progeny from show champion lines. He went on to become an important progenitor of the friendly, extreme-mottled gerbils for which Black Wolf Clan is famous.

    Furry was the winner of a very competitive pup class at the 2003 MidWest show and went to a new home in New Hampshire at ABC Gerbils. While Furry’s show career was cut short in a declanning incident, he went on to sire many beautiful offspring. He became a foundation sire at ABC Gerbils (NH) in order to breed his extreme friendliness into that line, and his offspring are part of the main breeding line at Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA), and most likely in countless other kennels.

    Furry was famous for his deep-sleeping habits, sleeping on his back with is feet sticking straight in the air. These traits were inherited from his father, Indy. Like his father, he was famous for his gerbil-gentleness, and Furry served many shifts as a “nursery gerbil,” caring for pups who needed a bit more time with a large, soft, warm, nurturing adult.

    In December 2005, he went to live in retirement at Shawsheen River Gerbils. He was always the gerbil Libby would take out to demonstrate to small children and their parents how soft and gentle a large male gerbil could be. He lived at SRG for the rest of his days and died peacefully, surrounded (in nearby tanks) by his children, grand-children and great-grandchildren.
    — Submitted by Libby Hanna

  • Happy Birthday to Black Wolf Clan's Free 2 Fly, better known as “Tag.” Tag turned three years old at the beginning of February and is still going strong. Tag has lived an exceptional life here at BWC; he is an exceptional gerbil and sire. He was the first extreme mottled born to BWC (although not the first from BWC lines tracing back to Piccasso).He has always possessed a very calm disposition toward humans and other gerbils — making him an EXCELLENT show gerbil, as well as a wonderful breeding partner and father. He has also been a wonderful uncle to many weaned pups.


    BWC's Tag, who just turned three years old

    In his early years, Tag was both a show contender and a daddy to many beautiful mottled pups. He retired from showing last spring during the NE Show after knocking out the competition and winning Best In Show, thus earning him his AGS Championship.

    Tag also retired from breeding last spring after siring one last litter of extreme mottleds and passing on his calm disposition, excellent parenting instincts, and gerbil social skills. :)     Today Tag resides with Jonde, or any number of young pups who need his strong, calm influence to show them the way. Tag is also the number one gerbil for nervous adopters to hold. He shows them how wonderful gerbils are!

    Tag's legacy continues in his son Robin, a Champion and Best In Show winner by his own right, as well as in many other offspring who are currently in BWC's breeding program. So happy birthday, Tag. . . You are very well loved.
    . . . And yes, Tag celebrated with some treats. :)
    — Submitted by Jo Kelley


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