WRITTEN BY JANET MORROW | EDITED BY JENNIFER PARLATI

Up here, in Hicksville, I print off a ton of posters, and plaster the town with them. Then I start on neighboring communities. No town within an hours drive is safe! With all this driving and advertising I can usually find homes for my one breeding pair’s pups.

How did I catch “Gerbil Fever? ” Back in 1986 when my daughter, Sharon, asked for gerbils for Christmas; I had no idea that fifteen years later I would be so involved in the gerbil community. The first pair we purchased were two nice little boys. You have all heard of them… The kind you have to rename later; ours soon became Ricky and Lucy. They were excellent parents, and I was impressed at how loving and devoted they were. They had pups every forty to forty-five days for the next two years, and “mom ”was hooked on the little critters.

Two years ago, I discovered the American Gerbil Society. I still remember mentioning my involvement with the American Gerbil Society at my daughter’s sixth grade parent teacher conference. The teacher nearly fell of her chair, she was laughing so hard. What a ridiculous idea – a national society for gerbil owners.

My first two ‘exotic’ gerbils, not black or Agouti, were Jo-Jo, a Lilac, and Hanna, an Argente Cream. With no breeders in the area my husband, daughter, and I traveled down state in search of gerbils. We had seen an ad in the Buy, Swap, and Sell Guide for gerbils, and it was only a four hours drive.

When we arrived at tiny trailer we were not allowed in. The rodents we were told were kept in the back bedroom. He brought out several ten-gallon tanks ’packed’ with gerbils. There were between ten and fifteen gerbils in each tank. They literally had no room to turn. Their fur was greasy, and there were bald spots on the tail. Not knowing what to do we picked two gerbils from the over stocked ’pup’ tank and left.

When we got home I called the State of Maine Animal Warden’s office. After telling them about the appalling conditions these animals were living in; they said they would go out and have a look.

Two days later they called to let me know that the man was not breaking any laws. He had over 400 rodents — gerbils, rats, mice, and hamsters — in one small room of the trailer. The tanks were stacked floor to ceiling on top of each other. The conditions were ’over crowded,’ but he did provide food and water. The warden’s office explained that there is no law in Maine that regulates the living conditions of rodents, except that they have to have food and water. He could stuff as many gerbils into one tank as he wanted to, and it was not considered abuse.

This angered me, and started my serious work with the American Gerbil Society. As the current President I want to move the AGS into a position of respect and authority in the animal rights community. Rodents deserve the same rights and protection that are afforded to cats, dogs, and other pet animals. I believe that if we truly care enough about gerbils/rodents to consider purchasing one, then we should care about the laws that govern their humane care and treatment.

Well, off my soapbox and back to my gerbils. Jo-Jo and Hanna, my rescue gerbils, turned out to be incredibly sweet, in spite, of or perhaps because of, having been saved from a horrid existence. They had wonderful healthy litters of Golden Argentes, Argente Creams, Lilacs, and Doves. We still have three of their pups in our large tank; sisters Dawn, Twilight, and Dusk. Two are the gerbils on the AGS logo.

We currently have one breeding pair. Polar Bear, our male is a REW with a great set of genes! (aa chcb Ee Gg pp spsp) His companion Honey Bear is a Silver Nutmeg. (aa Ccb ee gg PP Spsp) Together they create wonderful pups. They devotedly tend their pups, and allow me to inspect and pat the pups from day one. Living in Northern Maine, with a limited market, I enjoy breeding variety.

Two tanks are kept on my desk on either side of my computer. This provides me with a diversion from my work. My gerbils and I love to play. Our favorite game is king of the mountain. I’m the mountain. From the time the pups can climb out of their nest box they follow mom and dad up my arm. I love the look on the pups face the first time they climb all the way to the top, and come eye to eye with “me.”

Honey gave birth to her third litter as I wrote this. When I peeked in the nesting box I saw six tiny pink pups. The miracle of life! So, here I sit at my computer surrounded by gerbils eight to my left and four to my right, and loving every moment of it.

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