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May 8, 2005

Gerbil Wedding

We bought Jennifer a pet gerbil named Snuggles shortly after I started working locally. I’d promised her a pet, and she eventually settled on a gerbil. I’d told her stories of how I raised gerbils, and they’d had babies, and those babies grew up to have babies. When we brought Snuggles home, she began to show some concerns I had not anticipated.

“I don’t want Snuggles to get pregnant, daddy.?

“Well, I don’t think there’s any danger of that angel.?

“Why, daddy. How do you know??

“She can’t get pregnant alone, baby. There has to be a daddy gerbil to get the momma pregnant.?

“Oh. OK, daddy.?

Pure as the driven snow, she was blissfully unaware of the birds and the bees.

Over time, we acquired a larger aquarium, and then an inordinate amount of Habitrail tubes and various other cages until we could scarcely find Snuggles in her habitat. Jennifer’s aversion to gerbil pregnancy disappeared like snow in the springtime, and the day after we set up the Habitrail tubes, we went to Petsmart and purchased a large, black male gerbil which Jennifer dubbed Midnight.

When I put him into the cage, they eventually found each other and briefly touched noses, probably attempting to identify each other by smell, in some poorly understood rodent ritual.

Jennifer promptly snatched Snuggles from the cage, held her aloft, and began scrutinizing her intensely.

“What’cha doin’, Angel??

“Looking to see if she’s fatter…if she’s pregnant.?

“Well, to get pregnant, they’re going to have to do more than touch noses, OK baby??

“OK, daddy.? And she returned Snuggles to the cage.

I wasn’t sure how they’d get along. I figured they’d fight a little before they settled down into a state of domestic civility. No man likes to say goodbye to his bachelorhood unnecessarily, and Midnight was no exception.

The fur flew in brief pitched rodent battles. I kept checking to see if either of them was missing an ear or a foot, but I could never see any obvious damage aside from unruly, ruffled fur. Jennifer was horrified, but I explained to her that they might fight a little initially, but that they’d get used to living together. I wasn’t sure this would be true, but I had a 14 day warranty on Midnight, and, if Snuggles killed him, I figured I could at least get my nine dollars back.

Anyway, I figured that Snuggles would eventually accept Midnight. She just had to emasculate him first, and it would sort itself out over time.

Surprisingly, Snuggles began to chase Midnight around the gerbil complex, climbing on top of him.

“There, daddy! They got on top of each other. Now Snuggles is pregnant!? Jennifer proclaimed. She’d finally solved this whole pregnancy puzzle, and she was so proud.

“Well, not so fast there, sweetie. She can’t climb on top of him and get pregnant. Midnight has to get on top of Snuggles to get her pregnant.?

I wasn’t 100% sure of the gerbils’ genders. Oddly, neither were they, as it turned out. Probably because they were both immature, and trying to figure out exactly how everything was supposed to work.

Over the next few days, they eventually got their respective anatomies under control. Midnight would mount Snuggles from behind, and she’d stretch out until she was about an inch longer. They’d mate briefly, then lick themselves profusely.

“Is Snuggles pregnant now, daddy??

“She might be. They’ve definitely figured out how to make baby gerbils. Now, it’s just a matter of time before she can get pregnant. Now, we’ll just have to watch her to see if she gets fatter.?

Jennifer began to give away the gerbils to all of the neighborhood kids.

“If she has 20, then Eric can have six, and Allie can have 4, and I can have five, and Cayley can have two.?

“Well, she won’t have 20, baby. I think that they usually have five or six babies.?

“Will she have them tomorrow??

“Have what??

“The baby gerbils??

“No, baby. It takes about two months I think.?

“Awwww.?

One day, she attempted to catch Midnight by his tail. I'd sworn to her that she couldn't hurt him by grabbing his tail, but I knew better than to tempt fate by grabbing the very end of it. Apparently, suffered no similar delusions.

She pinned the very tip of his tail. Midnight, fearing for his life, pulled his tail in two, climbing for all his worth up the habitrail. Jennifer was left with about an inch and a quarter of black tail. Midnight sat in the clear Habitrail tube, spurt bleeding through his tail. Jennifer, mortified, crying hysterically, hid underneath her desk.

I convinced her that he was fine, and that he'd live, although he'd be somewhat harder to catch, as he was now a rare breed of short-tailed gerbil. My plan was to replace him and convince her that his tail grew back. But, eventually, she accepted that his tail would just be shorter, and she liked him that way. Sort of the same way one would bob the tail of a Doberman.

“We have to have a Gerbil Wedding.? She announced a few days later.

I was about to swallow my tongue. Like...the last thing this world needs is more bastard gerbils. Let's do the decent thing and have a freaking Mississippi-style shotgun wedding for these two gerbils.

We can give them each a mealworm for a ring, and then a mealworm wedding cake. We can have it next Saturday. What time can we have it??

“We can do it at noon.?

“At one o’clock?? she clarified.

“No, angel. Noon is at 12:00, but we can do it at 1:00. Whenever you want it.?

So, the next Saturday, she got up and straightened her hair, put on some white Easter shoes about six sizes too large, her Easter dress, and a slip that should fit her when she’s in high school.

The main ceremony involved putting them in a clear glass bowl and them exchanging rings (mealworms), which is a gerbil’s favorite treat, as it turns out. It’s a little unnerving watching a gerbil eat a meal that’s struggling intently to escape, as it’s being devoured alive.

Normally the gerbils scamper around like jumping beans in a warm skillet. But, give them a mealworm, and they lapse into a vegetative state like Sleestacks, oblivious to the world around them. You could stack them in columns without much difficulty, so long as the meal worms last.

So, it’s official, they’re now married, enjoying their honeymoon in domestic tranquility.

http://www.agsgerbils.org/Gerbil_Care_Handbook/breeding.html

Posted by Peenie Wallie on May 8, 2005 at 1:21 PM

Comments

I'm glad to see that Snuggles doesn't judge Midnight or love him any less for his disability (short tail). I think we could all learn a lesson in unconditional love from Snuggles! Congratulations!!!

Posted by: Carol on May 9, 2005 at 4:59 PM

Hallye wants you to resend the picture of Jennifer in the habitrail. I can't find it in my files. Thanks!

Posted by: Meeks on May 16, 2005 at 8:08 AM

The picture is so cute. Midnight's tail looks like it's just fine. Any baby gerbils yet?

Posted by: Rob on August 2, 2005 at 8:20 AM

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