We decided in less than an hour to bring them into our home – the Odd Couple. Phil’s Cup had disappeared…and with it the fish tank (thank goodness!) It was 1997. Big Guy had just finished Grade 1, and the small school he had been attending, was closing. These two gerbils had been the class pets, and they needed a home. No one knew what their names were so we re-named them Oscar & Felix.
Oscar & Felix were an odd couple…they did everything together. If one was drinking, the other needed to drink too. They would try to run on the wheel together. They even slept together in a twisted pile of limbs and cedar shavings.
Every Saturday morning, we set the Odd Couple free in the bathtub, and Big Guy “helped” me clean the stinky cage. We would let them run around the apartment, one at a time, in a plastic ball that spilled tiny turdlets everywhere. On the plus side, the apartment was swept clean regularly, and the bathtub was cleaned once a week (after we cleaned the gerbils, of course). We moved the cage to the bathroom at night so they incessant squeaking of their wheel wouldn’t keep us awake at night.
We made a most grisly discovery when we returned home after visiting my parents one weekend. While there were no visible signs of trauma, Oscar (or Felix – we couldn’t tell them apart), did not “go gently into that good night”. This little gerbil was lying on its back, claws in the air as if fighting an unseen enemy, eyes open. He was…stiff. The other gerbil was shaking and cowering in the corner. It was already late and we didn’t want Big Guy to see and be upset right before bed, so while he was getting changed, I held the shaking creature while Hubby disposed of the body. We put the cage in the bathroom and went to bed, steeling ourselves for tears in the morning.
The next morning, I went into Big Guy’s room early to break the bad news. I explained as gently as possible that one of his gerbils had died. I was going to explain that Dad had taken care of the body (I couldn’t say he buried it because it went in a baggie down the garbage chute…) but before I could continue, Big Guy piped up that he already saw that one of the gerbils was missing, and did Dad flush it down the toilet? I have to admit, that question kind of threw me and I didn’t quite know how to respond…Big Guy had a somewhat logical explanation for his question…we had been through so many fish “burials at sea” that he assumed all pets were “buried” this way. We can laugh about it…now!
Sadly, within a year, the other gerbil developed a tumour which it wouldn’t leave alone. Since it was hurting itself, we had to take it to a vet, and pay an exorbitant price to have it put down. Gerbils are considered an exotic pet!
He was not “buried” at sea…