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The Stealth Gerbils
This is Me. Me is 5 month old male gerbil who DEMANDED that I take him home one day. Me had been sold back to a petstore by his previous owners. Me is afraid of absolutely nothing, even sitting on his hind legs to sniff the cat's nose (the cat, by the way, fled). Me is very demanding about getting attention and looooves to have his forehead rubbed, sitting still with half-closed eyes in complete bliss. That was how he caught my attention in the pet store. The whole thing went kinda like this...

Hey, you.... yeah, you in the leather jacket... over here.... in the bin. Yeah, that's right... here... the only gerbil here... yeah, me, with the white spot on my head... pet my nose. Oh, yeah, that's right, rub my forehead... hey, don't stop, keep rubbing my head.... HEY, COME BACK HERE!... YEAH, YOU! That's right, come back over here... pet my nose...NO DON"T YOU DARE WALK AWAY! Yeah, right, come back. Right here, pay attention to me. Me. ME! MEMEMEMEMEME! Yeah, you better take me home. Damn right. (wimp).

A week after I got Me, I decided to adopt another gerbil to keep him company. Gerbils are very social animals and do better when there is another. In fact, they can become very depressed when kept by themselves. Males are very protective of young gerbil "pups", so I went looking for a baby.

This is Smokey. He is only a few weeks old. Smokey and Me hit it off quickly, with Me pinning the baby down with a paw on his forehead and giving him a serious face-wash ("Hey kid... didn't your Ma ever teach you to wash your ears?"). He even rolls Smokey over to ruffle his tummy. They now share a cage and sleep piled on top of each. It is hard to get a good picture of him, because he is such a dark glossy color. He is black, with a white strip from nose to belly and white front paws.

And yes, they are very curious, and not at all camera-shy.

Me in a coffee cup, one of their favorite items. (of course, they'd love a coffee cup, considering how much I love coffee... after all, I'm the one who named a rabbit Coffee...). Me will actually ride around IN the cup, sometime preferring that over being carried. And the baby looooves to roll in the bottom of the cup, over and over, waving his paws in the air.

Would you like some coffee with that gerbil, ma'am?

Update 6/7/02
Last week, we discovered that my gerbil Me was actually a She-Me. We may be expecting a litter of baby gerbils at the end of June.
Since She-Me and I have bonded well, I met with a breeder yesterday and swapped my male Smokey for a female pup. The last I saw Smokey, he was in a 20 gallon tank, being buried under a pile of about a dozen baby gerbils that were gleefully using him for a jungle gym, as well as giving him a bath at the same time (including one baby who had a firm grip on the tip of Smokey's tail as he washed it.). Smokey was in heaven.
This is the female pup that came home with me, named Itty Bitty, because she is. In the second picture, you can see that she is the size of a large paperclip.

On June 24, 2002, She-Me had five babies.
Here they are, less than a day old:

7/1/02: Here they are at one week old. The colors are in!
One solid black, like daddy
Two tan and white like mommy
Two black and white -- the perfect blending of both parents.

She-Me is a great mommy! Other than the first day jitters, when she moved them five times, she has settled down. Once we even had a great example of inter-species communication: One of the babies had rolled out of the nest. I patted Me and pointed out the baby to her, and she ran right over and carried it back inside the nest. She lets me peek in the nest, although she does hover nearby, and once when I peeked too long, she tugged me away. This morning, she let me watch them nurse, in exchange for a piece of cereal. She sat up on her hind legs to eat the cereal, while piling all the babies in front of her in kind of a pyramid so they all could reach. Me doesn't seem to worry about leaving them for short times while she stretches her legs in the playground with IttyBitty.

Next week, they should be running around and tiring Momma out completely as she tries to keep them in the nest. More pictures then!!

7/6/02 -- they are 12 days old! They are starting to escape the nest. Momma pops 'em back in just as fast as they tumble out, and they tumble out just as fast as she pops 'em in. Here they are on their first outting as a group (to a blanket on the floor):

And here are the introductions:

This is Peanut and Butter. I'm fairly certain that Butter is female and Peanut is male.

This is Pepper, and I'm pretty sure he's male

This is Salt (the black and white) and Licorice (the solid black). Both males.

Week Three: The babies figured out they can climb over the top of the nest and out. Here was poor momma trying to blockade the door, while the babies were climbing out over the top and waterfalling down on top of her. She's still trying to plug the entrance, but the li'l guys just kept tumbling over. The blacks are definately the inquisitive ones, taking after Momma, while the tans are more like Daddy and aren't the explorers of the bunch. The blacks were so proud of themselves for figuring out the alternate escape route, and bounced around the rest of the cage, tails up and quivering with excitement, and I couldn't stop laughing (and oh, how I needed that laugh!). I am constantly amazed on how well they maneuver, while still blind. Last night, I peeked in, and there was a cardboard toilet paper tube standing up on its end, and just as I looked in, Salt popped up and out from the top end.
We had a near disaster... while taking the babies out for a romp on the floor on their blanket, I dropped Peanut. He wiggled right up over my wrist, and I couldn't move fast enough to catch him. Out of a whole room of carpet, he fell on the metal register, nose first. I was devestated to find him bleeding from his nose and rasping with every breath. I bundled him up and rushed him to the emergency vet (less than a mile down the street). They listened to his lungs and heart and said everything sounded good. He was active and wiggling and had good color, and there wasn't any further bleeding. The doc said he probably had a simple nose bleed, and it wasn't internal bleeding like I had feared. He was so tiny, that she had to put him ON the stethascope, rather than put the scope on him (he protested, wiggling furiously and let out a loud SQUEAK!). He was weighed and was 10 grams. This morning, he is fine and romping with the others. The doc was so sweet, and the whole staff turned out to see the tiny baby and coo-ed over his cuteness. He spent the entire time dozing in my hand, waking up to yawn, stretch, and look for the food spigot... failing to find that, he'd fall back asleep. He even sat up in my hand and tried to wash his face, but his balance is far from perfect yet, and he rolled over and fell asleep again before he could wiggle back to his feet. They fall asleep in about three seconds (I envy them that), and even dream! I see their little feet and whiskers twitching. Also, yesterday, I found that if I touched Peanut's ear with my fingertip, and his back foot would start going, like a dog when you find that right spot on his chest to scratch. It was a bonding experience, but there's gotta be a better way to bond than at the emergency vet.
End of Week Three: Their eyes open! Oh, what a big new world is out there, and they are loving every minute of exploring it... in ten minute increments, as they tend to fall asleep almost literally where they stand.
Poor Momma has just about all she can do to keep up with them. Here she is trying to catch a quick nap.

But moms never get rest for long. As soon as she closed her eyes, here came the babies, all wanting a snuggle and a snack.

Once the babies were settled, she tried again... only to have IttyBitty make her way in. Even with IttyBitty's tail in her face, she tried again...

Yes, here we have it... seven gerbils in a coffee mug!

July 15, 2002 The babies are about the size of a quarter, (not counting the tails). They are so fuzzy that they are beginning to resemble a dandelion going to seed. They are bouncing and into EVERYTHING, with an endless amount of curiousity.
Playground nap:

July 17, 2002
Here are all five. Clockwise from top: Salt, Licorice, Butter, Peanut, and Pepper in the middle

Here are Salt, Pepper, and Butter, with "Aunt" IttyBitty. IttyBitty is only about a month and a half older than the babies.

Here is Peanut. As you can see, he has suffered no ill effects from his fall of last week.

This is Pepper.

Here is IttyBitty, Butter, and Salt.

Here is Salt. I was trying to get a picture that shows off his coloring well, as he looks rather like an Australian Shephard. Unfortunately, they are in the "pinball" stage, which means they can't sit still for more than a couple of seconds at a time.

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