Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arthur & Doyle

Two gerbils arrived in the Room about two months ago. I saw their listing on the website before I met them, and I groaned. Gerbils were a fad pet of the 1990s. These days, they are impossible to adopt out. Our last group of gerbils took over six months to find a home.
When I got to the shelter, I found two scrawny looking raggedy things, clinging to each other in a hamster cage. Gerbils are master burrowers and should really live in a tank full of shavings, but we don't really have proper accomodations for them at the shelter.
"Do you want them? Take them." James appeared at the doorway. James always tells me to take everything, so I rolled my eyes and gave my customary answer.
"No thanks." I flipped their card over. "Where did they come from? They look pretty scruffy."
"They look like crap." James concurred. "Owners left them behind in the apartment when they moved."
"Charming. And did the owners not feed them?"
"Well, no one knew they were there."

The rest of the story comes out over the next few days. These two gerbils lived in a house that also had a few pet rats. At some point, the owners decided to move, and made the oh-so-popular decision to not move their pets. The logical thing to do would be to surrender your pets to one of the five shelters in the GTA, but no. Instead, they moved out and left their animals behind, without telling anyone they were there.
In fact, no one realized they were there for over a week. Once TAS was finally called to pick them up, the situation had deteriorated. The rats were in such bad shape, they were starting to eat themselves and had to be euthanized.
Gerbils are desert animals, and they are designed to withstand a lack of food and water, so they were in better shape. However, they were thin, lethargic and their fur had seen better days. I named them Arthur and Doyle. They were gentle and friendly, and depressed.
A few days later, I was back at the shelter and talking to James again.
"Hurry up and take your gerbils." He teased.
"Honestly, I might." I admitted. "If they're not gone in a week, I might take them. I miss having gerbils."
"The vet is iffy on clearing them for adoption." He told me. "She's not sure they're healthy enough to make available."
I took them that night.
To be honest, I adopted Arthur and Doyle with the assumption that they wouldn't live very long. Doyle, the tan one, was especially thin and lethargic and I doubted he had much left in him. But the boys surprised me. They are now living in a ten gallon tank, three quarters of which is filled with shavings, and getting lots of food and cardboard to chew. And they perked up immediately. The day I brought them home, they happily set to work burrowing, more energetic than I had ever seen them at the shelter.
You know, it doesn't take much to make gerbils happy. A tank full of shavings, food, water and cardboard to chew. It's not exactly a tall order. I've had Arthur and Doyle for a month now, and I'm consistently astonished at their turn-around. In the shelter, they barely had energy to come out of their house. Now, they build spectacular tunnels and caves in their shavings and - I kid you not - they can go through a Tim Horton's cardboard coffee tray in less than an hour.
They've both put on weight and no longer look like stick figures - Arthur tends to hog the food and has actually gotten pretty chubby. Their fur is shiny and their eyes are bright. They adore each other and are constantly together, grooming each other, sleeping together or chewing on either side of a cardboard toy. They're happy now. And I'm not saying that to brag about my mad gerbil caring skills. It's not rocket science. As human beings, we create these little guys for our entertainment. They ask for so little in order to live a happy life, it's really the least we can do.
This is my favourite photo from our recent photo shoot. So adorable!

I'm sure the boys' ordeal has had some effect on them, and they may not end up living very long. It doesn't really matter to me how much time they have left. They've joined my crazy household, and here they will stay.


selkie said...

bless you for taking them - I have to admit, gerbils are my LEAST favourite rodent - we had one and I swore never again! My heart breaks for the poor rats that must have sat there starving, frightened and wondering when their people were coming home. what is WRONG with people?? Even the animals I've read abuot here dumped in boxes, in paper bags, at least they are put somewhere they ahve a chance to be found! I hope karma exists, I really do.

andrea said...

I LOVE gerbils ...

my first adoption was a gerbil a neighbour wanted to "get rid of" so mum and dad agreed I could have him ...named him TJ (for That Gerbil- I didn't spell well back in grade 2)and adored him ...

thanks for taking them home