This was my first up close and personal experience with a gerbil since childhood, when my sister had a Habitrail occupied by several gerbils. Or rather it was several to begin with...then several more...and then several more. This past weekend we were trying to recall how many gerbils occupied the Habitrail during its population peak. I remembered 17 but my sister remembered closer to 30. Either way, it was a lot. Strangely enough, I don't recall either of our parents batting an eye at hordes of gerbils living in my sister's room.
I was reminded this weekend how much I like gerbils. They are such social and inquisitive little creatures. We were in the TV room one night, and I was sitting in the bean bag chair holding Butter. He was perfectly at ease, sitting up on his hind legs and looking around as if it were the most natural thing in the world to watch TV in the palm of a giant.
We put a sign up on the door to the TV room, lest there be any doubt regarding who is, and who is not, welcome.
Part way through the weekend, it was decided that Butter looked lonely. At his last home, he'd recently lost his friend. So after some Internet research about gerbil compatibility, we went in search of a new friend. A new MALE friend, to avoid a repeat of our childhood experience. However the intended quick trip to the pet store turned into something of a gerbil quest as we discovered that finding a male gerbil isn't as easy as it sounds. For one thing, it turns out that pet supply stores are either "male" stores, or "female" stores. We'd shown up at a female store.
The clerk called around to the other male stores, and managed to locate precisely ONE male gerbil in the county. The fact that a large urban metropolitan county could have only one male gerbil in its midst came as something of a surprise to me. It also added a degree of suspense and urgency to the trip out to the other store. As we wove in and out of traffic, I kept thinking of that background music from the Wizard of Oz where the old woman is riding on her bicycle with Toto. We were on an errand of good will, but nevertheless, it seemed to fit.
And the result of all this running around? Junior!! His name was chosen on the way home, after various other names were ruled out. I liked "Peanut" (Peanut + Butter...get it??). And Pepper was a close contender, seeing as how the new gerbil is black. Olive was briefly considered for the same reason (Black Olive), but we decided Olive is a girl's name. My sister suggested "Leroy," which was my personal favorite. A gerbil named Leroy - hilarious!! In the end, Junior got the most votes. And it fits. He looks like a Junior, don't you think?
If Junior looks wet in the photo below, it's because the pet store clerk suggested that we spray each gerbil lightly with water before introducing them. She claimed it would help minimize their scent, thus increasing the likelihood of a successful introduction. I've never given a gerbil a shower before, and I might have gotten a bit carried away with the spray bottle. I guess I was erring on the side of caution since I didn't want to intervene in a gerbil brawl.
After it was obvious that they were going to get along fine, we tried to dry them off a bit, and brought a lamp over to the tank for extra warmth. They spent the rest of the evening getting acquainted, and aside from one minor disagreement, everything went hunky dory.
Welcome to Butter and Junior, the newest members of the family!