Mercury.

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Mercury. I just did not expect to lose you so young. I do not know what happened. I cannot even fathom the last 48 hours. I am so heartbroken. I don’t know if I can ever get more rodents after this. You leave behind Lennon who is absolutely lost without you. I cannot even write a proper memorial because I am just absolutely in shock.

I named you after one of my favorite musicians. Freddie Mercury from Queen. A man I’ve never met but who was obviously a warm, loving, gentle, and talented soul. And who died too young as well. And with so much left to do left undone. A talented treasure just taken from us all. You were a proper namesake.

My 4 year old is so confused by death of late. He asked if you would come back. He said he didn’t want you to go. He said that you cannot go away because you and Lennon are happy together. That you cannot leave Lennon alone. That you are Lennon’s brother and brothers stick together. Like he and his brother. Then he asked if his brother would get sick like Mercury and he like Lennon would be left behind. And it absolutely broke my heart. How your death impacts us. How it touches the heart of a small child. How it hurts this heart of mine.

In the last days Lennon mothered you. He groomed you. He slept on top of you. He held you in his gerbil way. Watching this unfold was the most anguishing thing I’ve ever seen with animals. So human this devotion of one to another. And then Lennon buried you. You were still breathing but just barely. But he knew. He had finally said his goodbye. I dug you out and held you. Held you to my chest. Held you for hours. Using the dropper to hydrate you with water. Then made a warm cloth nest for you in a smaller container to keep near me. For two days you held on like this. In this state of limbo. Like a coma truth be told. Like you were only sleeping. Deeply sleeping. Picking you up and giving you water. Hoping you’d rouse. That you were only just in the worst of the illness and would improve at any time.

Denial perhaps. I don’t know. But now you are resting in finality by the peach tree in the back yard.

“Who wants to live forever?

Who dares to love forever?

When love must die.

….

Who wants to live forever,
Who wants to live forever,
Forever is our today,
Who waits forever anyway?”

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Mercury is Ill.

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At this point the picture was taken Mercury was absolutely exhausted from spinning and rolling constantly and collapsed. He is in the carrier in the examination room at the Vets. You can see the pain in his face.

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I’m emotionally drained. Yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t seen Mercury out that morning or the evening before. I looked into his cage and saw him sleeping on top of the substrate. Which was unusual but I figured he was just taking a rest. They are getting older and all.

After an hour or so I came back in from outside with the kids and saw that he had not moved. I was alarmed. I had seen him breathing but what if he was dying? I peered in and when he woke by my scent or sound he began turning around in clockwise circles.

And didn’t stop. And then he was going so fast and getting so exhausted he flipped over and began rolling like an alligator death roll. I had never heard of or seen anything like this before and I began to panic. And then I began to cry. Because I thought he was dying. Having some sort of violent fit before he died. I just had no idea what to think other than he was in trouble.

Gerbils live to be 3 or 3.5 years on average. So they just turned two this month and I couldn’t understand how a gerbil who has always been robust and healthy and a species that is actually usually quite illness free – would be at 2 suddenly having violent fits.

I packed him and Lennon (not wanting to separate them) in the carrier and with my kids we drove down to the nearest vet clinic as a walk in. Luckily they fit me in with their exotics vet. It was a long agonizing wait but at least we were going to be seen that day.

She held him firm with a towel and checked his ears for infection or tumors. Checked inside his mouth. She noticed his teeth had gotten a little long due to this condition probably. And that one of his molars was crooked. Which she figured was probably a deformity. She noted that his eye on the side he tilted down (his left side of his head) was crusted shut and the entire area looked swollen.

So, she said that she didn’t suspect a tumor but an infection. Though it didn’t appear to be in his inner ear but his eye. But I don’t know. It seems like this infection is pretty bad and cannot just be located in his eye.

She sent us home with antibiotics and eye drops and I administer it twice a day with droppers. Antibiotics orally and the eye drops are really difficult because I have to ungook his eye and drop it in just right and that is so difficult when I can barely hold him still as he is flipping and turning and rolling so violently and agile that he managed to get free of my grip and even hit the floor. Not from that high a height as I was sitting but still. It was terrified and upset all over again because what if he gets better from the infection just to have brain trauma due to my inability to hold him properly?

At this point I’m sleep deprived because I get up all night to see if he has shown any signs of getting better. He seems to have stopped spinning and rolling AS much as he was yesterday but it’s still often and I’m still incredibly worried. If he isn’t better in a couple more days I might have to have him put to sleep because I cannot take it anymore. It looks like torture. He’s so exhausted because he cannot seem to stop turning and rolling. It is horrible to watch and as he does this he’s hitting the sides of the bin and whatever else is around. There is no way this isn’t painful for him.

I worry the infection is all in his brain. At the same time I do not want to give up hope. I do not want him to die already. He is 2 which would be a long life for a hamster. Or a normal span. But for a Gerbil – they are still pretty much middle aged. So, it’s too soon. Unexpected. It came on so fast too. To go from the way he was to this. Unless he’s been doing this for awhile but in such a lesser degree that it went unnoticed. Such as he only did it when he was down in the burrows. I don’t stare at my gerbils all day. I’m busy. So, it is easy to imagine this has been going on for awhile and I only noticed when it got so terrible he was doing it constantly and vacating his burrow due to it.

The worst part of it all if there could be is how upset his brother is. Lennon is protective of him. Confused. He tries to hold him down sometimes. He grooms him or tries too. He looks up at me like “What is happening mom? What is wrong with my brother?” It give me anguish. Gerbil owners know how attached litter mates are to one another. Gerbils become depressed when they lose their litter mate. It’s something I worry about a lot.

Lennon would be torn up if Mercury dies. I just hate this. I love my hamsters and I’ve lost 3 of them now. But somehow my adoration for my gerbils is at a higher degree than I knew. The anguish I felt and the tears I shed in those moments of panic seeing him that way surprised me greatly. Not that I”m surprised to have a loving, caring heart. But this was somehow so different than other times.

For some reason the day I brought those gerbils home I became so enamored by them. I am particularly attached to them. I don’t know if I could ever have more gerbils after these two go because I don’t think I could stand going through losing more of them.

And the same goes with Bob sometimes. Bob is intensely important to me. I’m very bonded with him. I don’t know what I’ll do when he goes. He’s over 2 now.  I think about it a lot.

It’s so unfair how short their life spans are when they are cared for so well and given so much love and good nutrition and safe from predators and most diseases and such.

Anyway, just some thoughts I feel the last two days. I just hope he pulls through. I just expected the meds to work faster. It’s a 2 week ordeal with the antibiotics so maybe I’m being unrealistic about it.

They’ve come a long way

 photo (2) The gerbils haven’t been in a playpen in too long. Rectifying that ASAP. They had a ball in here for an hour. I did a few switcharoos in there. Decided to get them to try out a Flying Saucer. Lennon attempted a few times but gave up. They are just not exercise toy Gerbils.

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When I first brought home these brothers they were completely terrified of humans. They had been kept in the back of a store room in a TINY container with a chewed up plastic igloo house and a sprinkle of wood shavings. They were completely unfamiliar with people.

It took over a year and a half for them to truly become tame. I didn’t want to rush them. When I tried to at any given time it would upset them so much that they would back peddle. I realized that I would have to let them be. Just as they were. And I still adored them no matter what. Oh, they would come up to take treats from my fingers gladly and unafraid. But try to touch them and *zoom*. But something changed. It seemed almost overnight they were slowing down. Not easy to startle. Gained some weight. I thought – what the heck! – and attempted to pick one of them up. No trying to bolt. Just sort of letting it happen. I then gently placed them down and would attempt again every day. To the point where I was able to cradle them in my arms for a moment. Always giving them a treat they love (yogies) afterward.

So, nowadays it’s a new thing to be able to let them into playpens without it traumatizing them.

They’ve come a long way. I’m so proud of them!

Busy!!

20140715-172226-62546695.jpg I feel terrible that I am letting my blog go to the wayside. Our move is approaching quickly and just so much other life related things but I miss my space here!! All my critters are well. The gerbils bin was not safe enough. As their substrate got higher they were reaching a curve and groove at the top and gnawing on it. I broke down and got a Really Useful Box for a cheap $14 dollars with Amazon points. Normally for this size (64 litre maybe? I cannot remember!) it is about $26. Not bad for such a well made, thick and sturdy box. The inside is smooth and flat with no grooves for the boys to gnaw on. I hadn’t planned for the topper (a cage top to a small commercial cage) to fit so perfectly on top of the lid. As if it was made to sit there. This is smaller than the last but they have slowed down a lot. ( I will have had them for 2 years in September I think) It will do well for our travel over halfway across the country and for the limbo before and after the road trip. My sweeties before the cage change.

 

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Kabobs always a hit with the gerbils

It’s been too long since I showed off my gerbil boys! Lennon and Mercury. Or made a post about them in general. I am around them the most of my rodents and yet I post the least about them!

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My gerbils are often bored. I seem to not take enough time coming up with new enrichment for them. But let me tell you! I cannot find a decent gerbil forum to save my life. One that actually talks about set ups and toy making. Ideas!!! I need ideas! Gerbil communities seem to focus on breeding. There seems to be less discrimination in these forums and groups I find for most matters. They aren’t as concerned about gerbil nutrition either. Pretty much they love their gerbils. This is very obvious. But it doesn’t make for much of an educational, inspirational or helpful group. It’s another “hey look at my cute gerbil babies” group.

SO I really have to google long and hard on images to get ideas for gerbil enrichment other than toilet paper/loo rolls. Find nothing! So I just stick to the kabob toy as a standby. I made an assortment of chews for them. And last minute cut a cup out of an egg carton and put Cheerios and yogies inside it for them to work to get to. It was a hit! I like how polite my boys are. They always take turns.

October 2013 Cages of the Rodents of Hammy Happenings Tour!

Alrighty! October’s Cage Tours of all my rodent babies. And of course – pictures of my rodent babies! All of these pictures were taken today and tonight except the one of Bob. The picture I took of him tonight wasn’t so great. But I had taken the one I posted a few days or so ago and love it.

OKAY THEN! So!

Let’s start with Penny. Ladies First! She had been taking a nibble at her chews.

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Penny is in a Marchioro Kevin 82cm Cage. I purchased this cage for $119 at PetStore.com but it is also available at ThatPetPlace.com. It usually ranges between $119-$134. In the United States it’s one of the best sized cages you can get for any species of hamster but especially Syrian’s. It has 7mm bar spacing so ideal for as big as Syrians to as tiny as Mice and Chinese Hamsters.

Up Next! Bob having a moment beneath the toad stools

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Bob is in the Ware Luxury Rabbit Cage. It retails a bit over $100 bucks. I got mine used for $20. It has 1” bar spacing so it needs to be meshed for hamsters. This is an awesome cage. It has casters and opens from the top and a large front door. The tray slides out for easy cleaning and then slides back in. I wish I could find another just like this for Penny. The height is much less scary than the Mamble which I had her in before. It’s long and narrower so it takes up less space without sacrificing footprint.

Now Strawberry as he lounges in his space pod.

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Strawberry is my eldest hamster (I think!). He’s a hybrid Cambells/WW or “Russian” hamster. He has slowed down. Looks great. Healthy. Eating and such. But really not very active.  I have plenty for him to do now. And I love his “retirement” cage. A Grreat Choice Pet Home for Small Animals cage from Petsmart. It’s 24 inch long, 15 inch wide, 14 inch tall. Below the RSPCA guidelines for a dwarf hamster cage. It’s suitable for a retirement cage for a dwarf and honestly, it depends on the hamster. Strawberry has never liked large cages. I’ve tried. He has been really happy in here so far. I find it easier to interact with him and get him out and check on him in this too. And it’s easier to make a jungle gym for him in there. He loves to climb though I can tell he’s struggling with it nowadays. The high base is ACE for my little digger. He has epic tunnels going on around the entire cage.

 

Gabriel’s Turn! He likes to meditate and other business in his sand box.

gabriel sand gabriels cage collageMy Chinese hamster is also older. In fact he probably is older than Strawberry but I will never know. He is adopted with barely any known history. I’m his 3rd and final home! He is in the FOP Gabbia Tamburino Linera Natura – a hybrid of a tank and cage. I had hammocks and suspension ladder toys and the like going on in here and other cages I tried putting him in – he had no interest. Today I decided to leave the top grill off (the grid lid) because he cannot climb out. This gives me better view of him from above and I don’t have to meddle with lifting it up and putting it down (it’s loud because it needs a handle). Anyway, he prefers his environment low to the ground and with plenty of hideouts. He does like to climb driftwood and such. I go with a forest floor type of habitat for him.

Finally, for the hamsters –  the Roborovski’s Snow & Patch! Having their nightly sand bath.

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patch sand

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The Roborovski brothers were separated due to my ignorance. I began with them together when I brought both home from the shop. I had one wheel. Multiple platforms. One house. If you are to keep your robo’s social due keep in mind – no platforms. A home and toy for each. Two Robo’s = two wheels, two food bowls, two houses. Or some will say better to have no houses but instead numerous hide outs. By the time I realized my mistake it was too late. They were drawing blood. Snow reminds me of this whenever I see the sections taken from his ear by Patch’s past nips. So, I did a DIY cage out of a book shelf that a neighbor was throwing out. It was a dollhouse style bookshelf. I simply put vinyl tiles down for the floor. Contact paper along the walls. And made a partition that is removable for clean out. It’s also vinyl and is attached from the inside with heavy duty velcro. They cannot climb out. I forgot the measurements but it’s as long as Bob’s rabbit cage and a little narrower in width compared to his. It’s the most space they’ve ever had and it’s easy to clean and fun to and easy to watch them. They’ve never been happier!

Last but not least: My Gerbil’s Mercury and Lennon! Waiting patiently for their treat. They also give me kisses!

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My gerbils have sampled many a layout/aquarium. I had them originally in a tall 28 gallon. Then 20 long. Then a 110 qt Bin cage. And finally a 40 long. Then I DIY’d a topper to put on top. I change around their set up every time I clean out. I have large pieces of drift wood I trade out each time to keep it fresh. Various tunnels and bridges and such they bury down into the bedding. You can barely see the current drift wood I put in there. It was a smaller piece than usual. In the topper they have water bottles, a sand pot where they do all their business. A Gnawsome hut to chew on and they prefer to snack within with the treats I give them. The topper has 2 floors. Or two separate “lofts” where I put their food dish. Or just for a perch and look out. They are pretty spoiled methinks. They are worth it. My little daytime buddies!

And that is the October 2013 cage tour of the Rodent’s of Hammy Happenings!

Snoozing gerbils and Mercury’s AWOL Adventure

As many know I change around the gerbils layout every couple weeks. I put the burrowing box back in and filled it with substrate and did a few inches throughout the rest of the tank with a lot of hideaways to see what they would do with that. They love the hideaways. If they aren’t in the topper chewing up cardboard and eating then they are climbing around the driftwood and on top and inside the hideaways and pausing to watch us like little “creepers” I affectionately call them.

But a new thing is sleeping by the front of the glass where they know we see them and where my kids play right beside. They still aren’t gerbils that like to be held so I still don’t try to but they are tamer in that they feel absolutely safe and content sleeping somewhat exposed to us!

I snapped photos of them from a couple separate days because I thought watching them sleep was so cute. I wasn’t used to being able to see them when they sleep.

Keep in mind I usually have at least 7 inches substrate but this time they have about 12 inches in a burrowing box. Like I said I do change things around and like to give them the job of making their own substrate from hay and cardboard for stimulation in natural behaviors.

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A week ago for the very first time I had a loose gerbil. And I was very fortunate. I have been waiting to see if there was vulnerability in the design of the topper door. The door because it’s steel mesh and the topper is mesh there is a little warping. And so there was a gap even when fastened shut. Mercury discovered this apparently.

We were watching a program on TV and then I saw a rapid movement and a blur of black and knew immediately that it was Mercury. That was also when I noticed Lennon frantically digging and jumping about the tank and topper. He was searching for his brother!

I yelped out “loose gerbil!” And immediately closed off the area where I knew he was.

I eventually coaxed him into a large plastic cup and put him back. He seemed so relieved to be returned and Lennon was over the moon to have his buddy back. Mercury went immediately to his food bowl. I have no idea how long he was out if long at all. The last time I saw him was the evening before or maybe that morning. They have been lazier lately and so it wasn’t unusual for me not to notice during the day. They become most active around late afternoon and early evening currently.

I am just relieved because he was in an area with a lot of electrical wires and could have chews them. And I don’t trust that my dog wouldn’t kill him. I would have been heartbroken.

Needless to say I have adjusted the security of their topper door.