It feels like, every other time I post on this blog anymore, it’s to write about the death of one my beloveds. This post is no different and it’s tearing me up. Every time I get comfortable and think that life has settled down for a while, something else happens and I guess this time was no different.
On July 11th, 2011. My beloved gerbil, Uno, passed away.
The days before she died, I was away in Minnesota, so I don’t know if she was feeling unwell during the time I was gone or if it was just one of those things. I had gotten back on the 11th and all seemed well, she greeted me in her usual fashion, though admittedly I wasn’t focusing on anyone in particular. I was tired from the trip and was trying to get my things prepared for work. I went to bed fairly late and fell asleep without hearing anything coming from her cage– however this was not unusual as she often went to bed and woke up with me. Around 5:15 in the morning, I was awoken by a crack of thunder and the sounds of rain and hail beating against the house. It took me a few moments to realize that not only was it storming, the warning sirens up the street from our house were also going off. Without having a radio in my room and my weather updates telling me it was just a severe storm, I wasn’t sure what it was, but bundled Buddha and Dharma into their “storm carrier” and went to get Evie and Uno from their cages. Although Evie was peering at me from her bed, I realized there was no movement from Uno’s, something that wasn’t typical, so I popped open the door of her house expecting her to shoot out and come stare at me. It took a few moments of me feeling around the cage, before I realized that she was laying on top of her chew house and she wasn’t moving.
It took me completely by surprise and hit me very hard when I realized she was gone. Of course it was the worst time to come to the conclusion and I was forced to rush Evie into her ball and wrap Uno in a towel so I could get everyone downstairs. I sat downstairs, very upset about the storms, which I hate with a passion just because it causes a pile up of things that could go wrong and that my gerbil was gone but I couldn’t do much to mourn her at the moment because I still had to find out if the rest of us were needing to worry about our safety. Finally we decided that the reports were telling us it was strong winds and rain but that we were not in danger of a tornado (doesn’t feel like it watching the news as many people’s homes and property were damaged) and decided to go back to bed. I had to go upstairs minus one of my loves.
Even though it was almost 6am and I had work the next day I found it very hard to sleep. I hadn’t put Buddha and Dharma back in their house yet, so I set the carrier on my bed and just let them come out at their own pace. For once, they were cuddling and I made mention to them that I kind of would like some cuddling too. I know it seems silly but when I said that, Dharma perked up and stepped a paw out on my comforter, wheeked at me softly and when I motioned for her attention she waddled (yes, they waddle, it’s normal) over to me and snuggled up with me, still wheeking as I pet her. Buddha, not to be outdone by her younger sister came out to join us a few moments later, but was bold enough to climb up my tummy and stick her face under my chin. I think we stayed like that for an hour, just cuddling.
Animals are perceptive and I think even the toughest critics would have a hard time denying that. They both knew I was sad and I cried for a good long while. I’m not ashamed to say it. Faith knew too and stayed close to the bed, just watching us and knowing that it hurt me, whatever it was. I went to work, where my kids were less perceptive to my depression and I spent a very long day trying not to think about there being one less fuzzy face waiting for me when I got home. When I finally did get home from all of that, my Dad helped me bury my little friend in the backyard, next to some of our peony bushes. Appropriate as peonies are my favorite flowers and she was one of my favorite gerbils.
I acknowledge that some people will think it’s dumb to be so attached to an animal. I suppose if you don’t have any or you don’t have an interest in connecting with any, that would make sense. I would like to think, even though I’m not a member of PETA or even vegetarian, that I do tend to connect with the animals I meet and especially the ones that have come to live with me. Every single one of them has a personality and I’ve seen it in some way to the point I’ve wanted them to become a part of my family. Uno was no different.
I met Uno in January of 2010 in the quiet area of the pet store I work at on the weekends. She had fallen after escaping from a tote in the quarantine area of the store for new animals and was thought to have lost her left eye. Her eye required daily cleaning and would most likely have to be adopted out because she was no longer in “prime condition”. In the few weeks I had to get to know her, I knew she needed to join my family of furry friends. Earning the moniker, Uno. When I brought her home, her eye hadn’t gotten any better and I was told that likely it never would– it just didn’t seem normal that it would need to be cleaned out everyday with the kind discharge it had. I took her to the vet and for the first time in my life, spent $66 for an appointment for a gerbil. There, I was told she not only still had her eye, it was viable and the only reason it was still swollen was because she had Ringworm. Had I not adopted her and brought her to the vet, she most likely would have died from lack of proper treatment.
Uno brought me a lot of joy. I had never had a gerbil and had to learn how to care for them very soon after bringing her home. Did you know, when you have a gerbil, you either get a chewer, a runner, or both? And you don’t know which one it is until you buy them lots of toys only to find out they don’t want them? I found out fairly quickly, Uno was a chewer– a beaver in gerbil clothing. I had gotten her a lovely two-story home, with a “fun ramp” and a nice, quiet wheel. Only much to my dismay, the wheel was turned to plastic chips and the ramp could no longer be qualified as a ramp after 24 hours. To which she had to learn to jump up to the second story and decided the nice new *metal* wheel I bought her, was much more fun for sleeping in than running in. She did however, adore the Nut Knots I brought home from work, where the prize for chewing through a maze of wood chews was a little nut in the middle. She went through several small ones in a very short amount of time. Usually two or three to Evie’s one and she always wanted them. Finally, I just bought the size that was meant for Guinea Pigs and rabbits in the hopes they would last longer. They did and Uno’s eyes would always get wide when I set one in her house, like I had just given her the grail of chewy toys.
She was an excellent doorman, always greeting people when they walked in. I positioned her cage just so she could see who walked in. Even if she was in her bed, if she heard the door open, she would (as my Dad calls it) “up periscope” to see if she knew the newcomer. She hated running in her exercise ball and if I put her in it and set her on the floor, she would sit there, wringing her paws, wondering when she would ever get back home to her Nut Knot. Her dislike of running and maybe my being a softie when it comes to treats, led her to be a bit overweight and although I cut down on her treats and fed her no more than anyone else, she still was a little chunky for a gerbil. I always joked, I was the only person in the U.S. who had a gerbil with a thyroid condition and that if chewing on things counted for exercise, she would be tiny.
She was a messy roommate to be sure– I would clean her house and make everything nice, just in time for her to kick everything out onto my floor. I went through three birdcage covers just to staunch the mess, but I would buy a million if it meant she was still here. I can’t even think about cleaning out her cage right now, for fear of starting to cry again. I miss her so much already. I think this will always be the worst part of being a pet owner. Losing one of your loves and getting over it. I will always remember my little Uno and I wish upon wish that she is happy wherever she is now.
I love you, Uno. I always will and I hope you’re happy and that someday we’ll see each other again. Miss you.