Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Welcome, Charley and Cheerio!

Our family has officially taken the next step in pets!  We've had two nice aquariums for over a year that are doing very well, and my kids are now also showing an interest in something a little less, um, wet.
So....I thought:  gerbils!  When I mentioned this to our kids they said, "Yeah Daddy!  Yeah!  When can we get them?!".  Well, here are the first few pictures of our boys!

Charley (left) and Cheerio (right)


Cheerio in his first dust bath

We chose gerbils because they're cool, fun, very clean, easy to take care of, and kid-friendly.  Forget about cats and dogs (for now)...They're obviously great pets, but our family (or should I say...me) is not interested in any major long-term (10+ years) pet commitment like that at this point in time.  

Thus began the effort on my part at the American Gerbil Society (AGS) web site to research the best way to go about this.  I say "the best way to go about this" because anybody who does even casual research into buying a pet will often find out that a pet store is the last place to get them.  Some more obscure things like fish, birds, lizards, etc, you almost have to get at a pet store.  But cats, dogs, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, etc, can all be obtained from local breeders instead.

The reason to go the local breeder route is because the animals are typically much better cared for and healthy at a dedicated breeder.  Take a look at the gerbils in a gerbil cage at the pet store.  Not looking too good, huh?  Then try going to a breeder and looking at the nice setups they have for their animals and the way they care for them.  The animals are cleaner and look and act healthier.  The breeder is definitely the way to go.  Enough said on that...

By using the AGS web site I was able to find Autumnglory Gerbils, which is located very close to my house.  Christina from Autumnglory had some pups available for take-home in early September and that suited our timing perfectly after vacation, so we adopted them.  Christina was very helpful in answering my initial questions and is a wealth of knowledge about gerbils.  It was great speaking with her when we picked them up to learn all of the important tips to get us started.  She clearly did a good job in raising them from when they were born and getting them ready for us.

Charley and Cheerio are already making themselves quite at home.  They love their new 15-gallon tank that has been outfitted with all the essential gerbil gear.  A nice wheel, a box for them to tear to pieces to make their home, paper towel rolls for them to tunnel in, aspen chips for bedding, paper towels for nesting, and of course their water bottle.

They're both already clearly exhibiting their individual personalities.  Charley is the work horse, and he initially did a lot of the work to set up their tank, munched the holes in the box, moved things around the way they wanted, etc.  Consequently, he was initially pretty tired from all his work.  Cheerio, on the other hand, is the "class clown".  You can see that he's the more feisty of the two.  He loves to fool around, jump up for attention when we pass by, and is more than willing to come out of his cage to explore.  Over the past day or so, Charley is following Cheerio's lead and is becoming more bold and comfortable with us.  Now they both stand up for attention when we say "Hi guys" as we walk past their cage and seem very happy with their new surroundings.

Since I've handled many small animals before, I have a pretty good sense of how to handle them comfortably.  Both of our guys hop right onto my hand when I put it in the cage and are eager to come out for me.  The kids are still mostly picking them up using a small cup to make things easier for them.  The gerbils will be used to them with a little more time and will soon hop into their hands too.

So our journey with these little guys begins!  I'll occasionally post updates here with the label 'Gerbils' in the left column of the site to separate the gerbil-related posts from my photography stuff.

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