One of Seven, RIP

I was on my way out of the house today to take Sam to bassoon lessons when I glanced at the gerbil tanks. Everything looked fine except I could only see two gerbils in the boy tank, where there are normally three. Mouse was conspicuously absent.

Sadly, Mouse hasn’t been doing very well as of late. He’s been losing weight and has been looking increasingly…rumpled. Mouse was one of the original gerbils and as he was about two and a half years old, I knew he was nearing the end of his lifespan.

I asked Alex to check on him as I left, knowing in my heart what I was going to hear.

Alex says that the other two gerbils had buried him in the corner, covering him with their bedding. Alex exhumed him from that shallow grave and buried him in our rodent memorial ground (newly established), telling him that he was my favorite (he was) and that we all loved him.

Photo of a young speckled white gerbil.

This was the first photo I ever posted of Mouse here. May he rest in peace.

I’ve known that this was coming for a while. It was like this with the mice—several months of a slow withering of numbers. Mouse was the first of what will be a long, sad line of gerbil deaths over the next few months.

Poor little guy. I’m going to miss him.

Photo of me holding Mouse after I first brought him home.

Mouse and I bonded quickly.

Photo of Mouse gripping the outside of his exercise wheel. He was spinning it from the outside.

Mouse was always his own gerbil, doing things his own way.

Photo of Mouse in a tiny Mickey Mouse hat.

And, of course, this.

Two photos, one of a brown gerbil eating out of a gerbil bowl and one of a white gerbil eating off of a seed block.

I gave Creeper and King extra seeds and treats after cleaning their tank this afternoon. It was like an, “I’m sorry you had to bury your father” snack.

The house seems empty without him.

I Will Celebrate My Triumphant and Exhausted Return From Disney World With a Gerbil Video

I have returned from Disney World. We had a blast. I took a million photos. I will be blogging nonstop about it once I am able to sit down and catch my breath. This will be sometime after I run my first half marathon tomorrow. God only knows how long after.

I do have something fun for you today though. A while ago I had mentioned the stamping that my gerbils do to warn each other of danger and how adorable it is. Several of you expressed interest in seeing a video of said stamping. Since then I have spent countless hours sitting quietly in front of my gerbil tanks holding up my phone ready to record whenever they became alarmed.

They never became alarmed.

So then I sat loudly in front of my gerbil tanks holding up my phone and making large arm gestures and startling whooping noises.

I think they rolled their eyes at me.

I did, however, finally manage to capture some stamping a couple of weeks ago. It’s not the best stamping, because the best stamping happens when a gerbil stands on two legs to stamp and the guy in this video was far too lazy to do that, BUT it is also extremely awesome because you get to see exactly what was alarming to the gerbil.

It’s 17 seconds long and there is sound, but it is almost entirely the soft sounds of a stamping gerbil followed by the creak of my chair.

In case you chose not to watch it, the alarming thing was a cat, who just happened to be licking her lips when I caught her on camera.

I’ll see you later; I’ve got some hydrating and sleeping to do. And carb loading. Lots and lots (and lots) of carb loading.

Zoom Out

Aw! Look at my happy, peaceful little gerbil friend. He is so relaxed and calm and sleepy.

Close up of a sleeping gerbil with his head slightly sticking out of a hole in a wooden gerbil house.Double aw! That calm happy gerbil is sleeping with his buddy.

Camera is zoomed out. Now you see that sleeping gerbil and in another gerbil house cutout, a second gerbil, sleeping under the first.Make that ON his buddy.

Same gerbils as before, only camera is zoomed out even farther so we can see that they are on the second floor of a two-story gerbil house.While those two gerbils safely slumber, another happy, secure gerbil lazily chews on cardboard under his water bottle. They have not a care in the world…

Same as before, but zoomed out even farther to see a brown gerbil standing in front of the house.…except for the giant predator smashed between the gerbil tank and the window.

Camera is zoomed out even farther, showing the three gerbils and then, behind the tank, a black and white cat.It must be unsettling to always have a giant cat on one side of your tank and a giant human on the other. It’s a miracle these gerbils aren’t stampy* little stressballs all the time.

Meanwhile, our predator finds time to pose, secure in the knowledge that no human or rodent will be able to pry her out of her exactly Oreo-sized stronghold wedged between the window and the gerbil tank.

Said black and white cat, wedged into a tiny space between the window and the gerbil tank. In this photo, she is lying on her back.And there you have a photo tour of two feet of my desk. And a good idea of exactly how much time I have on my hands.

* Gerbils do an excellent double stamp move to alert each other of danger. It is très adorable.

Yeah, That Toy Doesn’t Exist

Thank you all for your efforts with the Elemental Guardian. I am now convinced that the toy does not exist and that Jack had some kind of elaborate hallucination last week wherein someone brought in a Barbie and Jack’s brain turned it into the ultimate Hero Factory toy.

I would, however, like to thank all of you for your amazing google skillz. Seriously. You are phenomenal. Jack is very lucky to have all of you on his side. I can’t quite believe all the awesome stuff you found. I have no idea how you found them.

As for the $119 Transformers toy that looked a lot like what Jack was describing, but that was NOT what he was describing, but now he wants said Transformers toy? Well, that one is on me for being dumb enough to show it to him. Also he’s not getting it.

To thank you for all your hard work typing and clicking, I will give you this photo of spooning kittens.

tuxedo cat with front paw around black cat

Awwwwww! Kittens make everything better.

And then I’ll give you this other photo of the cats and gerbils during gerbil tank cleaning time.

three cats clustered around a small, plastic box holding three gerbils

So close and yet still so far.

Let’s all try to not notice that our couch is patched with brown duct tape, okay? It’s embarrassing enough without you pointing and laughing.

I hope the cats make you happy. Let me know if I can ever google something for you.

Algernon’s Army: New Recruits

You guys. You guys. I have no words for you all. You are SOUL FILLING. My mail is such a happy part of my day nowadays. Would you like some examples as to why I love my mail so much? It’s because my mailbox overfloweth with love. And rodents. And other small furry things that are almost rodents.

photos of a stuffed squirrel, otter and round hamster

From my friends Katie, Sherry, and Michal. Thank you. So much.

That first little guy there? She’s a squirrel who came from my 7-year-old friend Katie, who made sure she was all decked out enough to join the rodent brigade. Even better than the squirrel was the note that came with her:

note in child's handwriting on orange paper: "From Katie to Jean. I am sorry that your mouse is gone. So I give you this present to make you happy."

“From Katie to Jean. I am sorry that your mouse is gone. So I give you this present to make you happy.” (And, yes, she did use a sad-girl emoticon instead of a period to end that middle sentence there.)

Is that not the nicest ever? I love that kid.

That otter in the middle comes from my old college chum. She sent this amazing note with it telling the story of the debate amongst strangers that took place in the store as to what animal exactly this was and whether it was, in fact, a rodent. Answers: otter and no.

Nonetheless, otters are one of my favorite animals and he is small and brown and fits in perfectly as a conscientious objector to Algernon’s Army.

Then there is Speedy at the end, who is really not very speedy because he is chubby and round and can’t actually move very fast. He’s like the rodent version of me. He is hilarious. Jack almost passed out laughing when he saw him.

Then there was the very wonderful card from my mother-in-law wherein she posited that Algernon had fallen in love and was off on new adventures elsewhere. Oh, and she wrote that inside a greeting card that had this on the front:

Cartoon drawing of Noah's Ark (with two Algernons pasted on it). There are two dinosaurs sitting on a nearby island saying, "Oh, crap! Was that TODAY?"

I think she is subtly referencing Algernon’s resiliency here.

Do you want to know what else came in the mail today? A photo book about Algernon from my beautiful friend Bec. The book includes the very first post about Algernon that I ever wrote and then photo highlights of his adventures from the past two years.

Cover of a book showing a photo of a small white mouse peeking out of a swimming pool and the word "Algernon."

It is amazing.

Algernon’s Army is so large that I had to dedicate a shelf to it. Because I don’t have a single unused shelf in my house, I had to buy and install a shelf just for my new little friends.

White shelf with all my stuffed rodents and my Algernon book on it.

I think you’ll agree that it was worth the effort.

The shelf is appropriately situated over one of the gerbil tanks.

Algernon's Army shelf over a gerbil tank.

I like how Jetpack and Jefferie are standing at attention here.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to look over my left shoulder and see my shelf-o-love-and-rodents. You guys are amazing.

I think that is probably all of my Algernon-related news. Thank you all for continuing to be so awesome. I love you guys.

Cats vs. Gerbils

Cats vs. gerbils, but not in the “cats eviscerating gerbils” sense that you might be thinking. No, the cats are saving the eviscerating for the mice that are apparently living in our basement unbeknownst to us. Well, formerly unbeknownst. Their little corpses dangling out of our kittens’ mouths alerted us to their presence.

No, what I am trying to do is contrast group sleeping patterns.

To wit, kittens:

A three-shelf cat tree, with a kitten on each shelf.

A kitten for every shelf and a shelf for every kitten.

Versus gerbils:

Three gerbils kind of stacked on top of each other

It’s like Yertle the Turtle, but with gerbil stacking instead of turtle stacking.

The cats cuddle with each other, but not quite in the same way the gerbils cuddle with each other…or rather, how they use each other as beds and to prop themselves up.

I like how the guy on top there was all, “Now I’m going to use you to prop me up to the water bottle so I don’t have to expend any effort.” Meanwhile, middle guy was very earnestly cleaning his feet with his teeth.

Come to think of it, the kittens clean their feet via mouth as well.

I’m glad I don’t have to clean my feet with my mouth.

And there you have the first in what will no doubt be a long line of cats vs. gerbil posts. We can only be so lucky.