Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gerbil farming

A few months ago Eden informed us that she wanted a cat. That idea got nixed because I, and several of the children, are allergic to cats. Then she decided she wanted a rabbit. That would be fine with me and we used to have rabbits but that was when we had a larger property and the neighbors were all dead (our house was in the middle of a cemetery) so we didn't have to worry about folks complaining of the smell. She tossed around the idea of an indoor rabbit but I wasn't sure that would go over so well with the dog and I didn't want to find out the hard way, either. Next on her list was a hamster. Having heard that gerbils are easier than hamsters, I convinced her that this would be the perfect pet.

In our family, before owning a pet, you first have to save up your money. Second, you need to read everything you can about the ownership of your chosen animal. In this case, that also meant watching a lot of youtube videos about gerbil care. Okay, they weren't all about the care of gerbils. (You haven't seen anything til you've seen Gerbils of the Caribbean!) In our quest to find gerbil reading material, I found a book called The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter. This memoir, about an eccentric father who raised thousands of gerbils for sale all over the world, caught my eye but not because it reminded me of my father. No, it reminded me of myself for believe it or not, I was once a gerbil farmer of sorts.

It all started back in about 4th or 5th grade when I decided that if I wasn't allowed to get a dog, a gerbil would be the next best thing. But I also decided that two gerbils would be better than one. And since I also thought babies were really cute, I decided that I needed a male and a female. The owner of Duffy's pet shop assured my parents that he would buy back any resulting litters and so my gerbil farming days began.

The next step was to name the two critters in the large glass aquarium. After hours of poring over the baby book, I had the perfect names for my gerbils; Tedi and Hazel. Tedi, I chose, because it means "gift of God." If you don't think a gerbil is a gift of God, then you don't know my love for animals or my parents' aversion to pets. I can no longer remember why I chose the name Hazel.

Of course it didn't take long for Tedi and Hazel to start a family and one day I woke up to find a pile of wiggly pencil erasers in the corner of the cage. Those erasers grew up, got fur, and before they could start families of their own, we headed to Duffy's pet shop. Mr. Duffy gladly bought those gerbil babies for resale for .75 each. I was in business! The next litter came along and things were going well. By the third litter, however, Mr. Duffy had decided that he had too many gerbils and didn't need mine. Uh oh. Now we had a problem. Somehow, without the help of ebay, Craigslist, or Facebook, we were able to sell all of them on our own. This went on for about a year while Mr. Duffy steadfastly refused to buy anymore of my gerbils. I think Hazel had finally had enough of the breeding business, too, because she started to eat her offspring. Not a good choice if you want to remain in my good graces. Tedi and Hazel's cohabiting days were henceforth over.

All this gerbil breeding and selling made me quite the expert on gerbils, or so I thought. There was the time I sold two female gerbils to a friend from church but a few months later her mom found a pile of wiggly pencil erasers which grew up to look an awful lot like their parents. Whoops.

But what goes around comes around so my daughter is now the one to enjoy gerbil ownership. She tells people she wants to be a breeder when she grows up. I quickly add, "of gerbils," lest anyone get the wrong idea. For now, she has two females so the breeding business will have to wait. She does seem to take after her mother in the naming department, though. After much thought, she decided to name them Mary and Jo, short for Josephine. As in Mary and Joseph. They're Biblical gerbils, you see.

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