In September 2013 – which I suppose is nearly two years ago now, although to me it really feels like yesterday – I wrote this post about how my boyfriend and I went to Argos to buy furniture and came back with two little gerbils.
I didn’t know what it would be like to have gerbils at that point and if you’ve never owned them, you probably won’t understand either. I assumed they were similar to a hamster (I had a hamster when I was a kid – it slept all day and it bit a lot) – but I was so wrong. From the moment I put their little white boxes into the cage and they sleepily crawled out, Cookie and Pickle have become part of our little family. They made us happy, and they made us stronger.
|Grooming (always leads to squeaking)|
|Will stand on others for Cheerios|
They had their own distinct little personalities. Cookie was mischievous – I’ll never forget getting home from work to find him sitting in the middle of the floor, looking at me, having escaped his cage! Even this Christmas when I decided to change their bedding and popped them into a basket, he got out and gave me the run around for about 45 minutes – leading me to nearly miss my train! When we moved flats, we let them out in the living room and while Pickle was a little bit nervy, Cookie was always straight out of the cage and dashing about everywhere. They ate through our telephone cord and they immediately broke our Christmas tree lights. They hilariously try to jump in their food bag. They bit through the bag we keep their bedding in and got it all over the floor. We learned how much they loved first grated cheese, then Cheerios, then lettuce. Cookie would sit on my lap and play with my hair while we were watching TV.
|A moment of true happiness - pyjamas, wine and my little one|
They’ve seen in two Christmases and New Years, got in a strop with us when we went to Glastonbury, been there on my birthdays (this year I got loads of gerbil themed cards), and always made me smile when I get up early in the morning and don’t want to go to work, or whenever I was feeling down. Anyone who has pets knows the effect they have when they get up to see you as you walk in through the door from work. How when they’re around you are never really alone.
|Two best friends|
A few weeks ago now when my fiancé was away I went to the cage to say hi and I noticed Cookie was behaving oddly. He was sort of slumped against the side of the cage and had his eyes half open. I tried to tempt him with a cheerio but he didn’t even really seem able to eat it, and when he tried to move, he seemed to be dragging his back legs behind him. I called Ian in tears and Facetimed him so he could see. Ian wasn’t sure and told me to go out as planned and see how he was when I got back. I was so sure he was dying, but when I returned, he was completely fine – skipping about on the top level of his cage, eating his food. I gave him a Cheerio and he nibbled it up. His behaviour was completely normal, to the point where when Ian came back he teased me that Cookie had been playing up on purpose to make him return. I almost started to think I’d imagined it. We let them out as usual, and they played as normal. We did both notice, without telling each other, that he was slightly hunched over, and he spent a lot of time standing still and staring into space. But I told myself he was just getting a bit older and it wasn’t anything.
Then yesterday I got home from work – it was really hot in the living room, which doesn’t bother them because they are desert animals but I still thought it would be nice for them to get some fresh air, so I was moving the cage towards the balcony door when I saw Cookie and I knew he was dead. He was slumped on his back with his head resting on the stairs, all his little paws in the air. He looked so fragile and still so cute that I desperately didn’t want to believe it. I ran to get cold water and tried to feed him, even though really, I could see his little heart wasn’t beating. I called Ian in tears and he came home and took him out of the cage – he was completely stiff and had been dead for hours.
I cried for a while. We put him into a beautiful little box with some cheerios and we took him down to the river. I couldn’t stand that he would be underground – he always loved to be running about in the light. I like the idea of him floating along, out to sea.
Pickle seems okay, all things considered. We followed the advice and cleaned his cage so he doesn’t go looking for Cookie (the thought makes my heart break). He doesn’t seem to have much appetite, but he is sleeping, which is a good sign I think.
I know some people will think it’s silly to be sad over a gerbil, but he taught me that love can come in tiny packages. He was the best little gerbil there ever was, and I hope he’s having a great time tearing it up in gerbil heaven, stealing everybody’s cheerios and sleeping in a giant gerb heap. Ian put it best... life will go on, but it was better before, when we had him.
I love you, little Cookie nose. I will always love you and I miss you so much already. You were our first pet as a couple and you were so special. I think Pickle will miss you most of all.
I hope you rest in peace.
‘For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one’