On Friday 23rd September, after three and a half years of snuffling, burrowing in fluff, eating Cheerios and generally being the cutest thing in the world, my little Pickle gerbil closed his eyes for one last time.
Pickle had been ill for a while, with a little lump on his tummy that we thought might be cancer, and had even taken a trip to the vets where they had suggested putting him down – but at that stage he seemed perfectly happy, could still do all of his favourite things, and I didn’t let them do it. I’m glad – he had another month-ish of happiness, running round on the floor by our feet, keeping Ian company while I was on a hen do, seeming pretty much his usual self. But on Friday I found him flopped on the floor of his cage, unable to lift his head up or walk; he wouldn’t drink or even eat a Cheerio, his favourite thing in the world. And we knew it was time.
|So this is your bed? How do you burrow in it?|
It was a beautiful day, cool sunshine, as we drove back down to the vet. I said goodbye to him and told him that I loved him and to say hi to Cookie for me. I couldn’t stay while they did it, but Ian did, and told me that it was very quick and he was sedated so it would’ve been painless. We took his little body home and sent him down the river to join Cookie, in the little log he’d played in his whole short life, with some cheerios and a little message for the journey.
|Yum, ice fish|
|I like this log|
People who have pets, however big or small, know the immeasurable joy they bring to your life. Pickle was just a little gerbil, but the tiny ways he made my life better are too many to count. I would come in, usually before Ian, in the evening, and say ‘hi Pix, how are you? Just us this evening is it?’ and he would run up to the top of his stairs, hoping for a treat or to be let out. As I’ve already said, Ian often had a ‘lads night in’ with him when I was out, letting him run about on the floor, where he would inevitably manage to upturn his food bag and run inside it! Sometimes in the morning when I was tired or grumpy, he’d do something particularly cute or hilarious and it would always really cheer me up.
He obviously missed his little pal Cookie very, very much, but he loved the heat pad we bought him in the winter and seemed to rally round in the last six months of his life to being a happy, if old man gerbil, sleeping a lot and rooting about the rest of the time burying and eating things. I didn’t expect, when we wandered into Argos a few years ago to buy an ironing board, popped into Pets at Home to look at the hamsters and came out £70 lighter with a gerbil cage, for these little rodents to have such big personalities – to fill us with so much love and happiness. As we sat on the sofa on Friday with his little body between us, Ian said ‘He was only small, and he made us so happy.’ I hope he knows how happy he made us. He was not just a gerbil - he was a member of our family.
Or as AA Milne would put it, ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.’ Pickle, we loved you more than anything. We miss you already – the house seemed empty when we arrived home last night. I don’t know, sometimes, what I believe about heaven – but I hope you scampered up to your old pal Cookie and that you’re happily asleep in a gerbil heap right now, having worn yourselves out play fighting over cheerios. I hope you sleep tight. You will always be our first ever pet as a couple, you and Cookie will always be our favourite little gerbils. I miss you. I love you. Goodnight.