Monday, March 31, 2008
It’s Gerbil Show Time!
By Donna Anastasi
She raises and shows gerbils and is a certified AGS judge. Share in her gerbil show experiences.
Gerbils at a show ready for judging.
For many people, May brings freshly turned garden soil, college graduations, and the Memorial Day weekend BBQ. For me, living in
Southern New Hampshire, and for a devoted band of gerbil-loving colleagues, May means only one thing: the American Gerbil Society New England Show.
A confirmed gerbil junkie, I hold the unique distinction of pursuing every show – 13 thus far – orchestrated by the American Gerbil Society (AGS) from as close to home as Nashua, N.H., to as far away as Omaha, Neb. The first AGS Show was a low-key, but electric affair and took place June 1, 2002, at Wheeler Chapel in Merrimack, N.H.
Remembering That First Gerbil Show
The show was a defining moment because American gerbil enthusiasts evolved from years of virtual chatting to face-to-face contact. With each person that entered through the heavy wooden red chapel doors, it was like meeting an old friend for the very first time. These were the founders of the AGS: Janet, the original president of the AGS, from the most Northern tip of Maine, accompanied by a sampling of her 12 children; Julia from Texas trained for the event by Finnish gerbil judges; Jo, a professional horse whisperer from Kentucky, one of my favorite gerbil buddies, fellow show addict, and greatest rival for the coveted best-in-show honors; and Gary a special needs teacher from New York City who wrote a 22-page online gerbil journal I had faithfully followed for years, always eager for the next installment.
Gary surprised me with an introduction to "Awesome,” arguably the country’s first-ever "extreme mottled” or variegated gerbil, which was more spotted than not. He asked that I attempt to breed for the pattern.
Then there were the characters we never saw again. For one, Eddie a red-haired teen whose bewildered but supportive dad transported him hundreds of miles to show his gerbils. Eddie walked away with America’s first-ever best-in-show gerbil. Another was Larry from Ohio, who carried in tank after tank filled with identical wild agouti colored gerbils. Unlike most AGS-ers who cater to a small kennel of cherished companion gerbils, he had a PowerPoint presentation and a grand scheme for becoming a nationwide distributor. His interest later waned as quickly as it had ignited.
Countdown To 2008’s Gerbil Show
From the embers of that first show, six years or two gerbil lifetimes ago, a wildfire spread. Last year’s 2007 New England show in Bedford, Mass., drew hundreds of spectators and throngs of newspaper reports. The gerbils competing on conformation filled not just one table, but a whole room – more than 75 in all. With the media flashes popping, it was difficult at times to determine the front runners madly gnawing in the paper towel chew pet class contest or haphazardly working the Hamtrak races. The crowning moment occurred as I, now the president of the American Gerbil Society, conferred in a back room with other certified judges to pick the best of the best: we were interrupted repeatedly by National Public Radio seeking an interview and live account of the results.
Though out my window a foot of snow blankets the ground here in Southern N.H., I am content spending time in my gerbil room playing with our 2008 prospects and debating their merits with my best gerbil buddy and 11-year-old daughter, Kate. Only 10 weeks to the spring show on May 16 and 17 – hope to see you and your gerbils there.
Fun Gerbil Show Links
First American Gerbil Society Show, Merrimack, NH. Click Here>>
NPR Interview at 2007 New England gerbil show. Click Here>>
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It’s Gerbil Show Time!