Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Final Count Down

By Donna Anastasi
Donna raises and shows gerbils and is a certified AGS judge. Share in her gerbil show experiences.

Click image to enlarge
Photo Courtesy Donna Anastasi
This gerbil is bathed, brushed and ready to show.

The New England Gerbil Show is just three anticipating days away. Everyone involved in the big event, coordinating, exhibiting and/or traveling great distances, is working through their own personalized to-do list. Mine reads like this:

Task 1: On the gerbil conformation side – as head judge, print out judge’s manuals and quick reference guides. Review final gerbil entry list, just in, from the show secretary. Marvel at the record size (150 gerbils) and variety (many colors). Split out classes. Match up certified, probationary and assistant (youth) judges and assign to classes.

Task 2: On the gerbil companion side – put together grab bag prizes for the winners of the “stupid gerbil trick” talent exhibition, including chinchilla dust and half coconut shell for gerbil dust baths, and other surprise gerbil-goodies I’ve been collecting in the past months.

Task 3: Finish off the gerbil crafts to donate to the raffle, sell and swap. My daughter, Kate and I have taken over the kitchen table, using our insight into the mind of the gerbil to design “crazy houses” out of wood scraps from the mill store.

Task 4: Bathe the gerbils. As promised, here’s how it’s done.
How to wash 20 gerbils in 60 minutes
We have two sinks in the bathroom and fill both with warm water to gerbil chest high level. I use Head & Shoulder’s shampoo, a gentle kitten shampoo is good, too. Have paper towels on hand and be prepared to work quickly and be ready for anything.

 The Process
 Step 1: Put a paper-thin layer of shampoo on your hands, put the gerbil in sink No. 1. Usually you will get one of two reactions, the gerbil will relax and look like it’s ready to linger all day or it goes springy on you. In either case, as soon as the gerbil’s fur is wet, rub the shampoo onto its fur, concentrating on the belly area, which is usually where staining occurs.

 Step 2: Take the gerbil out of sink No. 1 and put the gerbil into sink No. 2 for the final quick-rinse.

 Step 3: Remove the gerbil from the sink and dry with paper towels. Then blow dry with a hair dryer set on warm-low, drying from the tail backward for extra fluffiness.

 Step 4: Put the gerbil in its tank in front of a space heater or under a heat lamp. It is extremely important that the gerbil is warm until it’s fur is completely dry. And, it is important to heat only one corner of the tank so that the gerbil can move away if it gets overheated.

 Step 5: Clean out the sinks, removing the poops (warm water seems to induce a lot of this). Wash the basins, refill them with fresh, clean, warm water, and move on to the next gerbil.

 Step 6: When the gerbils are dry, offer them a dust bath. They will be unbelievably clean and soft after this gerbil spa treatment.

Task 5: Pack up the gerbils. As the day draws to a close, I move the gerbils into a smaller, yet stimulating travel accommodation and pack them their own suitcase filled with carrots for supplemental liquid and their regular food and water from home, dust bath, dust bowl, slicker brush, cardboard, extra water bottles, show pens, white carefresh, etc.

Task 6: Pack up the car. This involves retrieving items from the gerbil room, basement, back of closets and every corner of the house – the countless: Oh-I’ll-bring-that promises,  raffle tickets, a money box, gerbil bingo, and other gerbil show necessities. As I tend to have the attention span of a gerbil at this stage in the game, I put each item in labeled bins in my GERBILS license-plated, gold-colored mini van as I find it.

Task 7: Lastly, I take time to stop and smell the gerbils. OK, my true confession, the faint hay like scent of gerbil fur is one of my comfort smells, making them quite kissable. Especially now that they are bathed, chinchilla-dust fluffed and extra cuddly.

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