Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Judging And Gerbil Fun At The Show
By Donna Anastasi
Donna raises and shows gerbils and is a certified AGS judge. Share in her gerbil show experiences.
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Photos courtesy Donna Anastasi
A pair of gerbils rest from a long day on the show table.
Certified and assistant judges Libby and Caroline Hanna make their final selections.
Pet rats attended in celebrations of the Year Of The Rat.
The night before the big gerbil show, I didn't get to bed until 1 p.m. because I was cutting out magnets and chatting with travelers on their last ounce of adrenaline. I tossed and turned until 4:30 a.m. – I'm such a kid sometimes – then slept a solid two hours until it was time to leave the hotel room and head for the show floor.
Brian Early, who wrote an article about my gerbils and the show called "Room Full of Rodents," came in the morning from New Hampshire Public Radio. He covered the action through the announcement of the winners and sat in on the judges’ meeting and best in show deliberation; he then boiled down the whole experience to a 3 minute and 12 second audio track.
There were gerbils, gerbils everywhere. And, for those who had moved beyond gerbils onto “the hard stuff” as we call them in the rodent world, there was a collection of pet rats in celebration of the Year of the Rat. Two adorable, affectionate, naturally performing wild-colored girls from Mainely Rat Rescue charmed the crowd. Unlike the outside world where “Ewww rats!” would be the expected reaction, in our rodent haven they received ample cuddles and kisses.
Almost all of the 150 gerbils entered came! It was a major challenge to get them all judged. I tried a new judging technique this year – no shoes and sitting on the floor watching the gerbils move, basically playing with them. After the first round of judging we had to pick the best in each class to go to the best-in-show table – just making it to the best-in-show table this year was a major accomplishment.
As the judging progressed I could hear and kind of see many events on the floor because the show took place in one big room. The sound system was greatly appreciated by the judges on the other side of the room from the action. An adult and youth American Gerbil Society member interviewed pet owners carrying their precious gerbil pairs in plastic carriers. There were the gnawing contest and races as usual. A favorite moment was hearing the show coordinator announce the races as though she were at Suffolk Downs (and they're heading around the S curve), as the gerbils meandered this way and that, getting thoroughly trounces by a type-A hamster that lapped them with ease (who let him in here?).
Just kidding, we welcome rodents of all sizes, fur types and species. In fact, the plastic bin of baby hamsters was a very popular spot, and many a gerbil lover succumbed to their sweet faces and soft fur, including my daughter Kate who came home with a fluffy chocolate and white one she named Benny.
While marathon gerbil judging continued, youth assistant judges (who went through the same rigorous 3-month online training as the rest of the judges) presented “What makes a winning gerbil” using gerbil volunteers to illustrate various points.
After the winners were announced we had an Italian buffet brought in. I was suddenly exhausted but felt much better after my second (or was it third?) plate. For a list of winners, check here. By way of a preview – and this is strictly “off the record” – I believe four of my champion hopefuls will take a place on the AGS Hall of Champion page – Ace, Puzzle, Spice and CNC’s Pocahontas. This was not Fantasia’s year despite valiant efforts to slim down and shape up.
Best-in-show winner was a massive gray agouti male named Adam from Wisconsin that looked like he walked straight off the pages of the judge’s manual. Best Opposite Sex was a dazzling argente (orange) gerbil named Deanna from Massachusetts that, though still a juvenile, wowed the judges out of the coveted purple and white rosette.
We never got to the talents during the day, so late into the night diehard gerbil fans sat around and showed off their gerbils and tricks. A competitor from Missouri and I had a shoulder sit-off with my slight Promise and her bulky red fox male. The red fox hunkered down for the duration. Promise had the technique of running from shoulder to shoulder, but lost concentration on one of her more daring dips. An enthusiast from Nebraska showed the best gerbil video ever of her Herman's amazing agility. It had been a big day for Herman, taking his usual place on the best in show table and achieving a championship. One gerbil from right here in New England made up a cool trick on the fly of running down a bent arm to the elbow, and then free-falling into a open, awaiting palm. The trick gerbils all picked out a grab bag of prizes.
There were last minute trades and deals. A fellow breeder from New Hampshire produced a rare black gerbil with no white fur (just the pink/white moustache) that she discovered in a pet store. After drooling over her for a while I asked to have her to adopt or for an extended visit. I've already arranged a marriage (a least for a litter or two) with Parade Gerbils’ argente brother to the best opposite sex winner of the show.
I collected planned adoptions and two of my older boys, Boom and Spot, went off to retire in sunny Florida. Like a true addict, I was missing this show and dreaming of the next even before this show was through. Now, how I can I get my gerbils to the next big American Gerbil Society show in Tulsa, Oklahoma in October?
Gerbil Show Links
Watch gerbil Herman’s amazing talent here.
Check out the New Hampshire Public Radio show coverage here.
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Judging And Gerbil Fun At The Show