To Breed...or Not to Breed? ...Continued
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Population Explosion Story Page 2 of 2 Back to Page 1
One day, a pup wasn't so lucky. I found him dead in a corner. Statistically, 1.5 were on the dead pool list, so this was still under par. But a dead baby gerbil's still depressing. Unlucky #13.

A second, underweight one wasn't growing at the same rate as the other four pups. They were healthy and active, he was still a runt. I pulled for him, and made sure he got a choice sunflower seed whenever I fed them. He lingered on for a few weeks, staying the same size while his brothers and sisters plumped up. I hoped he would either get healthy or be put out of his misery, and mother nature chose the second option one day. #8 became the second dead baby gerbil, and I was now over par.

I thought I saw 5 busting a move with 7 one day. Uh oh, this is how the last batch started.

7 was pregnant again, and soon popped out four more jellybeans, #14-17. 7 was as fertile as the Tigris/Euphrates. Mr. Mayor got elected for a second term. Once again, 5 and 7 were being great parents to the wriggling pups, taking turns keeping them warm. I wanted to get 5 out of the picture, but not in that first week or two. I didn't want any of this second batch to die because Mom was overworked.

Fast forward two weeks or so, to moving day. I put the gerbil tank in the passenger seat of my car, driving to all the pet stores I know. The first store didn't buy any animals. They had plenty of empty cages, and not a single gerbil in the store, but they weren't buying. The second store was closed, and no posting of when the open hours were.

The third store was where I got 7 from. Hopefully the putz who sold me 7 wouldn't be here. He was, naturally, and the only person in the store to boot. He looked more at place as the first guy busted out of a poker game. He didn't seem to recognize me.

The same bin o' gerbils was there, and had spilled over to fill a second tank as well. There were about two dozen in each tank, most of them full grown but a few a little smaller than my older kids. They were all white, leading me to believe their family tree didn't have any branches.

As I explained my situation to him, he went to the gerbil tanks and quickly pruned them, like shaking your computer mouse so your boss thinks you're busy. I saw brown clumps along all of the gerbils' butts. I thought that was some sort of infection, since my gerbils never had anything like that, and they were poop vending machines. He said no, the critters just get clumped up like that when they've got no room to move.

"Maybe if you separated them into a male tank and a female tank, they wouldn't reproduce so much," I suggested.

"I guess, someday," he said as if I suggested putting a man on Mars instead of five minutes of sorting work. He found a dead gerbil in the litter, and tossed it in a plastic bag. "They don't get exercise in there," he said, flinging the bag in the trash.

Like the first store, he wouldn't buy the gerbils, but would take them off my hands for free. Pretty good racket these pet store guys had going: sell customers specimen that'll breed, sell them food, then collect the overstock for free and sell those to others.

All I'd have to do was drive the gerbils over to the store, and he'd take the males (using his expert eye to pick the males). They were currently sitting in my car a few yards away, and I was looking for nothing but to get rid of half of them. "Maybe I'll stop by in a few days," I said. I drove off and brought the tank back to my place.

I pulled out the phone book and started calling pet stores. I found a store with a empty gerbil tank. My boys would have complete privacy. They were priced at $5.99 each at the store. White mice were just $1.50, so snake owners looking for a hot meal would probably aim for the cheap food. I didn't get any money, just handed them over, but they were safe and comfy and, most importantly, not impregnating my girls.

The real question was whether Big Daddy 5 or one of the older kids had knocked anyone up before their move. The day I drove them around in the car, I saw 7 doing her dance, so this would be cutting it pretty close to the bone. I'd have to wait, see if 7 grew big, again.

7 grew big, again. I should put this gerbil on a lecture circuit to couples who can't conceive. A week ago, out popped three more mammalian maggots: 18, 19 and 20. My mayoral time got extended to a third term, and there's no signs that term limits will ever be imposed. Maybe this is why gerbils are illegal in California.

The joys of gerbil parenting were wearing out faster than five dollar jeans. I had secretly wanted the first batch, but not the second, and certainly not the third. My five pound bag of Vita-Vittles was disappearing like the one keg of Sam Adams at the frat party next to the three kegs of Old Milwaukee. The exercise wheel was being run like an air conditioner on the equator, and the more it was used, the more of a squeak it developed. The litter needed to be changed much more often, and would get a horse stable smell a few days after each changing.

I took the gerbils out yesterday to clean the cage, and could only find two babies. #18 and #20 were there (a black and one of the two reds; they're still hairless), but no #19. Probably asleep in the litter. I held still a minute, seeing if there were any peeps or movements coming from a litter pile. Nothing. Maybe dead in the litter. I dug through. Nothing. I dug through again, and again. Nothing, and nothing. 19 had disappeared.

Ruling out gerbilnapping, the only possibility was that 19 was eaten. No blood or eye nubs anywhere, so every last bit was devoured in just a day or so. Nice parenting, 7. It was like an elementary school joke come to life: Why was 18 and 20 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 19.

If I had moved it and got 5 out of the tank earlier, 18-20 wouldn't have been born, and 19 wouldn't have been lunch. I'm going to have to hit the pet store again real soon, since 14-17 are getting to that dangerous age, and that Visa Check Card commercial with the rabbits is fast becoming a documentary. Plus the year's supply of Vita-Vittles has maybe a week's worth left in it. I'll have to go a third time when 18 and 20 are older, and probably a fourth time because that Jurassic Park spontaneous sex changing will probably happen just to annoy me.

Maybe I should get a snake.
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Written by S.D. Ryan