It all started with the best intentions. We'd agreed to look after a pair of gerbils this year. Well it beats the duck sitting that we agreed to do last summer. They arrived, two little rat like creatures, in their cute gerbil cage. It started well with one of the boys having the cage in his room. That lasted one night. 'They kept me awake all night with their scratching' he complained so off to another (empty) room for subsequent nights. He's a teenager and needs sixteen hours sleep a day. Then came the extra food treats, a little piece of carrot, a slice of juicy apple. Next an empty cardboard roll for them to 'play in, they'll find it interesting'. What they found was it was good for was chewing into teeny weeny pieces. In seconds. Like piranhas on little legs.
Then it moved on to more daring thoughts.
'I don't like them cooped up in that cage they need more exercise and gerbil stimulation' said someone.
And then came the hunt for a suitable receptacle to put them in for. What Mrs EoTP found was a large packing trunk and she, and the boys, then created what they believed was gerbil heaven. But we will soon find out that gerbils have a different view of what constitutes heaven. The story continues. In the trunk are placed more empty cardboard rolls, ramps and bridges, little huts with doorways and peep holes, a restaurant, swimming pool, car hire outlet and Tesco Express. What more could a gerbil want you might ask?
And the answer is freedom.
I don't want to say 'I told you so' but about 30 seconds after they were placed into gerbil paradise I mentioned, casually, that these little cute creatures could jump like a kangaroo. 'No worries' came the reply followed by a scream of 'One's got out'.
Yep, eschewing gerbil paradise for freedom one of the little horrors jumped and ran - and boy can they run. Within seconds he'd cleared the room, got into the kitchen and headed for the back of the house with all of us now in hot pursuit. Fortunately all the doors to the outside were closed. However, we all coped admirably and only ran around like headless chickens for five minutes, shouting 'OMG, OMG'. One of the boys opened a door to the outside (for some reason) and promptly found me screaming at him to shut the door. 'Can I come back in now?' he kept asking plaintively from the other side. 'No' I said 'keep the door shut'. I think he's still outside, I must check. The other boy stood laughing but contributed nothing to the recapture plan which evolved (put a bucket over it, throw a napkin over it, appeal for it to come quietly using a bullhorn, show it a picture of an attractive female gerbil, tell it we don't care and it can run around all it likes it's only amusing itself and so on). Mrs EoTP was on her knees peering under the furniture and pointing to said escapee which was interesting but not terribly useful.
Contemplating, just for a nano second using the vacuum cleaner to capture it (I was desperate at this point), I came up with a cunning plan which was then executed with skill and panache, and quite a lot of swearing, to round the animal up. I don't think there is a career as a cowboy waiting for me anywhere but if you have a small, fast domestic animal loose in the hoose then I'm probably your man. Their is nothing quite so pathetic as four humans trying to round up an animal the size of a mouse. We can get to the moon...
So now the gerbils are back in their cage and that's where they are staying. Looking after other people's pets is too stressful. Mrs EoTP has to check on the welfare of some chickens in a few days. I have made her promise not to open the hen house, I can't face the angst of them flying the coop (as it were) or trying to come up with an alternative metaphor like headless chickens in front of the chickens (they might have feelings you know - howabout runaway gerbils?)
Last year it was the duck and the teenager (see here)
This year it has been the year of the gerbil - and the teenager again (not so bad this year, only left the windows and doors unlocked this time).
I think next year we need a break. From the animals.