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Finds a Pet

In 1993 Justin and I went to visit his grandparents, on the way home he asked if we could stop off a Garden Center because he wanted to see had they any Gerbils. One of his friends had a Gerbil and he was thinking of getting one, if it was OK with me. There was one brown creature in a cage on it's own. Justin informed me this was a Gerbil. Justin convinced me by saying how lonely the Gerbil looked and how he would look after it and clean up after it. I had a fiver left in my purse, so we bought the Gerbil and brought him home.

Justin got an old bird cage from the attic and cleaned it out. We got sawdust and bedding for the Gerbil and settled him in his new home. Justin, Geraldine and Allan set about finding a name for the new family member which they eventually agreed would be Sonic. We all enjoyed watching Sonic playing around. His new home was placed on a snooker table in he corner of the kitchen.

A Second Gerbil

After a few weeks Justin came and asked if he could mind a Gerbil for a friend. I asked how long he planned minding it for and he said, "Just for awhile". Two weeks went by and there was no sign of the second Gerbil going home. Justin informed me that his friend did not want it back and asked if he could keep this one also. I was not very pleased as at this stage the Snooker table was looking a right mess, with all the felt chewed and sawdust scattered around, but he convinced me. We were not sure what sex the second Gerbil was and were nervous about putting the two together because they would fight or worse still begin to have babies so we would alternate their run around the snooker table.

Male or Female?

During that summer Geraldine, Justin, Allan and I went to Tralee to visit my sister, while we were gone Martin began having fun with Sonic and the other Gerbil, who by now had been christened Tails. By the time we came home he had them running around together and he told us how Sonic would chase Tails around the snooker table until tails would suddenly stop and Sonic would jump on his/her back. Justin and I decided to bring the two Gerbils to a Pet Shop to see if the owner could tell us what sex Tails was. We discovered that Tails was a girl and the two were getting on well together. When we went home both were put into the same cage and that's when all the fun began.

New Arrivals

Within a few weeks Justin came down one morning to discover that Tails had given birth over night, the litter consisted of ten babies. These were tiny pink wriggle things that looked like kidney beans. Tails was a very good mother but we were unsure of Sonic so we separated the two for awhile. When Sonic got out for his run he would spend all his time trying to get into the family home so eventually we put him back in. He was as attentive as Tails, if one of the babies came out of the nest he would bring it back in. Within two weeks the babies had grown hair and their eyes were opened. They were like tiny puppies, they were brown and black. By this stage Justin was becoming an expert at knowing how to sex them and he was not afraid to handle them. Over the next months there were babies been born every month to five weeks, litters varied in size from ten down to five. Justin would take all the family out for a run around the hall.

A new home

He got an old Rabbits Hutch from a great Uncle, which provided his pets with plenty of room. One night I stood watching one little Gerbil wander away from the nest so I picked it up to put it back with the rest of the family but it ran out of my hand and dropped to the floor, there were shouts and screams as I picked the baby up it seemed shocked, Justin was very upset. I phoned the vet and was told to keep the baby quiet for the night and if there was no change the next day to bring it down to be checked. The next day we brought it to the Vet and he said it had a good chance of survival, that it had probably twisted a muscle when it fell but there was no reason to put it to sleep. This little Gerbil was brown and female so we named her "Twisted Sister" because she walked lopsided and with her head to one side. After a few weeks one could not distinguish between her and the others, as she was strong and eating well.

Saying Good-bye

The population was growing in the Gerbils home and it came to the stage where we would have to get some of them adopted. We set about phoning pet shops all over Dublin to see if they would buy them. Eventually a Pet Shop in Capel Street said they would buy them. One of my sisters brought us to Town with ten Gerbils in a cage. Justin and I were very sad leaving the babies and he was very careful to insure they would be treated properly. Both of us cried as we left them, he got two fifty for each of them and bought food and bedding for the ones left behind. Justin was always making sure the Gerbil family did not get bored, he would spend all his pocket money on them, buying new gadgets for them to play and chew on.

Christmas Presents

Christmas morning 1993 there were ten new babies born, Justin suggested we call them all Jesus 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, because they were born on Christmas morning. At one stage one of the babies died from breathing difficulties and Justin cried bitter tears for the loss of the baby. We wrapped it up and put it in a cheese box and took it to where my sister lived that evening, where we buried it in the Church of Ireland grounds and said prayers for it.

Tails passes away

Sadly Tails was injured through a run in with a foot one night while she was out for her run around with Sonic, she survived for four days but died of a collapsed lung. Justin was broken hearted; needless to say, the Vet did all he could for her. I went to collect the "Hospital Aquarium" from the Vet's Surgery and when I got there they had Tails laid out in it, I could not bring myself to tell them I was not taking her home for burial, so I took her. On the way home I thought of how I had nothing to bury her in so I stopped off at the local shopping center to buy something, I went to every shop looking for a box, until eventually I found the perfect one. It was black casket shaped with a sunflower painted on top. I also got pink wrapping paper to lay her out in.

Tails is laid to rest

Justin could not bring himself to look at her so I did the laying out. I etched her name onto the box and her date of arrival in our home and her departure date. She lay in State in the shed for a week because Justin could not bring himself to bury her. Eventually on the Sunday four days later he dug a hole in the center of the back garden and we had a little good-bye service for her. Justin was very sad but I tried to cheer him up by asking if he would like another Gerbil, he said he would never get another one to replace Tails.

Sonic Becomes ill

About four weeks later Justin noticed a lump on Sonic's head and we brought him to the Vet, we were given creams and powders for him and told how to treat him, which we did. At this stage the cage was in the bedroom. Sonic deteriorated gradually and one morning Justin woke up and Sonic had passed away. We were all very sad, especially Justin. I went back to Final Touch and got another casket with a sunflower on top for Sonic. Justin buried him beside Tails and we said our good-byes. He was heartbroken and said he never wanted another Gerbil. I use to joke that we should rent him out a plot in the garden or charge him ground rent.

Justin's love of animals brought him great joy and knowledge but it also brought heartache. Through his love of animals he learnt about life and death, his sensitive, caring nature was evident through how he cared for his pets. I use to say that if Justin treated his women as he treated his pets he would be a wonderful partner and a brilliant father in his future life.

Written in December 1997 for inclusion in a book compiled as a Christmas present for Martin from Kathy

Justin and the Finches

Justin's friend Gary had Finches in an Avery in his back garden. Justin would spend time with Gary taking care of the birds and maintaining the Avery. Gary told me after the accident how when the finches laid eggs he was showing Justin and when they held the egg up to the light they could see the baby bird inside. He said Justin was amazed at the sight and was afraid he might damage the egg by handling it.

In 1993
Justin worked on a voluntary basis at a Riding Stables in Brittas, Co Dublin. His love of all animals was so strong he gave up his time so he could be close to them. He cleaned out the stables and groomed the horses during his summer holidays, the only reward was that he was near animals.


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