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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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.
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