The Story of Quasimodo
December 28, 2017, with 3 sisters and 1 brother, was born a very normal male. Rin had already had another litter before and everything had gone well. The scenario was repeated once more. As the litter was born earlier than I had expected and Haru and Rin had probably already mated, I left everyone together until the males started puberty.
On January 5th, at 8 days of life, I go to see the little ones to photograph them and to have an idea of the genders. This is where I noticed that one of the babies was different. His head was crushed, completely flat, and he seemed to have difficulty moving. He was not born that way, so that meant he was crushed, since I always empty the toy nurseries.
So I watched him very closely from that moment on. Unfortunately, there was not much to do but watch and wait to see what was going to happen. If the head would only have been crushed, it wouldn't have been THAT bad, but he had a red spot on it that was bothering me, as if its skull had been shattered. However, I never left objects in my nurseries, to prevent babies from being harmed. The only possible hypothesis was the wall of the tank.
The days passed and the little one still hung on. Rin being a wonderful mother, she continued to take great care of him. I lived every day at a time, just like him. Every morning, I had a small pinch going to see the babies, until I saw him, still alive, in the middle of his siblings.
His hair grew a few days later but the mark on his head was still present. At least, it was easy to differentiate him from others. Another way to differentiate him was by his size: he was clearly much smaller than his siblings. Given his unique appearance, but also how sweet and endearing he was, I decided to give him the name Quasimodo.
His growth was good, despite being almost a day and a half behind his brothers and sisters. He opened his eyes a day later, started running a day later, stayed a lot smaller too.
At 36 days of life, February 2, I was coming back from a trip to Quebec City. My partner took care of the gerbils in my absence, as usual.
When I arrived, my first instinct was to go see the babies and my eyes instinctively looked for Quasimodo. Without success. The heart quickly tightened, fearing the worst. Gerbils usually bury the bodies of their dead, but sometimes they also "dispose" of the bodies themselves. So I rummaged through the bedding to find Quasimodo, alive but weak, under a thick layer of bedding. His breathing was "clicking" and he struggled to stand up. So I took him with me to the living room where I took care of him all day. As he seemed cold, I had to use a magic bag to warm the container in which I kept him. As he seemed to me in better condition at the end of the day, I put him back with his mother and sisters.
The next morning, my husband woke up and went to see how Quasimodo was doing. He found him buried again. So he took the initiative to put him back in the container in which I had put it the day before.
When I woke up, he was still weak, but he was acting normally. He ate, drank, dug, and even tried to jump out of the container. I was surprised to see how much he calmed down when he was in my hand and how much he seemed to like getting on it.
That evening, I worked the gears in my head like nothing before, to see how I was going to organize all that. I clearly could not put him back with his family, but I could not leave him alone either.
As I had put Hatsuharu and the males of the first litter in cohabitation with the females, Haru knew the smell of Quasimodo. Almost five weeks old, he was also young enough to be introduced directly to his father. Haru immediately accepted him.
Haru has always been incredibly docile, but Quasimodo had been even more docile. One of my cousins came to visit and took Quasi. He lay in her hand, quietly, and stayed there for several minutes.
Over the days, I noticed some very big changes in Quasimodo, like his hair that got better and a nice growth spurt that made him catch up with his siblings. He also began to dig and run, becoming more and more active and visibly more and more happy. It was obvious to me that this was the best decision I could have made for him.
A few days later, I realized that Quasimodo had only one brother in his litter, Sōma. Being alone, I insulted myself mentally and decided to try to introduce him to Quasimodo and Hatsuharu. I want to make it clear that we should NEVER introduce a gerbil to a clan already established. Nevertheless, Quasimodo had been with Haru for only a week and both were extremely young. I also knew that Haru has a golden temperament. Since then, they all live together. Quasimodo will stay at the kennel all his life.