Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flirting with Disaster

Early last Saturday morning, hours before we were scheduled to leave on a week's vacation in northern Wisconsin, I woke to M yelling "They are out!".  I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and slippers and headed to the office where the cage is.  M had come in to give them their morning yogurt treat and found the bottom cage door open and three gliders missing.  Only Virga remained in the cage. I had left the bottom cage door unlatched the night before. There was no telling how long they had been out or where they were.

As I came into the family room M heard a glider running in the room. It turned out to be Cirrus, and she was pretty easy to gather up and get back into the cage. Now to find the two youngsters. They could be anywhere, and with their bed time coming up we had to locate them before they found some place to curl up and go to sleep. We checked all the rooms, looked in and under the couches, and then based on our previous experience with CB went, with some dread, to check the basement. Almost as soon as we stepped off the staircase we heard some rustling - it was CB. I had a pouch with me so I set it down in front of him, and he crawled right in. Two down, one to go. I headed quickly to the other side of the basement to check the utility area where the sump well is located. As I turned the corner at the end of a wall there was Foehn. I offered her the pouch and she crawled in to join her brother. All in all the roundup only took about ten minutes, but it was ten minutes filled with anxiety and worry. CB and Foehn can get down stairs, but it is not likely they could have climbed up the 14 oak stairs from the basement.

M was checking them out after their little adventure and noticed that Foehn's pouch was inverted. It did not look irritated or infected, but it was something that had to be checked out. So, I headed into the vet while M called ahead.  Our regular vet was totally booked on that Saturday morning, so we were referred to the University of Illinois Small Animal Clinic. There she was checked over and tested for an infection. Fortunately, the test was negative. However, the vet prescribed an anti-inflammatory and an oral antibiotic as a preventive measure, especially since we were going to be gone for a week. He suspected that stress may have been the reason for the inversion, although everything had been normal with her and the others.  So, with medications in hand and a sleepy glider ready to join her mates, I returned home to finish packing for our trip. This was a trip the gliders were joining us on. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Colony Portrait

After a number of attempts to get a photo of all four gliders that wasn't just one jumble of fur, this morning brought success!  Today was weighing day, and on weighing day we roust them out of bed around 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., bribing them with licks of yogurt and meal worms. They are usually reluctant to leave the pouch, understandably, but food always does the trick.  I managed to get this photo this morning after they all had taken a few licks of yogurt. As is usually the case,  there were a number of other photo attempts that did not turn out before I got "the" shot. This one is a little fuzzy in the foreground (incorrect camera setting), but it was the best so far. I'll continue to try and get some more group shots.

CB, Virga, Foehn, and Cirrus (back to front)
This was their first weighing in two weeks, and we were curious to see how this one turned out. Virga, in particular, seems to have been really chowing down the last few weeks, and were were hoping it wasn't at the expense of the rest of the crew. However, all of them had gained two grams since last time, except for Virga who was down two. We usually don't worry about week to week variations in their weight (I calculate a 4-week running average), but we didn't want to see a big drop in weight.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Balls of Furry

I mentioned in my August 2 post that I would write about some of the challenges in dealing with four gliders at one time. One continuing challenge is getting a good photo of all four of them at the same time - still working on that one!

With only two gliders, it's pretty easy to tell if there are two in a pouch. With four, it's not quite as easy to see how many are there, especially if they are all tucked in sleeping. On the third night of tent time with the four of them, I had everything set up and crawled into the tent. M handed me the pouch and I began coaxing them out. "Uh, M...there are only three in here."  She quickly ran and checked the cage.  Sure enough, CB had at some point decided to settle into one of the smaller pouches. So, now when we take them out we count heads - literally. It is impossible to count bodies or tails or anything when the are all curled up asleep on the bottom of the pouch, frequently on top of each other. The only way to be sure is to count heads.

"Supervising" the gliders the first few nights of tent time was also something that was different.  They were getting along, but occasionally there were conflicts in which I decided to intervene. They have worked out their differences and the last couple of times they have had a great time together. It's harder to tell who is who in the tent since the lights are dimmed, but I have been pretty successful in telling them apart by their behavior and personalities. For example, Foehn and CB will only rarely climb on to my hand or arm. Virga, on the other hand, readily will climb on to my arm if I offer it to her.

When it's time for them to leave the tent, all four will head for the pouch once I set it down.  However, I now have to be a little quicker in getting them back to their cage. Almost every time now there is some hissing and crabbing in the pouch, probably because someone put a foot in someone's face as they try to get comfortable.

Food has not been as much of a challenge as we had thought it would be. When they were in separate cages, Foehn and CB always cleaned their plates, so to speak. There was rarely any food left in their dishes in the morning. Virga and Cirrus, on the other hand often left food uneaten, although they were getting better about it before the merge. Food plates are almost always empty now, and no one seems to be going without. Virga has gone from 80 grams when she came to us to 93 grams at the last weight check. The others are slowly gaining or holding steady We'll have to keep an eye on their weights to make sure each glider is getting the food they need.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Confusing Communication

After a stretch of several days of quiet with the gliders, I had an interesting time with them in the tent a few nights ago. That night, Foehn and Cirrus were having some serious issues with each other. Foehn seemed to be the one that was taking exception. They would approach each other, sniff a bit, and then one or the other would crab, hiss, and lunge. We were not sure what was going on as they have always gotten along (Virga was the one who was having difficulty adjusting early on). Foehn would bark from time to time as if she wanted attention or was looking for someone, but then didn't like the attention she was getting. One other thing I noticed was that Foehn was making a faint and somewhat rapid clicking sound when they were near each other. It reminded me of the sound of someone's teeth chattering. The only other time I heard this before is when we were first introducing them in the bathtub, and Foehn was making this sound as they were checking each other out. There as obviously some communication, or miscommunication, going on. I posted a note to Glider Central (a glider forum we frequent) asking about the clicking, and the consensus was that the clicking was benign, more of a greeting rather than a warning. Whatever was causing the problem, I think Cirrus eventually figured out that it was just best to avoid Foehn that night and there weren't any serious encounters after the first few.

What has continued to amaze us is that no matter how these "disputes" start, they all end up getting along just fine. The next morning they were all comfortably sleeping together in their large pouch, and apparently Foehn and Cirrus resolved whatever was causing them conflict the night before.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Transformation

We adopted Virga and Cirrus (now 7 going on 8 years old) in March. They were two very different personalities compared to CB and Foehn. For a long time they were wary of their new surroundings, naturally, and Virga in particular had her idiosyncrasies. She would crab loudly if she was disturbed in her pouch, and would frequently lunge and bite if you placed your hand in the pouch. The crabbing went on even if you weren't actually bothering her, but she sensed you might. Cirrus was not as bad, and in fact seemed at times to look at Virga as if to say "Would you give it up already?" We figured part of her noise-making may have been related to her previous home where there were cats around, and perhaps she had been scared or startled while in the pouch. Over the last few months she has improved in this regard, but the real transformation came in the past 10 days, following their introduction to CB and Foehn.

I mentioned in my last post that I had developed a soft spot for Virga, as she seemed to be the outsider in this colony and retreated to me when she got in a tussle with either Foehn or CB (usually Foehn). The first several days of the new arrangement did have its rough moments. Virga would come up to Foehn and sniff her, or try to groom her, and Foehn would take exception. This happened a few times in the tent as well as in the cage, but when all was said and done all four gliders were together in their pouch in the morning. Over the last five days we have noticed a remarkable change in Virga. She no longer crabs in the pouch, lunges, or tries to bite. She and the rest of the crew all get along well now, and it has been two or three days since she and Foehn have had a spat. In the tent she climbs and jumps with the rest of them, and will readily climb on to my hand or arm. She will sit still and let us pet her, something she didn't really like that much a month or so ago. Virga and Cirrus always seemed to have an indifferent attitude toward food. When I would come in to give them all some yogurt licks in the morning, Cirrus and Virga would take a few and then ignore further offerings. M gives them their morning yogurt now, and says Virga and Cirrus are first out for theirs and can't get enough.

The successful introduction of our four gliders was a long time in coming, but the wait was worth it. Virga and Cirrus seem to be much happier and have bonded more with us, and we think Foehn and CB like this new arrangement as well. Dealing with four gliders all at once, as opposed to one pair at a time, has presented a couple of challenges and interesting moments this past week. More on that in the next post. My next challenge is to get a good photo of all four of them together for the blog page.