Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Future Extended Family

Our son, whose sugar glider got us interested in these little animals three years ago, will finally be getting a companion for his glider.  If you have followed this blog you have read about Molly, his glider. Well, back a couple of months ago when we were closely watching all of our gliders because of what Virga and Cirrus were going through, M made a discovery one day. She checks the condition of our gliders every morning after yogurt and before they go back into the cage. We were taking care of Molly that weekend and M checked her as well. During the check she discovered that Molly was in fact a "he"!  We gave our son the news when he came to pick her up.  Molly's name is now Case. (Both are characters in the novel Neuromancer.)

We participated in another glider railroad two weeks ago and in the process met one of the breeders we were familiar with through Glider Central. While at her house we got to see all of her gliders, and she had a white mosaic glider that was out of pouch at the end of August. Our son had been hoping to get a white glider at some point, and this one seemed perfect for him. So once he is weaned in another six weeks or so and has been neutered, Ghost will be joining Case. 

Ghost, a white mosaic glider, at about 3 weeks out of pouch.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Life Goes On

This past week we have been closely watching Cirrus, CB, and Foehn to see how they were going to react to Virga being gone. On Monday night and Tuesday Cirrus, in particular, seemed to be out of sorts and trying to find her sister. All three of them were not eating much. Normally they each get some Blended Mix (their staple diet), and fruits and vegetables.  They almost always finish all of their Blended Mix, and usually their fruits and vegetables as well, depending on what they like at the time. This week, two out of three dishes of Blended were hardly touched, and they were only picking at their other food. On Wednesday we left with them on an overnight trip as part of another glider railroad (the subject of a future post). Since we returned on Thursday, their appetites have returned. Maybe this "mini vacation" was good for them. Each of them lost a couple of grams this week, which is not surprising considering their appetites and the stress from Virga being gone. The other day Foehn and Cirrus seemed to be at each other a bit, but at this point everything seems to be almost back to normal. We don't know if it was Foehn trying to assert her dominance or just a case of her annoying Cirrus.  All of them have been playing together. There was a little pouch switching this week, which happens from time to time. One one occasion Foehn was by herself and Cirrus and CB were together. Yesterday CB was by himself and the girls were together. However, this was after they had been going back and forth between pouches after morning yogurt.  I think CB was tired, went to sleep, and figured if the girls wanted to play musical pouches, fine - but he was going to sleep right where he was!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Glide Free, Virga

Yesterday was our usual weekly weigh-in for our gliders. When it was Virga's turn I placed her into the pouch we use for weighing and headed for the scale. She had been slowing down the last week and was continuing to decline. Virga looked at me from the pouch with her big eyes, and it was clear it was time for her to be free. Weighing her only confirmed it for me - she had lost 6 grams in the past five days. Last night the tremors she has experienced on awakening lasted off and on through most of play time. She spent most of the time in my hand where I rubbed her tummy, which seemed to relax her and ease the tremors. I told M that I agreed that it was time to make the call and let Virga go.

I got up this morning to give them all their morning licks of yogurt, Virga included. I made the call to the clinic and left a message. Shortly after 8:30 I received a call back - we had a 10:00 a.m. appointment.

Cirrus, Foehn, and CB accompanied Virga to the clinic with us. Dr. W came out soon after and let us know there would be a bit of a delay.  When it was time Dr. W came out to get us and brought us to the examining room.  There was a blue fleece blanket on the steel examining table - that was surprisingly somewhat comforting.  Dr. W explained to us what would occur, and Virga was put under anesthesia.  M helped by keeping the anesthesia cone over Virga's face while she was injected with the euthanizing drug, and I kept the other gliders calm (I am not good with needles). We had elected to go with a catheter into her knee bone, but the small needle would not allow the relatively thick fluid to get into her system. So, it was directly injected into her heart. When Virga had passed we placed her in the pouch with Cirrus, Foehn, and CB so they could say their goodbyes.  We were both able to hold her and say our goodbyes.  There were tears in everybody's eyes: ours, Dr. W. the vet tech, and the student helping out. Dr. W. said she would make a clay paw print for us.

Virga was nine and a half years old, but only with us for the last two and a half years (she and her sister were re-homed with us). She quickly won our hearts. We'll miss Virga being the first one up and out at night, her climbing on our arms for the ride to the play room (office), her enthusiasm for mealworms, her long runs on the wheel, and her gentle nature. We are happy she came into our lives, and know she had a happy life with Cirrus, Foehn, and CB. She had grown to be my favorite, and I think M's too.

A necropsy is being done, and we should have the results in a few weeks. What they learn from Virga and Cirrus will eventually be published in the exotic animal veterinary journal so perhaps other gliders can be helped. As Dr. W. was briefly examining Virga she found new tumors, one of which appeared to be in her lymph nodes.

We can't say enough about the staff at the University of Illinois Vet Med Exotics Dept. for their efforts and care the last six months. Everyone from the receptionist who checked us in today (she knew why we were there and quietly offered to escort us back early), to Dr. W., Kim, and the vet med students we met were caring, compassionate, and professional.  We feel very fortunate to have access to the level of care and caring our gliders have received.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Virga and Cirrus had another follow-up appointment today with our vet. The last week or so Virga has seemed to be slowing down, and after a period where the tremors had lessened, they returned with more frequency.  She also has been overgrooming her abdomen to the point where she has little fur.  Virga still has been spending time on the wheel, but doesn't run as long and quite as hard. It's been two months since the cancer returned and in the back of my mind I knew that she wasn't feeling well, but I've tried to be optimistic. So, it was hard to hear that her body is in decline and the tumors had grown. Although her weight has been stable, she has lost muscle and fat to the growth of the tumors. The vet says she probably is having a little trouble breathing as well. She is on a medication to reduce inflammation and any pain or discomfort.

We don't want her to suffer or to progress to the point where she is unable to function, and she is not at that stage yet.  I was not ready to say goodbye today, and I don't think she was either.  Our hearts are with Cirrus as well, because they are so bonded and Cirrus will have a tough time without her sister.  Cirrus, by the way, came though the exam with flying colors, so there was some good news today.  However, that only slightly tempered the fact that sometime soon we are going to have to make a difficult decision and make our last trip to the vet with Virga.

This is a photo of Cirrus and Virga after their exam, asleep
in their pouch. Virga is on the bottom, and Cirrus is laying
on top of her with her arm on Virga's head