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As a student I only used to let my gerbil roam so far, until he took a journey inside a sofa

When I was at Vet School there were often many patients staying in the hospital.

Some needed the constant care of the final year Veterinary students. To be readily available we were provided with accommodation we lovingly called ‘the hut’.

In those days I had an illegal pet. It was completely against the rules to have pets in student digs, but as the only vet student in Trinity for 3 years, perhaps I felt I was a special case.

He was a rather handsome black gerbil called Clyde.

It was my first turn for Hut Duty, and Clyde and I settled in.

After supper, I brought Clyde out from his pen. This was a second hand aquarium almost full with cardboard he had enjoyed destroying. He was capable of immense damage as many rodents are, with powerful teeth and he loved making burrows. I sat on the sofa and watched him enjoy exploring.

This was a mistake. Perhaps I was too young yet to have noticed the damage that generations of students do to a sofa – it certainly was a sad sagging old thing. Clyde rapidly found a hole, and disappeared!

Immediate panic ensued. My colleagues and I spent ages trying to tempt him out to the light. We were reluctant to damage the sofa further by making the hole bigger, and Clyde was reluctant to be caught and brought back to captivity.

We were regularly called away, to care for properly sick animals, but each time we returned we attempted to trick him into coming out. It doesn’t bear thinking about what he found to eat down there. We left him with a little ramp we had made leading back into the sitting room, and one day, on our return, there he was, as bright eyed and happy as any gerbil can be.

Needless to say, he had no more freedom walks for the rest of that week, and I was a lot more careful where he was let out, but he seemed none the worse for his inner-sofa adventure.

Published in the Mid-Sussex Times on 23rd February 2017.

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