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Archive for January 9th, 2010

As if losing five dogs and Kathleen’s dad since September wasn’t already enough, we had to endure yet another death before 2010 arrived. About 12 hours after dropping Kath off at the airport on Wednesday the 30th, I was getting the porch critters set for the night. I opened the sugar glider cage and found our male, Pixel, lying at the bottom. He was still alive, but not doing well at all.

Right now you’re asking “what the heck is a sugar glider?” It’s a common question we’ve gotten for years. They are small marsupials that live in the trees in the wilds of Australia, not unlike how we have squirrels here. They’re nocturnal creatures, so they sleep all day and party all night. Their name comes from a love of sweet foods and the ability to glide from tree to tree, thanks to wing-like membranes that stretch between their front and back legs.

That’s Pixel on Kathleen’s shoulder. When we got him as a baby back in late 1996, I was employed at a local TV station, and he spent many days nestled in my shirt pocket as I worked in an edit suite. They’re often called “pocket pets”, not only because of their diminutive size, but also due to their love of being in a dark little place, like a pocket.

The night I found him in distress, I tried everything I could to get him to eat or drink, but to no avail. All he wanted to do was cling to me. Our female glider, Pica, seemed fine. They had lived together as a couple since 2000, when Pixel became an official SGA – Sugar Glider Ambassador. He was featured prominently in the first photo of a feature article about our family in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

He was photographed happily munching on a grape by our friend Julie Fletcher (who took our final Pookie pics just a few months ago). Not long after the article was published in February of ’00, a lady called and begged us to take her female glider. She claimed she just didn’t have time to care for her. We eventually gave in, and to be sure there would be no accidental glider babies, Dr. Rick performed his first, and so far only, sugar glider neutering on Pixel.

The two gliders bonded very quickly, and were a happy couple for the rest of the decade. We’ve given copies of the article to every new petsitting client over the years, which helped to cement Pixel’s ambassador status. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Wow! I want one of those,” when people see that photo. I have to assume they’re referring to Pixel and not me (though as you can see, I was rather dashing back in the day).

Pasta was always a favorite treat, and here Pixel is seen enjoying a curly piece. He and Pica lived a good long life together, but there were some scares along the way. At one point he almost lost a foot due to a piece of thread getting wrapped around it – we had put a pot holder in their pouch to use as a pillow, not thinking the threading could be a hazard. Pixel allowed Kath to nurse him for two weeks, soaking his foot in a medicated bath and taking antibiotics via a syringe. A few years after that, he developed an abscess in his jaw, and again had to go through being medicated. He eventually healed and was back to normal.

I decided it was best to put Pixel in a small travel cage the night he went down, so I could keep him in the bedroom with me and monitor him. When I awoke on New Year’s Eve, I was afraid he might not have made it through to the morning. Amazingly, he was still alive, but even less able to move. He still had no desire to eat or drink. Around 11am I called Dr. Rick and conferred with him, he agreed it was best not to watch him die slowly. Since he was off for the holiday, he called the clinic and alerted them I was coming.

Pixel and I held hands one last time before we headed there. He died peacefully in my hand as Dr. Myers helped send him off to join the rest of our furry angels. Pixel was the “Ramirez” of gliders… he’ll always be the first and best.

I miss you, my little friend.

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