The Story Of The Crafty Sugar Glider On The Red Bus
How a tiny rescue sugar glider brought a community together. A story of Rupert, Princess Lola and love.
''To err is human, to forgive, canine.''
After the passing of my father who left behind a 14 year old Labradoodle, our family thought we were done with pets. Little did we know, we were in for a sugar-y treat.
The best things in life takes you by surprise- I wasn't expecting a laptop as a Christmas present from my maternal uncle when I was already saving for a new gadget after my old one finally went comatose (it was a wonder I had been able to use it for 8 years), or the blue yarn hand-woven blanket from my grandmother that still keeps me warm on cold, lonely days and last but not the least, the joy of my life: Princess Lola. I think fate had a big hand in our squeaky, fun-filled first meeting at the shelter.
My brother, who at that time was studying to be a vet, introduced her to me. I don't know what I would have done without Princess Lola by my side. She is fond of sitting over my shoulder and loved being wrapped around my thumb. In this lonely pandemic, she kept me entertained, sane as well as provided a much needed laugh to my zoom class for whom Lola was a breath of fresh air during class. I think Lola also earned me a few brownie points with my professors, when I surprised them by introducing Lola one fine morning.
On April 17th 2018, a descript brown box landed on our door one evening in the middle of the hot summer season. My grandmother stood over it looking in cautiously, wondering what we were up to. Little did she know, everything was going according to the plan.
''What is this?'' Grandma asked cautiously. She straightened from her perusal inside the box and looked straight at my brother.
Hearing the familiar squeaking sound, I came running bare foot from my room as if the hounds of hell were at my feet. I knew exactly what was in that box. My brother, confidant and future vet John, and I had planned it all out beforehand. I peered inside the box to find a little, fury animal looking up at me with little small cute eyes. I scooped her up in my hand and she squeaked happily. I'd like to think she missed me but maybe she missed the fruits that came with me?
My older brother stood sheepishly, hands in pockets, looking to the side and acting like he had nothing to do with the animal he had brought to Grandma's door side. I could see why he was reluctant. Grandma wasn't a fan of animals because she loved her furniture to the point of obsession. Moreover, if somebody won't talk back at her and agree that the neighbors were rotten, they weren't worth her time. Life was about how people could entertain you, not the other way around, she told me that day.
''It's either you or him in the house.'' Grandma said slowly. I laughed knowing exactly what was what going to happen now. My brother was already a fledgling doctor and paid the bills diligently however everybody knew Grandma ruled the house. He shriveled under her gaze but he knew Grandma would warm up to the little nugget in no time.
''It's a she.'' My brother corrected after a beat. ''I got her from the shelter. Grandma, she has nowhere to go! We can't leave her. She needs us!'' his eyes were huge as he looked pleadingly at Grandma while playing his cards right.
''Moreover, she's a sugar glider. She wouldn't bite.''
''How do you know? Are you a mind reader now? She's a wild animal, Jonathan! What if she scratches the furniture?''
''Grandma! She was born in the shelter. She's quite tame. I promise you. Just look at her! She likes you!''
Grandma did look down at her and her eyes softened as Princess Lola squeaked up at her. Reluctantly, and with a lot of caution, Grandma took the sugar glider in stating that it was only a temporary measure at first. If you see them together now, you would never believe Grandma was against bringing the little rescue in. Xavier knew all about Sugar gliders so her stay in our home was full of comfort. As we learned about her more a bond formed, unbroken by circumstances and only strengthened by time.
She was only a year old. A recent fire had orphaned the little beauty depriving her of a home. Her broken left leg meant her acclimation into the wild would never be a possibility. She loved munching on sweet fruits and vegetables. Sugar gliders need 50% proteins in their diets. They are five to six inches long and can survive 10 to 15 years in captivity. How could a small creature, barely the size of my hand could bring our family together?
That day wee cooed over her, all of us standing around as her small beady eyes, too large for her face, moved from one giant to the next. She even won over my stern grandma, the corners of her mouth turned upwards whenever Lola was mentioned. It dimmed her ire and improved her mood and she never mentioned her ultimatum of Lola only being a temporary guest.
The amount of visitors that visited the little sugar glider at our house gradually increased. Our community members and neighbors made it a habit to visit her whenever they ''passed by'' our house, making sure they came in with fruits and vegetables to feed Lola. She enjoyed the attention and drank in the love, making little happy noises or closing her eyes into little slits when somebody petted her little head behind the ears.
Even our neighbors were welcomed. My grandmother forgot all her previous animosity as she showed off the sugar glider to Linda and Howard, who agreed that Princess Lola was indeed a little beautiful darling. Lola drank the attention in, she was such a social creature and anybody that brought her sweet fruit was a friend she would trust with her life.
Sugar glider are not beginner pets. They need plenty of exercising room, a specific, healthy diet and hours of handling to bond to their humans. If you find yourself short of time due to work or even suspect that you would not be able to give them as much time as they require I'll suggest adopting an easier pet. Princess Lola, was always quick on her feet, gliding from one place to the next gracefully.
Sugar gliders are very social animal. Hence, to keep Lola company, a few months into her stay with us, we got her a little sister to play with. Together, they kept us entertained with their antiques.
We had her 30 inch enclosure specially made for her so she can have plenty of space to room around and sleep in. The bars were horizontal so that Lola can climb up and down as many times as she liked as she squeaked the house down. Sugar gliders are pretty vocal animals, so if you are averse to noise, this is something to keep in mind.
I think the most fascinating part of Lola's journey in our house was the way she bonded with the other family pets. As mentioned before we already had 14 year old Labradoodle. He couldn't stay still when he saw Princess Lola for the first time; Rupert and Lola became the best of friends, bonding over their shared love for food and making noises. Rupert accepted her easily in the house and welcomed her with a loving a big grin. He would sit for hours looking at Lola as she munched on fruits in her cage. It was such a beautiful site, to see the two animals bond without words.
They regarded each other thoughtfully and communicated in ''ruff, ruff'' (Rupert) and squeaking from Lola. They understood each other perfectly and were glad the other one was there to share their space.
George Elliot said: “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”
Such was the case with me, Rupert and Lola. We spoke without words and loved each other unconditionally while accepting the difference that makes us such a perfect pair. All was not perfect in heaven though. A few years into her stay, I came home to Grandma's worried face. Lola had not been eating. She had been sleeping for most of the way and was lethargic for most of the day even when coaxed to eat. I walked up to her open cage where she wad dozing on the hand sized soft bed I had made for her and looked down. There was not a peep out of her and it scared me to the bone, to think I could lose Lola so soon.
To be safe, we rushed her to my brother's clinic where we waited an agonizing half an hour until my brother could see her. He scratched her under the china and Lola made happy noises.
Heart in throat and after a few test and a lot of waiting, my brother declared the verdict:
''Lola is having some teeth problems due to her high sugar diet. I'll write down some alternative and clean her teeth. I'll also provide some brushes for later use.''
It's not uncommon for sugar gliders to get teeth problems due to their high sugar diet. Lola was an expert in begging for treats but after the incident we became more cautious. Intent on keeping her stay with us as healthy and happy with us as possible.
Sometimes my mom tries to guilt trip me by saying: ''You'll realize when you're a mother yourself!''
She forgets that I'm already a mother of a sugar glider the size of my hand plus a dog and I would do anything including forsaking the bed after a long day to cuddle with her. Marriage can wait, cuddling with the most important family member cannot.
I hope you all enjoyed my story. Please adopt, don't shop. So many felines and dogs are waiting for you at shelter. They would love to go home with you and give you unconditional love in exchange for treats. Also, please donate to your nearest shelter. This pandemic has been incredibly hard on them and they are low on funds.