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May 1st is now official National Ferret Day. I have decreed it. Last year, on May 1st, Jo drove me over to Great Ayton to pick up Pogo and Pixel from the RSPCA. They have been rampaging round our house happily ever since. Then, this evening, Some Kids appeared with another ferret. “Is it ours?” Nope. “Can we sell it on ebay then?” erm... nope!! So, ferret number 4 has been adopted. Or at least, has adopted us. For I am Crazy Ferret Lady, and I must take in strays. Just a strange co-incidence that she turned up today.
Scrappy-doo the ferret needs a lot care and attention. She is so small, and so skinny. She must have been outside on her own for over a week to get that thin. Lots of food for her then! She also needs a name. Suggestions so far have included Paris – as in Hilton, who is also skinny, blonde and bitchy. Pandora – have we opened the proverbial box by taking in strays? Pickles, which is cute but sounds too much like Pixel. Pumpkin (for ironic value) or Perdita – meaning Little Lost One in Spanish. Of those, only Perdita really suits her...
Perdita it is then. It does suit; to me that name always sounds slightly
sophisticated but mean. Which is what our little darling seems to be. She's not getting along well with the original rabble. She could just be really traumatised from her ordeal and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, just frightened. But the others are not actually attacking her. They have peered in to her adopted sleeping bag, and as soon as she sees them, she squeaks and hisses and really goes for them. Pogo and Pixel just back off, cowardly, but Parsnip fights back. This is not good!
I am back to pondering my 100 words batches again. Last month was the first time I've written them in nearly a year, and I was out of practice. April wasn't very good. Jo took up the challenge last month as well; hers were very good, very funny and inspired. She had a theme -her ponderings about rocks. I think a theme helps, stops the batch just being stream-of-consciousness drivel or soundbyte journal entries. So, this month, there will be thirty entries about FERRETS. Ferrets need some recognition and positive publicity. Now won't you enjoy that, dear reader?
As cute little furry creatures go, ferrets have had a pretty bad press. Sure, they are related to weasels and stoats, but they have none of the cunning or deviousness associated with those critters. Ferrets are plain dumb. They are keenly intelligent, and very very curious but lack any semblance of common sense. Our menagerie want to know exactly what are we doing? And can they join in? And what's in that box? And what happens if I jump off this ledge? Their curiosity is stronger that their fear, and so they can get themselves into some stupidly dangerous situations.
It is possible to train ferrets. They used to use ferrets for hunting – some people still do, especially round here. Put said ferret down a rabbit hole, it finds and kills rabbit, and then hopefully, brings it back to you. They can learn to respond to squeaks or whistles very well. We do not hunt, but we do train them. Pixel is an expert, she comes running excitedly as soon as we squeak her favourite ball. The others do respond as well, but only if they feel like it. You can house-train them too. Ours are... getting there. Sigh.
As for the smell... it is nothing like as bad as people make out. They do smell, sure, they smell of small animal. My friends tell me they can smell it as soon as they enter our house. But then, I can smell Dogs or Ageing Cat Fart in their houses too. It's no worse than any other pet. Ferrets have scent glands above their hind legs, and they make Smells when scared or angry, like skunks. They will all still do that in extreme circumstances, but getting the boys neutered keeps the everyday pong down to an absolute minimum.
Poor little Perdita.... another (expensive!) trip to the vets. She didn't like it one little bit. Not the being carried in a box a mile up the road, nor the sitting in waiting room with Big Scary Cats, nor the smell of Medication, and especially not the Huge Scary Nasty Pain-filled Needle in the back of her neck. She SQUEALED!! And then she shat on the desk and Made Smells. She was coming in to season, and was all swollen and filled with PMT, so she had to have a hormone shot. I feel like a Bad Mummy now.
We got Ferret No.1 in 2005, the inimitable Hooligan. Getting him was a bit of an impulse buy. The newspaper had a list of “50 Best Pet Accessories” which included the funkiest thing I had ever seen – a purple ferret hammock. I needed the hammock. The ferret to go in it was the after thought. Once Hooligan came home with us though, that was it. Love. He vandalised his way into our lives, took over the house and got us hooked. We have been ferret-ridden ever since and I am proud of my reputation as Crazy Ferret Lady.
After separating Parsnip and Perdita for the fourth time this morning (they had each other in a deadly nose-lock), and cleaning up yet more of Perdita Crapolita's “presents”off the floor, we decided enough is enough. She cannot stay in the sleeping bag forever, so we've got her a new cage; her own food bowl, a hiding hole, her own hammock, and a fresh pile of litter in the 'dumping ground'. We even gave her luxury cat food to welcome her in! She crawled in, ate food, then went to sleep again. This is all the reaction we get!
I am married with four kids. We had a Very Married afternoon wandering aimlessly around Ikea buying Things to go in the new bathroom. (Actually, we went looking for rugs, and came back with a giant plant, but that's irrelevant!). We bought a laundry basket! It's got wheels!! More importantly, it has another use. It is perfectly proportioned to be a fantastic ferret buggy. It is quite tall and has a canvass lining impenetrable to ferret claws, meaning that once in, they can't get out again. Ideal for ferrying them around. I pushed them round the house happily all afternoon!
Talking of being married with kids, it has been observed on many occasions that the Business is actually our family. The ferrets are our kid substitutes, my babies. I get them up in the morning, make sure they've had breakfast, play with them, take them for walks, clean up after them, and put them to bed. I talk to them as if they were unruly toddlers, demanding attention when Mummy is Busy. They are a pain in the arse sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Watching them bumbling round the house constantly is the best sight ever.
Travelling with the ferrets, (again, just like travelling with small children) requires a great deal of forward planning. Until the arrival of Perdita, we were able to squish all three of them, and their cage, into the back of the car. They were quite good at travelling, the gentle movement of the car was emphasized by the swinging hammock, and they were gently rocked to sleep. We took them all over the country visiting relatives over Christmas, and they had to be released and allowed to walk round carparks at service stations on their leads to stretch their little leggies.
Walkies with ferrets causes a great deal of controversy, it seems. (They do look funny.) Proudly accompanying Pogo on the occasional turn around the block has given me a very strange reputation with my neighbours. (Of course, that has nothing to do with my giant boots, the sauna in the garden, Icelandic wailing comping from our stereo, Carl pouring vegetable oil into the car or the fact that my hair changes colour every other week...). Pogo hasn't quite mastered the art of walking to heel yet, but then, why should he? He is a ferret, king of all he surveys!
It was on these excursions that I first discovered quite how stupid/brave/curious ferrets are. Taking Hooligan out once, we found ourselves strolling along behind a Big Dog. This particular Big Dog had had its tail docked, and the stump left was waggling backwards and forwards antagonisingly. The dog was on a leash and completely oblivious to the presence of a small mustalid loping along behind. Hooligan had seen the dog though, and had immediately honed in on the tail. He watched it intently, and if I hadn't stopped him, was quite prepared to jump up and bite it!
Aunty Anna is here! The first time she met the ferret business in their natural habitat. Ahem. A few rude comments about their delicate fragrances aside, she LOVED them. Chased them all over the house, took loads of photos, cuddled up with them. They appreciated it, methinks. They've never sniffed an Aunty Anna before. Parsnip decreed she was a suitable candidate for Licking, and licked she indeed was. As she put it, “When lacking entertainment, choose a ferret.” How right she is... the ferrets' presence in the house is kind of a handy ice-breaker when people come to visit!!
Apparently, ferrets in a pub are an environmental health hazard. We once took Hooligan down to our local, (in his travel box, politely). Everyone thought he was cute. He was very good, he didn't smell, he didn't crap on the carpet, he didn't drink any beer, and he didn't try and get served under-age. But we were ordered out! Discrimination! Prejudice!! I once took Pixie down there and she sat on the table in the beer garden; that was allowed. But not inside. This is blatantly unfair. The ferrets are far better behaved that some of the pub regulars!
All the ferrets have different, distinct personalities Pogo is a great big lump. A Big Friendly Giant, especially in comparison with the girlies. Maybe because he is aware of his size, or maybe because he had his bollocks chopped off, but he is incredibly gentled and sweet natured. He is more childlike than the others, constantly playing, and easily amused. He comes up to you and nips you gently when he wants attention, scooting backwards across the floor inviting you to chase him. Everything is a game, everything is a source of entertainment. He is a very happy little boy.
Parsnip, on the other hand, is an old lady now. She was the original ferret, and quickly established herself as matriarch. We don't know how old she is, but she is developing serious middle-age spread, and just does not have the energy that the others have. When she decides she is asleep, nothing will disturb her. She's also the friendliest towards us; we're never sure if we're getting a friendly lick or a full-on bath at times. Recently, she's been trying to enforce her dominance over Pixel though, and keeps grooming her too hard, resulting in panicked squeaking!
Pixel is the tiniest, cutest ferret in the world, and she knows it. I think she was the runt of the litter, we've had her a year now, and she's barely grown at all. Her little feets stick out when we pick her up! She is the most active of the lot, constantly climbing up things, falling into things (including tanks of water, getting stuck behind the TV, even trying to get in the oven when it is on! She hates being in one place and won't often sit and cuddle. Her and Pogo have intense, hilarious Weezil Wrestling sessions.
Finally, Perdita. We don't know much of her personality (ferretality?) yet, she is still finding herself amongst the menagerie. Carl calls her 'damaged goods'. She is traumatised poor girly. She seems to trust us, and calmly falls asleep on our laps. When you pick her up, she winds her toes round your hand and clings on tightly. But when she's anywhere near the other ferrets, she hisses, shakes, shrieks and drops Smells. She must have been on her own for quite some time, or at least, on her own with humans. We don't know how to offer her trauma therapy.
A few days away from my beloved Furries. I was in Sheffield for a while, and now I'm in London. It is odd staying in Sheffield on my own with no busy little fuzzies bumbling about the house. I rang Carl, and he held Perdita up to the phone so she could say hello to Mummy. I couldn't hear anything, strangely enough, but I loved the thought. Makes a change from Pixie trying to chew the phone cord anyway. Oo, fun thing to play with! Let's grab it! Let's bite it! Muuuuuuuum!! I want to play! (I miss my babies....)
So, I am in London, and staying with Hils and D. The ferrets haven't been allowed to stay with Auntie Hils and Uncle D for a long while now, mainly because of the presence of their honourary cousins. Hils and D have two rats called Nemi and Triana. As rats go, they are very cute, all quivering noses and pink little ears. Triana has got very fat since we last saw her. The ratlings don't know what to make of me; I smell Scary, like a predatory ferret (even Pixel would make a good meal of those two.) Unnerving, obviously.
Hils and D
admired my tattoo. I finally, finally got in done at Whitby Goth Weekend last month, but I've been planning it for ages, designing and redesigning until I was happy. It is of a ferret standing on its hind paws, on the inside of my leg. It's about six inches high, and a little line drawing, just a black outline. Strangely the most painful part of getting it done was when he drew on the whiskers! Fortunately I met a sympathetic tattoo artist. Turns out, this guy used to keep fourteen ferrets and go rabbiting with them!
The Parents are here. My Mum is disappointed. All her friends have grandchildren, and she just gets ferrets. HAHAHA. She does not approve of my tattoo either, but having expected her not to, she made a point of almost being nice about it, refusing to give me the satisfaction. She did, however, have a good bonding session with Perdita. Perdita rather liked Granny. She cuddled up on Mum's lap and snoozed with all four paws in the air. Mum sat stroking her for a good half an hour, but even so, refused to admit she actually likes the ferrets. Hurumpf.
The cutest, cutest thing about ferrets is their sleeping habits. The original three all sleep in a big pile in their hammock. It's not uncommon to come down in the morning and find three little heads poking out of three different corners of the hammock. Parsnip sleeps more deeply than the others, and we can often pick her up and move her back to the cage without waking her. But even more cute is the snoring. Pogo snores very rhythmically, not gutteral, more of a whistle. I've heard the girls snore too, more high pitched. There is nothing more adorable!
A big, scary horrible seminar to do at uni today. I stood up and did a half-hour talk, which I've been stressing over for the past three months. Not good. We went for drinks afterwards, and people were asking why I hadn't brought a ferret along for good luck! I have done before; Pogo came to visit and peed on my supervisor's desk. (They forgave him!) I've taken Parsnip in before too, and she nearly got me in to trouble: as usual, she is not allowed in the bar. But they are trying so hard to be good students!
Other major ferret outings have included Whitby Goth Weekend. Last October we took Pogo down, on his smart red lead. He played on the beach! Sand = good, sea = bad. April 2007 was Parsnip's turn. We dressed her up in a ferret sized black velvet cape which looked wonderfully Gothic with her red eyes. This April we were ferret-less. However, we did meet Spke and Shadow, belonging to another cazy gothy ferret lady. Spike had bat wings, and Shadow has a t-shirt wth “Turn to the Dookside on it! They were being wheeled about in a pushchair too! Fantastic!
Carl is soooo good with the ferrets. I don't just mean cleaning them out regularly and making sure they are fed, - he actively includes them in everything he does. My heart swells whenever I catch him 'communing' with them, talking to them lovingly and expecting them to dook back appreciatively. He plays with them even when he has just come home and is half asleep. He worries about them when we go out and leave them on their own. He would make such a wonderful (real) Daddy. But that thought scares him. It is ferrets and ferrets only for now.
We are still hoping to move to Canada in a couple of years time (when I've finished uni for the third time.) I'd love to start my cafe out there, and Carl doesn't mind what he does, as long as it is interesting and in Vancouver. If we did go, we'd have to take the brats with us. They wouldn't like that. Not only would they have to have loads of injections, they'd also have to stay in the hold under the plane. Poor babies! Still, they could have a basement all to themselves out there....Ferrets to Canada! Woohoo!
I'm finishing on a non-ferret topic: Chris, Rachel and baby Nini left town today. They are moving in with a friend of theirs in Redcar, mainly because they can no longer afford to live in Darlington. Chris is out of work and Rach is on minimum wage, and rent on a tiny terrace in the northeast is now beyond them. This makes me so sad. I can understand completely why they want to leave here, but I will miss them so much. It's just adding to my list of reasons why I want to get out of here too!
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