A House Full of Love and Laughter Again

Scooter (left) and Pepper (right)

There was a big hole in my life. It didn’t appear because I was without a romantic partner. It appeared when I lost one of my ferrets over a year ago. It was a devastating loss to me, and I still get really choked up when I think about Stimpy. There was a serious void in my life, though, and part of me was maybe conscious of it, but not fully. I didn’t realize how badly that void needed to be filled. Not until last Tuesday, when we were lucky enough to be given care of a ferret in need of a new home. I don’t usually like it when people give up their pets, but there are rare exceptions when it’s necessary, and this was one time when the family really had no choice. She also made sure he went to a home where he would be loved, and she’s been texting me regularly to ask how he’s doing.

The new fur baby is named Scooter. We had actually changed the names of both of our other ferrets, but this time we have no intention of doing so. The name is appropriate to a ferret, and quite adorable, so he will remain Scooter, Scootie, Scooter-Bug, et al. (That last bit is [et alia abbreviated] Latin for ‘and others’ in the neuter plural – deal with it spell-check! Man, I hate those red squiggles when I know I’m right!!) Stimpy was originally Stewart, or Stewie, and Pepper was originally Miss Licks – his name definitely had to be changed, since his former ‘owners’ didn’t realize that was not a belly button. Ferrets are incredibly smart – supposedly more so than cats or dogs – so a name change is no big deal for them, but it’s nice to be able to keep the name they’re accustomed to.

It amazes me to see the difference between a single-ferret household, and one with two of the little trouble-makers. For one thing, it really is at least double the fun, if not more. They get far more excited and play more, and there are two to watch. They don’t always sleep at the same time, so I can get my fix more regularly. For another, it really is double the love. I fall in love with ferrets at an alarmingly fast rate, and Scooter had my heart in his amazingly dexterous paws before they’d even touched me. To put the capper on it, he loves giving kisses. There’s nothing more adorable than a ferret who licks the tip of your nose with that tiny little tongue. Well, he’s not really picky. He licks the rest of my face, too, and fingers and toes. Thankfully bad breath isn’t common with ferrets.

The great thing about ferrets is that they can go pretty much anywhere, so even if we go on vacation we can easily bring them with us. There are places where they have been banned, such as California and Hawaii, and I’m not sure about New York City now. They were talking about lifting the ban, but I’m not sure if that’s been approved, and if it has, whether or not it’s actually been passed into law. I’m sure there are counties throughout the US where they’re not permitted, but I doubt it will be an issue. I do plan to take a road trip as soon as I get around to buying another car, but when you’re just passing through it’s not usually an issue. Especially when an animal is in a proper carrier. (I never travel with animals in a vehicle that aren’t in carriers or don’t have their own seat belts like they have for dogs.)

If an animal has been vaccinated for rabies and distemper, and has passed border scrutiny, most cops aren’t going to give you a hard time, even assuming they bother to stop you. Granted, me having Canadian plates might concern them. After all, we Canadians are known for our potent hydroponic bud. Ironically, despite how much of it is grown in other provinces, it’s British Columbia that’s know for propagation, so the Ontario plates may not be concerning to them.

As for ferrets going across the border from Canada to the US, however, the CDC states that there aren’t any specific requirements. Not even for dogs or cats. It’s apparently only airlines that bother with that sort of thing. Since I plan to have my boys fully up-to-date on their shots, though, it’s not a worry for me either way. Funnily enough, it will cost me $30 to bring one of my boys back home and $5 for the other – Canada’s far stricter immigration laws in effect, I guess. The great thing is, ferrets are classified as domestic pets all across Canada, so there’s nowhere in the country where I have to worry about them being banned. They’re actually listed very specifically with dogs and cats, which tells me that the Canadian government at least is recognizing that they’re the third most popular pet in North America. Yes, they really are. Of course, that’s likely because the average ferret owner has seven of the adorable little buggers. Most people don’t have seven cats or dogs.

I started out writing this, lying on my bed as I am now, but suddenly I have a Scooter-Bug sleeping on my chest. He’s been there for a while, and doesn’t seem to mind how loudly I type (I got some teasing complaints earlier on Skype from my friend and business partner – I started out as a competitive pianist and using an electric typewriter, so I really bang on my keyboard – if I don’t I make too many mistakes). The point being that Stimpy used to sleep like that. It was very comforting, and I’ve really missed it. Pepper doesn’t like to be touched by humans when he sleeps, except when I comfort him during a bad dream. Then he wakes up to run right back to his bed – the only animal I’ve ever known (ferret or otherwise) to be so tired he has to literally run to bed.

For the first few days Scooter was pretty quiet, though he did like to wrestle with our hands and was playfully nippy (just mouthing, not actually hurting). Now he’s starting to romp and do a little weasel war dancing (if you’ve never seen that, I suggest typing that into the search box on YouTube, because it’s hilarious and how they express their joy and playfulness), plus he’s dooking, which is the sound ferrets make that is very different for each ferret. Scooter and Pepper haven’t quite found their balance yet, so they circle one another, dooking, wrestling without biting, and chasing each other, but once they start sleeping in the same bed they’ll be bosom buddies for the rest of their lives.

We were already planning to get another ferret, but it suddenly became more urgent when Pepper started showing signs of boredom and depression. After all, people just aren’t as much fun as another ferret. He got plenty of love and attention – more than he really wanted from people – but it wasn’t the same as having a fur buddy. He tried to befriend our last remaining cat, but she kept rejecting him (she doesn’t even like other cats really). He would flop on the floor and sigh dejectedly – yes, ferrets really do sigh like that.

Within a few days we were trying to make arrangements with the nearest ferret shelter, which would have cost us a lot of money. Not only did we need to get a special blood test done to ensure our current ferret didn’t have a deadly disease called Aleutian Disease Virus, usually referred to as ADV, but we would have been paying for anesthetic to knock him out to get the blood sample, renting a vehicle to get to the other city, and then paying adoption and membership fees on top of all that. Still, even with a total of around $420, we were willing to do it. I just can’t bring myself to contribute to the breeding mill and pet store cycle. For Pepper’s sake, if there were no ferrets available at the shelter and none in the classifieds, I would have relented.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that getting another ferret would fill up my life and heart this much. I’m crazy about the little critters to begin with, and the loss of one is more painful than I can even begin to describe, but I’m willing to deal with that loss. They’re worth it.

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