Just when I though everything was settling down around here after what has become known as the “Ferret Incident In The Sewing Room”, Miette decided to liven things up. For the past few days she's been coughing delicately (a la Violetta Valéry, in the famous opera La Traviata) and looking interestingly pale – a difficult thing for a chocolate coloured ferret to do. I’ve kept an eye on her, suspecting hypochondria, but being prepared to give aid and sustenance should the need arrive. Yesterday I attempted to combine quilting and ferrets again ("What!" I hear you say, "have you gone totally mad?"). Ahh! but I took precautions this time. I plugged up the gaps between the wall and the back of the cupboard, so yesterday, my quilting/ferret adventure was rather uneventful. Until ... Miette went on the missing list.
If you remember, Miette is a tiny female ferret (Miette means "small, sweet thing” ...sweet? hmmm?), and has much in common with that other height challenged individual, Napoleon Bonaparte, in that she has a quarrelsome outlook on life and is determined to be the boss of everyone. While she was at the Ferret Welfare Society’s Safety House, she managed to become the Alpha ferret simply by grabbing every ferret in sight by the back of the neck, regardless of their sex, size or attitude to her world domination aspirations, and squealing her lungs out. While Napoleon used more subtle tactics in his quest for supremeness like shooting the enemy, Miette’s technique has proved to be a very effective means of gaining dominance over ferrets. So much so that I intend to use exactly the same technique at the earliest opportunity to bring the ferrets into line. I might even try it on Graeme to see if it works on other species - I'll let you know. Hey, it’s got to be preferable to Napoleon’s methods of getting his own way.
Albus too had a very effective strategy to avoid unpleasant ferret incidents (and one I'm definitely going to use regularly!). I can see him now - Miette (known during her time with the N.S.W.F.W.S. as Twinkle - yuck!!) wanders over to Albus (at that time going under the name of Umina), trying to look innocent and not at all interested in dominating him. Suddenly Miette/Twinkle makes her move! She goes for Albus/Umina's neck! And that's when Albus shows his true colours – he rolls on his back (bad luck if Miette is still attached) and goes to sleep. If she was now under him, and she usually was, Miette had to squeeze out as best she could while trying to preserve her dignity and status among the other ferrets. Apparently Miette respects other ferrets who won't take any guff from her and she and Albus became good friends. I'm told all the other ferrets kept a respectful distance.
Her best friend though is Theodore. When she tried her Alpha ferret strategies on him at their first meeting, Theodore was extremely confused. His deceased mate, Isabella had never demonstrated these strange behaviours and until now, Isabella was the only other ferret Theodore had ever known. So poor Theodore spent the first 24 hours either being rescued by me from Miette's clutches or hiding where she couldn't find him (a much less effective strategy). Albus was just pleased that Miette had turned her bullying attention to another poor unsuspecting ferret and kept a low profile - literally. When ever they were inside and she was gunning for Theodore, Albus dropped to the floor and crept around on his belly until the trouble had blown over and he could finally come out and play.
During the second day of the Miette/Theodore siege, Theodore had had enough. He was the oldest ferret by a long way and this member of the new, impudent generation was going to find out what the older generation was made of! Miette approached, full of confidence with fangs specially sharpened and with Theodore's name on every one of them. Theodore stood his ground. Miette went in for the kill and that's when she met her Waterloo and Theodore became her hero. With Miette firmly attached to his throat, Theodore quickly did a sort of double flip somersault with a half pike thingy thrown in for good measure, twisting and turning until Miette was detached. He then sunk his little teeth into her neck, lifted her off the ground, gave her a shake for good measure, dropped her and walked away.
I’d been watching all this, and didn't know what to do for the best. My sympathies lay totally with Theodore, but Miette is such a little thing I was worried for her too. After the Final Battle, as I now like to call it, Miette limped over to me with a very hurt look on her face. Another ferret had actually fought back! That just didn't happen in Miette's world. She sat on my lap for a long while thinking things over and seeing a less appealing, new world dawning. Finally, with a true female sense of fairness, she admitted that she probably had that coming to her and went off to find Theodore. I held my breath (no, not because of the ferret smell - I'm used to that by now) and watched carefully in case someone needed saving. Miette held out the olive branch in the form of a ferret kiss, Theodore said, "No hard feelings," and they have been the best of friends ever since, often sharing a ferret sleeping bag in their cage.
Now I know I’ve rather wandered off the subject of Miette's delicate state of health, but I thought you might enjoy those little snippets of The Gang of Three’s early days. Anyway, back to the subject under discussion. As I was saying, I’ve been keeping an eye on Miette’s health for a while now and when I finally found her yesterday afternoon she was sitting quietly in the lounge room, obviously contemplating her future and not thinking there would be very much of it. She had developed a sneeze that had to be seen and heard to be believed! With each sneeze her entire little body become airborne. Her little head ricocheted right and left, she'd take a sustaining breath, and sneeze all over again. I ran around after her, with the tissues (don't worry I won't go into those gory details) and generally behaved like an over protective mother with one very frail child.
Miette soon realised that her 15 minutes of fame had arrived and she was going to milk it for all it was worth. She lay down on the floor and began planning her funeral, requesting that donations be sent to the N.S.W.F.W.S. in lieu of flowers and mourners should line the street for her funeral cortège. I too was starting to think her end was nigh (I was planning a much less grandiose funeral - a shoe box buried in the back yard if the truth be told) and waffled between putting her out in her cage with the boys and hoping that nature would take its course and she'd get better - to keeping her in a little ferret papoose-type bag (I don't actually have one - but I can sew remember) near my heart. I too can be a drama queen when the situation calls for it.
I finally compromised by bringing the indoor ferret cage into the kitchen and installing Miette and the boys for the night. Now I may have mentioned this before, but there was something sadly lacking in Graeme’s upbringing because he doesn’t like ferrets. I’ve come to accept this defect in his character and love him anyway. We compromise by the ferrets only being inside when Graeme is outside. Bringing them in last night constituted a break down of the original agreement and a re-negotiation of the Ferret Treaty was called for. I'm pleased to announce that we quickly (if not quietly) achieved a peace settlement. The amended clause now reads: “The ferrets may be inside at the same time as Graeme as long as said ferrets are securely contained in the indoor cage. At no time can said ferrets be released from said cage. If Graeme has just ducked outside for something and has given prior notice that he will be returning quickly, the ferrets must remain in their indoor cage regardless of the time it takes Graeme to return to the house.” Imagine what I could achieve for peace on the world stage!
So, the state of the nation was: one very sick little ferret; two very healthy ferrets trying to convince her that the world hadn’t come to an end and it was time to play; one totally disinterested husband and me all of a twitter and expecting every breath to be Miette’s last. I finally climbed into bed sometime after midnight after hovering around the cage trying to get a peek at Miette to make sure that life still flickered in that little body. Miette frustrated my attempts to reassure myself that life still persisted by climbing in between the towels on the bottom of the cage and sleeping out of sight, leaving me to try and determine whether the bump under the towel was still rising and falling with each breath. I went to bed fearing what I’d find in the morning. I woke up the next morning to sounds of Graeme walking around the kitchen. I couldn't hear any happy dances or muffled cheering so I assumed that Miette had survived the night. When I got up I found that not only had she survived the night, she had made a miraculous recovery! There she was running around the cage with the boys, giving as good as she got in the ferret games and stopping occasionally to ask Graeme if he wanted his toes nipped when ever he passed close to her cage (Graeme's toes are the only ones my ferrets nip - I think they know a non-ferret lover when they see one).
To cut a long story short (I know it's too late for that now - but work with me here), I took Miette to the vet's where she assumed a look of total good health and bewilderment as to why she was even there. After my running the gamut of interested pet owners wanting to know all about ferrets and Miette doing her best for Ferret Public Relations, I told the vet the sad tale of the previous day. Although Miette was doing her utmost to make me look a liar, the vet found that she did have a slight temperature (nothing like last night's raging temperature and burning nose!) and pronounced Miette the victim of a secondary bacterial infection brought about by her eating too quickly and having a piece of food go down her windpipe. Miette wants it stated for the record that the vet is confusing her with some other ferret. She, Miette, eats in a very ladylike way at all times and she must object to these slanderous stories being spread about her.
I now have to administer the tiniest amount of antibiotic you have ever seen (0.2 ml) twice a day. This will almost surely involve Graeme because I can't see how I can hold her, open her mouth and squirt half the contents of the smallest syringe you’ve ever seen (maximum capacity 1 ml) down her throat. Don't worry, I have a plan. I’ll hold the ferret, putting myself in jeopardy of connecting with her teeth, and Graeme can have the wussy job of squirting the medicine in the general direction of Miette's mouth. I have complete faith that this plan will work. Well, I'm confident that this should work … All right, then, I'm pretty sure it will work ... O.K., O.K. I hope it will work because I don't have another plan.
Wish me luck!