Monday, February 16, 2009

And The Academy Award Goes To ...

Ebony lying low so the camera won't find her.

I couldn't believe it was true. I went out to feed the ferrets the day after Miette died and found Ebony dead in the cage. Ebony hasn't been well for a while now, but I thought she was picking up. She'd finished her course of medicine and though she'd lost a lot of weight had started eating again. Two of my gorgeous ferrets in two days is just so hard to bare.

Ebony was terrified of humans when I got her. She was a rescued ferret and I imagine she wasn't treated very well by her former owner. It took me some time to get her to trust humans again, but once she did she had total trust. Ebony was my granddaughter Hannah's favourite ferret (she said all the others were too jazzy for her) because Eb would just lay in Hannah's arms and be calm and quiet.

I'm just so sad at the moment.

Here is the story I wrote a few years ago about Ebony and her mate Horton. Horton is missing Ebony this morning, but Jocie and the baby ferrets are doing their best to keep him busy.

And the Academy Award Goes To ...

I realise, apart from my initial introduction of them, I haven't told you very much about Horton and Ebony, my two not so new ferrets. So for a quick catch up on their arrival and settling in at Spring Rock so here goes –

As you might remember Ebony and Horton arrived within a week of Albus’ death. Miette was pining badly and I was worried that she was going to die of a broken heart. Ferrets are very social animals and let’s face it, Miette needs other ferrets to dominate or life just isn’t worth living. I contacted the New South Wales Ferret Welfare Society and they told me they had two very new ferrets who had just been rescued, but not yet socialised to the Ferret Society’s standards. That is, they couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t bite or have any other anti-social behaviours quite common among abused ferrets. There usual policy is to not allow unsocialised ferrets out into the world until they can guarantee good behaviour (a mighty big ask when you’re talking about ferrets!!!) I was desperate for ferrets to save Miette’s life and said, send them down as soon as possible!!! So they made an exception for me and Bec and Frances arrived on a mercy mission visit that weekend accompanied by two rather dazed ferrets and the rest is history.

Miette spent the first few days harassing and generally lording it over the newcomers and found a new lease on life. The two new ferrets, who quickly had name changes from Fetish and Shadow to Ebony and Horton were more than happy to accept Miette as top ferret and eventually peace reigned supreme in the ferret cage. Even though Miette is the top ferret her normal spot in the ferret pile is at the very bottom with Horton and Ebony curled up on top of her. I used to worry that she was being squashed (remember Miette is a severely undersized little shrimp of a ferret), but after watching her dispose of the two larger ferrets when she woke up and wanted to be up and doing things, I no longer worry about Miette. I imagine she enjoys being squashed by the other two or they’d never get to lie on her in the first place.

Ebony turned out to be the problem child. She is a beautiful sable ferret who came with an instinctive fear of humans - a legacy of her past life before she was rescued by the Ferret Welfare Society. Catching her required animal cunning on my part, but was helped by the fact that she had a low opinion of my IQ and thought all she needed to do was hide in the sleeping bag and I’d never figure out where she was. She’d shake and flinch whenever I picked her up and wasn’t above giving me a hard nip when the mood took her. With perseverance and plenty of bandaids I managed to convince her that not all humans were as horrible as the ones she’d recently lived with and she is now a happy, calm and very, very friendly little ferret. So much so that when it’s time for her nightly feed, she requires a cuddle before she gets stuck into her tucker. She and Tristan, my young ginger cat, have formed a combative friendship and spend hours happily ambushing each other in and around my fabric in my sewing room.

Horton is another kettle of ferret altogether. He combines a wicked ferrety sense of humour with almost manic energy. He loves nothing better than to challenge me to ferret duels and laughs at me when he wins. He always wins. He wins because he plays by ferret rules and that means no matter what the outcome the ferret wins. Horton’s other favourite past time is to think up clever ways to attract my attention when I’m outside. To get me to come to the ferret cage and pass the time of day with them seems to be Horton’s main aim in life.

With all the hot weather lately the ferrets found a new game that required team work. Their water container is a small automatic chook waterer. This is a plastic dome with a small dish that acts as a reservoir for their water at the bottom. When their container was empty the ferrets used to lie it on its side and roll it to the front of the cage so I could see they needed more water. Then, with the arrival of Horton and Ebony a new game was invented. This involved all three ferrets working together to tip the full container over so they could roll it to the front of the cage and get me to fill it again. For a while this was happening a few times a day. I tried appealing to their better nature and explained about droughts and the need to be water conscious with no success what so ever. I should have realized this before I wasted my breath. Ferrets don’t have a better nature. After much trial and error with ways of thwarting the ferrets' evil game, I came up with a system that prevents the ferrets moving the water container at all. I've tied it by the handle to the top of the cage and put pegs through the knot as an added precaution – you can never over engineer a ferret thwarting device! The outcome of this is that I have to keep a keen eye on the water level in the container. Ferrets drink a lot of water and on hot days all three ferrets like to lie with their chins in the reservoir which seems to use a lot of water somehow.

When I went shopping yesterday I did a quick check of the ferrets' water supply and was pleasantly surprised to see that they still had as much water as they did. When we came home I brought them inside and gave them their usual dish of water (which they always spill over their cage) and some snacks to be going on with for the day. I didn't put them outside until this morning because I couldn't negotiate the steps last night with my back ache. I put them out at 6 am when I'm not really functioning on all cylinders and returned to the house.

Later in the morning, after it was already heating up, I thought it might be a good idea to wash the ferret towels used in the cage for them to hide in and play in, seeing that Graeme was making anti-ferret noises yesterday and complaining about their smell. As I was hanging out the towels, Horton, who was up the back of the cage near the water container, saw me. He opened his mouth as if gasping his last breath, staggered to the front of the cage, while I stood rooted to the spot near the clothes line.

“Horton!!” I yelled but he gave no indication that he could hear me. He attempted to climb the front of the cage near their door, slid down the wall and lay there in a crumpled heap with his mouth wide open and not moving a muscle - the picture of a ferret dying of thirst!!!! I went into full scale panic (a normal mode for me) and rushed over to see if he was still breathing, calling his name and trying to get a reaction as I hobbled to the cage (I don't do rushing very well :) ).

As soon as I reached the front of the cage, Horton jumped up, ran to the water container and turned around and looked me in the eye. “Going to do something about this deplorable state of affairs?” he asked. Ferrets can be very formal when on their dignity. The water container was empty!! It works out that was Horton's subtle way of letting me know they needed water. Now I know ferrets are intelligent. I've seen so many instances of them being smarty pants before, but I ask you ... Would you believe that story if you didn't know what a truthful person I was? No? I understand perfectly. I still have trouble believing it and I saw it all first hand!!!