Saturday, September 25, 2010

How To Put A Ferret In Its Place

Life here with the Spring Rock menagerie has been very quiet lately.  I've been busy buying rams and selling rams (different rams of course) so nothing story worthy has been happening here.  I've delved into my archives and found this story about the ferrets.  I know a lot of you are big ferret fans so I thought you might enjoy this.  Since writing this story Jocie has become a permanent member of the menagerie.  Troy and Erin gave her to me when they moved to Queensland where ferrets are illegal!  Every now and then I can see a far off look in Graeme's eyes and I know he's thinking of moving to Queensland and while he's at it trying to convince that very sensible state government to make St Bernards and cats illegal while they are at it.

I know what everyone who has ever met a ferret in real life is thinking. “You can’t put a ferret in its place because ferrets believe their place it at the top of the pecking order!” Well, let me tell you, it can be done.

First of all, my big news is I have another ferret coming here to live with us. Her name is Jocie and she belongs to Erin and Troy, a lovely couple who are friends of Justin’s. Erin and Troy needed to find a home for Jocie and for some reason thought I’d make the perfect ferret foster mother. I agreed to take custody of Jocie and broke the news to Graeme as gently as possible. He must have been in shock because there was no protest at all, just a quiet, “Oh,” and that was that. I thought maybe I’d broken the news too gently and he didn’t realise that an actual real live ferret was being added to the menagerie roll, but thought it best not to labour the point. I’m waiting on tenter hooks for Jocie’s arrival on Sunday to see what transpires with Graeme.

A few weeks ago Erin and Troy brought Jocie over for some playtime with The Gang of Three. Jocie is only three months old and an only ferret so of course has lived her short little life as boss of the household. She saw no reason to adjust her attitude when her circle of acquaintances was increased to include me and three much older ferrets. Jocie was very excited to discover that the world contained other ferrets and was more than happy to play with them.

First up though she had to make sure they understood who was boss. We let all four of them have a run in the hall to get to know each other. It’s a confined space and it was easy for Erin and me to rush to anyone’s assistance should a ferret battle to the death break out.

Ebony was a push over – literally – Jocie bounded up to Ebony who is at least twice Jocie’s size and jumped on Ebony’s back. Ebony flattened herself to the floor and cried uncle right from the start. Great, thought Jocie, one down and two to go. She then turned her attention to Horton who put up just al little, token resistance then decided it was all too much effort so let Jocie believe she was the boss. It didn’t make much difference to Horton; he had every intention of doing just as he pleased anyway and could always find an escape by going to sleep should the going get too tough with this new, bossy ferret. Ebony and Horton are experts at dealing with a megalomaniac little ferret; after all they have lived with Miette since they were quite young. Anything for peace has been their motto almost from the minute she grabbed them by the neck and pointed out that size didn’t matter, she was the boss.

What Ebony and Horton didn’t do while caving in to Jocie’s power play was warn her that a much tougher nut was waiting in the wings to meet her. I don’t think Jocie had paid much attention to Miette. She doesn’t look like a threat to ferret world domination these days (actually she’s never looked like a threat – that’s one of her biggest secret weapons), she’s very, very old and grey, has cataracts and is the tiniest ferret God ever put on Earth. I imagine Jocie didn’t even think it was worth the effort to grapple with Miette, it was a foregone conclusion in her mind that Miette would just recognise superior ferret power when she saw it and there would be no contest. Poor Jocie, she didn’t realise what was in store for her.

Just for form’s sake Jocie approached Miette in her dominant ferret mode and went for the back of the neck. All text book stuff in ferret domination – just grab the neck, wrestle this tiny, inferior ferret to the ground, prove one’s superiority and let go saying, “No harm done, all friends now.” That’s when Jocie’s little world came unstuck. Even at three months old Jocie makes two of Miette in size. Before she knew what was happening, Miette had performed a double somersault with a flip and had Jocie pinned to the ground. I held my breath. Miette is old and frail now and I wasn’t sure she would come out on top this time. Jocie freed herself from Miette’s grip, tried to explain politely that Miette had it wrong, she, Jocie was the top ferret in this outfit and all Miette had to do was realise this and they could form a lasting friendship. Miette just curled her little lip at this suggestion and dropped Jocie again in mid explanation.

Well!!! Jocie was made of sterner stuff than any ferret Miette had ever encountered in all her eight years. Only one other ferret had ever entered into a real contest for the top position on the ferret totem pole before, and you really couldn’t call what Theodore did as entering into the contest. All have caved in at the second or third tussle and admitted that Miette was the best. Theodore? Theodore was one of my first pair of ferrets and he was old when Miette met him. She bullied him for a couple of days while he just tried to keep out of her way. Finally, when she got to be too cocky he grabbed her by the neck, lifted her off the ground, shook her twice and dropped her on the floor. He then moved away to investigate other parts of the loungeroom leaving Miette in shock. I was beside myself with worry. All the time I was watching Theodore dealing out this tough love, I was worried that he’d really hurt the little bossy thing, but I also understood how he felt and that this was his chance to bring this particular ferret war to an end. Miette came over to me for some sympathy. She didn’t get it. She then sought out Theodore, told him she respected a ferret who stood up for himself, and agreed to be top ferret of all except him. A beautiful friendship resulted and lasted until Theodore died of old age.


Anyway, back to the Miette – Jocie battle. Jocie is not the type of ferret to give in easily. Miette is not the type of ferret to give in period. The battle raged over the entire length of the hall for quite some time. At no time though did it deteriorate into viciousness or acrimony. It was just a contest to see who would win with each combatant determined it wasn’t going to be the other one. Ebony and Horton amused themselves away from the battle field, which often involved having to move somewhere else because the battlefield had caught up with them. From time to time Jocie needed a bit of morale boosting so she’d go and drop Ebony to the ground, flatten her out and prove that she, Jocie, was still top ferret in some ferret’s opinion. Miette sneered at such insecure needs – she knew she was top ferret and didn’t need to keep proving it to herself.

Miette had an unfair advantage in knowing the lay of the land in the hall – it was foreign territory to Jocie. Miette used things like the vacuum cleaner stored in the corner and the bookcase as ambush sites and popped out from these hiding places as Jocie rushed passed. Guerrilla warfare was new to Jocie but it didn’t take her long to see the benefits. The problem was the only two hiding places in the hall seemed to be full of Miette whenever Jocie tried to use the same tactics. Jocie started to wonder if there were in fact two Miettes and she was outnumbered.

In the end Jocie agreed to let Miette think she was boss. She didn’t exactly give in. She just stopped trying to dominate Miette and chose to play with the other two instead. Miette was welcomed into the games and all four became good friends. Horton by this time just wanted to find a place away from the waring women and go to sleep so we put all four of the ferrets in the inside cage for a well earned nap. Erin and I were just about ready for a nap too after trying to referee the Ferret Games. Once they were in new territory Jocie thought she’d try another power play. Maybe Miette would be at a disadvantage with no chance to use her guerrilla tactics and in a much more confined area. The war resumed and raged all over the cage. Ebony hopped from one side to the other to get out of their way. Horton slept on with the battle literally raging over him. At one time we thought he was going to get involved. He stood up, looked at the two war mongers, stretched slightly and moved to a more remote part of the cage to give them more room while he went back to sleep.

In the end Jocie was completely worn out. Where Miette managed to find all that energy at her time of life I don’t know, but finally all the ferrets settled into a ferret pile and went to sleep. I went in later to check on them and found Miette to be the only one awake. She was whispering something into Jocie’s ear while she was asleep. I know what it was too.

“Miette is the boss, Miette is the boss.”

So you see, you can put a ferret in its place. It just takes another ferret to do it.

Miette whisperin "Miette is the boss,
Miette is the boss."


Anonymous said...

I've never had a ferret or even met one but they sound like the most interesting pets. They're illegal here in Calif, USA too so unless I move, I won't have one. In the meantime, I can love them from afar with your wonderfully descriptive stories.

Jenny said...

Hi Rosemary
Thanks for another great story from your Spring Rock farm, they are always a wonderful read.


What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon,watching the Ferret Olympics. Your home sounds like a lot of fun. A safe refuge from the world. Can Humans be adopted too??

Rosemary said...

Hi Wattle Girl. I tend to adopt stray humans as well as stray animals. I have a few unofficial sons and daughters who I love dearly.