Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Ferret Retrospection

You may have noticed that last month my blog activity was rather low.  While I was very busy with work, conference preparations, and getting ready for my trip, it was also one of the saddest months of my life.  Exactly one month ago today, on September 2, 2013, we had to euthanize our beloved ferret, Link.

Some of my blog readers already know this and sent me heartfelt, much-appreciated condolences.  Many of you have read about Link before, as ferret poop-scooping and medicine administration have occupied much of my time and thoughts for the past five years.  And if you've only recently found your way to this blog, you'll surely know just by looking around that I write animal fantasy novels, and that furry little critters are a big part of my life.

Link was always a sickly fellow, and his health had been a roller-coaster over the past few months.  We brought him to the ferret hospital on Labor Day weekend when he took an unexpected turn for the worse.  After spending three days in intensive care with the best veterinary staff we could ever hope for, his kidneys failed and we had to put him to sleep.  It was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever had to do.

In some ways, having such a busy September was probably a good thing.  It helped keep my mind off the half-empty cage, the unused medicine bottles and jars of baby food, and the ferret-sized hole in my heart.  But it also enabled me from dealing with difficult things, like working on a certain manuscript and writing this very post. 

One month later, my heart still hurts and the ferret cage is still half-empty, but at least I can look back on my time with Link with tears of  happiness instead of only sorrow.

Now that he is gone, I've been asked many times if I would do it again.  Knowing what I know now--all the vet bills and worrying; the 2:00 AM medicine administration; the expensive food and endless poop-scooping; the time and tears and headaches and heartbreak he would bring us over the years--would I go back in time to the pet store when Link was just a little kit and choose him all over again?  

My answer is:  Absolutely.

I'll be the first to admit that sounds crazy.  Link was NOT a healthy ferret.  Within a few days of bringing him home five years ago, his health quickly declined and he made his first visit to the ferret hospital.  My husband often reminisces of those early days, when Link crawled into my lap and just laid there as if saying, "Help me."  If you know me, then you know my bleeding heart could fill a swimming pool.  Link was just a baby, and he couldn't help it if he was sickly, so help him I did.  Over the course of his life, he had (among many ailments) Coronavirus, Green Slime Disease, IBS, helicobacter infections, an ulcer, a prolapsed rectum, Insulinoma, and a rare reaction to a Distemper vaccine that sent him into anaphylactic shock.
Like I said, he was NOT a healthy ferret.  (And if you couldn't guess, he ended up being a rather expensive ferret.)  Link shouldn't have lived to see his first birthday, let alone his fifth.  (Especially with his yearly routine of trips to the ferret hospital.)  I know a lot of people would see this as five years of wasted time and financial-draining, but not me.

To me, they were five years of silly antics and impressive thefts, of ferret chuckling and daring adventures.  If you think ferrets just live in a cage and are happy to sip from their water bottles all day, you're terribly misinformed.  They crave exploration and treasure hunting.  The most common sight of Link was his rump sticking out of a trashcan while he pawed through tissues and wrappers, searching for whatever his ferrety heart desired.  And boy are ferrets intelligent little beings!  We have a wonderful dog named Penny and she can do some pretty smart things, like ring a bell when she wants to go out and learn lots of tricks.  But ferrets can craft fiendish plots and execute them to perfection.  Link would actually swipe a draft guard we kept wedged under the door, run off with it, hide it under the bed where we couldn't reach it, then make his escape beneath said door.  It was dastardly.  It was brilliant.  It was a little annoying at times, but adorable all the same.

The little troublemaker slept like an angel.  :)

Link influenced my world in ways I never imagined.  We gave him life, but he gave me Pirate Ferret.

I can say with 100% certainty that if I hadn't owned Link, I never would have written Pirate Ferret.  Link is my main character, Tentacles, from the tips of his crafty claws to the end of his slinky tail.  Watching Link steal and sneak and build his stash of swiped treasures gave me more inspiration than I ever dreamed of.  No other ferret was, is, or ever will be quite like him.

Now, don't get me wrong: we ADORE our still-living ferret, Butters.  And this picture sums him up perfectly:

He's a fluffy, happy-go-lucky goofball who bonks into walls all the time and thinks placing a toy in the middle of the room is the perfect hiding spot.  He's well-behaved, delightful, and knows he's the cutest thing on the planet.  I love him to pieces, and wouldn't trade him for anything.  But Butters is not stealthy, or sneaky, or swift, or sly, and if you put him on a pirate ship, he'd probably get eaten in about five seconds.

Link was like Bart Simpson, Stitch, and Jack Sparrow all rolled into one.  He was cocky, clever, an absolute handful, (yes, sickly and expensive too), and simply amazing.  Pirate Ferret would not be the same without him, and neither would I.

When Link passed away, it almost felt like Tentacles died with him.  I couldn't even think about my novel, let alone work on it.  I know that will pass in time, and I feel fortunate that Link's spirit will live on between my pages.  But he will always be sorely missed.      

So no, I don't regret the bills, the tears, the late-night meds, or even the poop-scooping.  What I do regret is not taking enough pictures (I have mostly ferrety blurs), and that I didn't get to spend more time with him.  I know we're lucky to have had Link as long as we did, but I still feel like our time with him was all too brief.  He stole my socks, toilet paper, granola bar wrappers, and ultimately, my heart.

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