Why 3 Ferrets For Our Business?

In a recent discussion on /r/ferrets the topic of business size came up.  Apparently there was a poll where the ideal size of a business was determined to be 3-5 ferrets.  One of the regular posters inquired why.  Firexcracker, our resident guru of all things ferrety explained, “Ferrets grieve the loss of loved ones and sometimes they grieve hard.”  What follows was my reply in support of that statement.

That’s happening right now to me. Xander only knew Xena for about a year and a half. He was the new adopted brudder and he’s more daddy’s boy than anything else. So he’s taking it well because he’s still got his dad.

Xara, however, was with Xena since they were kits. I dunno if they were litter mates (Marshall’s ferrets, after all) but they were adopted from the same pet store together, surrendered to the shelter together, kept together at the shelter, and finally adopted out to my wife and me. They were together for close to 5 years.

That first night it killed me when I saw Xara looking through all of Xena’s common sleeping spots in the cage looking for her sister. After not finding Xena she just curled up in their favorite hammy. I had to stop what I was doing and hold her. Let her know her dad still cares for her.

Normally when I pick her up she will tolerate about 30 seconds of scritchins before wiggling to be let down. That night she just laid in my arms, letting me scritch and pet her for more than 10 minutes. A minute or two in she just started shaking. She kept shaking, on and off, for the whole time I held her. She finally squirmed a bit so I put her back in the hammy and let her sleep.

Every morning and night since I make a point to pick her up and hold her. Every time she just sits in my arms. She doesn’t shake like the first night, but she’s certainly not in any hurry to be let down.

But I’m not there all the time. I have human things to do like work and chores and resting and such. That’s where Xander comes in. The past few times I checked in on them Xander has been snuggling with Xara. Normally it was the girls in the bottom of the two-level hammy and Xander up top. Now he’s often the bottom of the two fert pile. I think, and hope, that Xander being there is helping Xara during the times I or my wife aren’t around to give her extra helpings of love.

D.I.P. Xena – 2009-2014-03-08

Xena and Xara snugging in their favorite hammy

Xena (top) and Xara (bottom) snugging in their favorite hammy

We adopted Xena, along with her sister Xara, a little over two and a half years ago.  They came as a pair from the local ferret shelter.  Before that they had been adopted from the same pet store by a military man who could not keep them.  He had been deployed to the Middle East and had no one here in Las Vegas to care for them.  The pet store adoption papers put them at about 2 years old.  They were bonded and inseparable.  Not that we would ever think to do anything of the sort.

I called Xena my little warrior princess because of her name.  She really didn’t live up to it.  Aside from chomping my thumb twice while adjusting to her new home she rarely fought with her sister nor with her new baby brother when we adopted him a year later.  She left putting the new boy in place to Xara.  No, Xena was more princess than Xara was.  After eating she would always find the nearest blankie and rub her face over it a few times.  My wife and I figured she was just getting the crumbs off face like any proper lady should.

Xena was the caretaker of the toy stash.  Any time we moved the toys she was the one that ran around to make sure each was put back in its place.  She even chased around a water bottle or two at 3am, much to the annoyance of my sleeping wife.

Lately though she started to slow down.  We chalked it up to her getting up in years.  Then a trip to the vet a little under a year ago let us know she had insulinoma.  Common in ferrets, especially for her age.  As time passed she slowed down a bit more, slept a bit longer, snugged her sister more often, and put up with the boy invading their cuddle puddle as much as she ever did.

But last week Xena got really, really slow.  She had runny poops.  Another trip to the vet confirmed what we suspected.  Her insulinoma had advanced and we needed to up her dose.  She was down from 1.6lbs to 1.1lbs.  The vet said the prednisone would help with her GI problems which should increase her appetite.

It didn’t.

I didn’t notice.

Two days ago as I was rounding up the kidlets to put them to bed before I myself went to sleep I found 3 very dark, very runny poops behind the igloo, Xena’s favorite out-of-the-cage sleeping spot.  She was pooping blood, lots of it.  I bundled her up, left for the vet’s and forgot my keys in the house.  In the end my wife drove us down.

Xena was down to 0.8lbs, 1/2 her normal weight.  Our normal vet, DrK, didn’t think she had a good chance.  I thought now that we knew she hadn’t been eating if we syringe fed her, made sure she got some food and liquids, she might bounce back.  If we could get her blood glucose levels up we can tackle the other problems.  So I decided to take her home.  We had instructions to feed her every few hours as long as she accepted the food.  But if she didn’t perk up by morning to bring her back in as she probably would not make it much longer.

That night my wife fed her every few hours as I slept.  By the time we got home I had been up almost 26 hours.  After several hours of sleep we traded off.  I held Xena and fed her with a syringe every few hours.  But I could see the decline.  She was moving less.  She was starting to fight the feeding more.  By morning it was clear, she wasn’t going to pull through.

So the morning of March 8th I let my wife know I think it was time to let her go.  I say it that way because I’m the one who had to try one more night, who couldn’t give up the day before.  I made sure Xara got to snug her sister, and Xander got to see Xena, before we left.  We arrived at the vet’s office, held her tight for a little while longer, then held her as she passed.

Dook in peace, my warrior princess.  Be free of pain.  I’ll take care of your sister as best I can.  I’ll do better.