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.


Fex – March 9th, 2006 to September 14th, 2011

I don’t know the exact moment I wanted ferrets.  But I do know what prompted it.  It was a late night showing of The Beastmaster in the early ’80s.  I was enraptured with Kodo and Podo.

I was in my early teens at the time, living with my parents in Calfornia.  Growing up I had no shortage of cats.  For as much as I can remember we had no less than 3 cats at any given time.  Sometimes more.  We even had one dog, for a while.  But being in California there was no chance of convincing my parents to get a ferret.  They were, and still are, illegal to own in that state.

Later in my teens we flew back to Wisconsin to visit our extended family over the holidays.  While on the way to the airport for our return trip I learned that one of my uncles owned ferrets.  I asked if he would bring them to the airport for me to see.  He did.  That was the first time I had ever seen or held a live ferret.  I was hooked.  I was going to adopt a ferret some day.

Fex’ first night home!

Almost two decades later circumstances lead me and my then fiance out of California and into Nevada.  We wed.  We both wanted ferrets but were going to wait.  But one thing led to another in early March of 2006 and we ended up adopting a ferret from the local Petco.  We named him Fex.  It was short for “Ferret Rex” because he was one of the larger ferrets in the Petco cage.  I was giddy as could be as I held his little box on the drive home.  Almost 20 years after seeing Kodo and Podo I had a ferret!

Fex was a handful at first.  We read a little bit on ferret ownership but not too much.  He was very much an impulse adoption.  But we loved him quite a bit.  Tananda, our cat, tried to stalk him once but after that had nothing to do with him. Our chihuahua, Popo, was ever jealous of any other critter that vied for our attention.  So she was no friend to the little guy either.  Early on the little guy did what most children do, he befriended a stuffed animal.

Eadie had a stuffed monkey that someone gave her.  Fex found this monkey and spent a good half hour trying to drag the monkey to the top of his cage.  Fex almost got the monkey there, too, but the hole in the top level was too small.  Eventually he gave up and curled up to sleep.  His dad decided to give him a helping hand and put the

Fex sleeping with his monkey.

monkey in with him.  From that day on the monkey was his bud.  When Fex first woke each day he had to know where the monkey was.  If the monkey wasn’t where Fex thought it should be he would grab it by the neck and drag it to just the right place.  He wrestled with the monkey.  He slept with the monkey.  He was being a ferret with the only ferret sized thing he could tussle with.  Even when we eventually adopted other ferrets to keep him company he never ignored his monkey.

Fex accepted Aesa and Samson into our family on their very first night with us.  Though he was a bully from time to time they generally got along.  He had ferret buddies.  He had lots of tubes and boxes and crinkly bags in which to play.  He was our Fexerton, Fesser-bunny, or just bunbun.  He was the ferret with the teddy bear ears.  At times frustrating, willful and stinky, even for a ferret.  But we loved him immensely.

Earlier this year we lost Samson quite suddenly.  We had been expecting it due to his age, 8 years, and an earlier complication with the cap of a pen.  We were worried about Aesa since she had been with Samson almost all of her life.  But this is why we had three ferrets and not two.  We read that ferrets can mourn the loss of their peers.  Aesa had Fex.

But Aesa, too, was very old for a ferret, 7 years.  So we adopted two younger females, Xara and Xena.  This way there were more ferrets around for Aesa to play with and when we lost her Fex would have someone more than his monkey with whom to snuggle and play and do ferrety things.  Little did we know that just a few weeks after we adopted the terror twins Aesa would fall ill.  Eventually we had to let her go.

Suddenly Fex, our baby-boy, went from being the youngest of our business to the oldest.  But he seemed quite healthy and given the ages that Samson and Aesa reached we had a few more years with him.

I was at work Monday when Eadie called around 10:30pm.  She checked in on Fex and he was limp and completely unresponsive.  My heart caught in my throat but I knew he would be OK.  I had found Aesa like that once when I accidentally skipped one of her doses of prednisone.  He just needed to get his blood sugar up.  I let Eadie know what I did for Aesa.  She had responded in a little under 10 minutes.  Fex didn’t.  After a 1/2 hour we decided to get him to the Las Vegas Animal Emergency Center.  Eadie drove him down from our house.  I left work to meet herthere.

Fex had to stay overnight.  But there was a good chance he would improve so Eadie and I went home.  A few hours later the vet on duty, Dr. Tiller, called.  Fex had taken a turn for the worse and had a seizure.  She didn’t think he would make it through the night.  I drove down to stay with my bunbun in case he did leave us.

The staff at AEC put me in a room with him and checked on us regularly.  I held him and talked to him through the night.  I talked about the day we brought him home.  About how he loved his monkey.  When he met Aesa and Samson.  How he was stalked by Tananda when he was younger.  The ever more opulent cages we got for him.  How he was with us through two moves and on this last one how we adjusted one room just for him as a ferret.

Fex made it through the night and I was able to take him in to see or normal vet, Dr. K.  In the morning he was still listless but definitely aware of his surroundings.  Considering how much he had been through in the night it was chalked up to exhaustion.  She wanted to keep him for observation that day to see if he would show signs of improvement.  If he did we could being him home under guarded care.  He did improve.  He was interested in his surroundings and while not completely mobile he did move around in our hands.  We brought him home.

We set him up on the top half of our cage.  A litter box, food and water, some towels in which to burrow, his monkey to snuggle.  I was to wake him every few hours to syringe feed him.  The main thing we were looking for was to keep his fluids up, his body temperature stable, his blood sugar up and no seizures.

The first seizure hit at 12:30am.  Just a short one, less than 5 seconds.  Then he was looking around.  I hoped that would be it.  Then the second hit at 2:30am.  A third at 3:30am.  They each were short and he seemed alert after each one, but my stomach turned into knots.  Not my baby boy!  He was improving just 12 hours ago!

We packed him into the carry cage w/his monkey and took him in immediately on the morning of the 14th.  We told Dr. K what had happened.  After some discussion she didn’t think it looked too good but we could try another day of observation.  Eadie and I made a deal, one more day but if he had another major seizure we would let him go as that would be the best for him.  Dr. K wanted to check his blood sugar level before we left.

It was normal it not slightly elevated.  Which meant the seizures weren’t coming from low blood sugar but from some other cause.  She thought he might have had a major seizure the previous night well before Eadie found him.  Or maybe the cancer in his pancreas had spilled over to other parts of his body.  There was no way to be sure but really, there was little we could do for him.  We decided to let him go.

Fex and Xara snuggling in the hammy, Sept. 9th

We moved to that one room in all vet’s offices.  The one with the comfy chair and the rainbow bridge.  Dr. K brought him in and let us know that while she was with him in the back he had had another seizure and she felt we were doing the right thing.  She gave him to me to hold.  I nestled his monkey next to him.  Eadie and I said our goodbyes and I held him as he left our life, left this world.  He was with his mom and dad and his bestest friend, a stuffed monkey.

It’s not that I love Aesa or Samson less but we knew our time with them was short.  I held Aesa when we let her go.  I knew then that some time in the future I would be doing the same with Fex. Bur three days ago if you had asked me how much time we had left with Fex I would have said he would live past the end of the world.  He would have plenty of time to romp and play with Xena and Xara.  To pal around with his monkey.  There was no way he would be gone in less than 48 hours.

My baby-boy is gone.

Aesa – 2006 – Aug. 6th, 2011

A few weeks ago Aesa was seriously ill.  She had a bad case of diarrhea and was very dehydrated.  It happen during a weekend while our normal vet was on vacation so we ended up finding a local emergency vet hospital that would take ferrets.  They stabilized her long enough so we could get her to the backup vet recommended to us by our normal vet.  Aesa was prescribed a strong antidiarrheal which was extremely bitter.  She did not like it at all.  So much so that the medication she normally took from a syringe with no problem was now an event she dreaded as much as the new medication.  For the past few weeks she has stopped eating unless we hand feed her (and then only sparingly) and recently she stopped drinking.  So much so that when we took her in for her 1-week followup she had lost .2 lbs, down to 1.1 lbs from 1.3 lbs.

Last night I came home to find her dehydrated once again and completely uninterested in drinking anything, though she was modestly interested in the food I was hand feeding her.  Being as it was a weekend again and the vet that was seeing her during this had already hinted it might be time to let her go we were faced with the choice of taking her in today or trying to keep her going until the early part of next week.  Obviously, as I am posting this, we decided to let her go this morning.

Aesa (left) & Samson (right) hanging out by Aesa’s barrel

Aesa was one half of the bonded pair we rescued this month 5 years ago. Samson, the other half, we lost back in May. Aesa was a wonderful little girl who gave kisses to anyone who held her. She hardly squirmed and though she was a tiny sprite she often roughed it up with the boys. She let them know she was to be afforded respect due any lady, four legged and furry or not! Lately she took up residence in her favorite barrel. Aesa broke the cute meter every time she’d peer out from the darkness, her masked face taking it all in.

Of our original 3 ferrets only Fex remains. But he’s not alone. We adopted two more sprites, Xena and Xara, just two-and-a-half weeks ago. I’m sure Aesa spent that time letting them know they had to keep Fex in line.

Samson – 2006 to May 18th, 2011

5 years ago my wife and I became ferret owners.  Our first was a kit bought from Petco.  Later on we rescued two ferrets, Samson and Aesa.  Samson was the eldest of our three ferrets.  When we rescued him our vet estimated his age as 2 or 3 years.  So this year he was 7 or 8.  Tonight Samson is no longer with us.  My wife came upstairs to give Aesa and Fex there medication.  Samson came out of the cage, went near my desk and started to make odd noises.  She called me upstairs but there was nothing we could do but hold him as he passed.

He was our ferret ambassador.  The sweetest, most loving of our ferrets.  He loved to snuggle with anyone who would pick him up.  If we knew someone had never been around ferrets before we always let them hold Samson.  He melted hearts.  He certainly stole ours.

A few years ago we had a close call with him.  He had ingested some hard plastic and wasn’t able to pass it.  As a result he had to have surgery.  He made it through ok but it was the first time I had to face the real possibility of one of my ferrets dying.  At the time I wrote, ” I know he won’t be with us much longer, a year or two at the most.  But I want those years with him.  I’m not ready to let him go just yet.  Heck, I dunno if I’ll ever be ready to let any of our ferrets go.”  We had almost two more years with him.  For that I am immensely grateful.  I wanted those years with him in my life.  I was right, I wasn’t ready to let him go.  I’m still not.  But it isn’t up to me.

Samson Sleeping