Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue

Denise Cummings and her volunteers at Denise's Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue have been helping ferrets in Washington state for more a decade.

Denise Cummings has been running her shelter, Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue for nine years, caring for 669 ferrets during that time. The ferret shelter averages around 110 ferrets at any given time. Cummings affectionately refers to ferrets as “dookers.”

First Ferret Memories
“I was introduced to ferrets in 1985 or 1986, because our friends had three and I really enjoyed them, but I knew nothing about caring for them,” Cummings said. Her learning began in 2002 when a ferret named Jaws (aka Dolly) joined her family. “She was a dark-eyed white and deaf. My son’s neighbor was going to release her into the wild because they didn’t want her around their 1-year-old.”

The ferret had been passed from relative to relative and was a fear-biter. “She bit, and bit all the way to the bone when I picked her up,” Cummings said. “She was so terrified. They didn’t know she was deaf and just thought she was a bad, unruly ferret.” Cummings doesn’t believe there are bad ferrets, just uneducated owners.

“When I took her in I was told that in maybe a year or two she might become trusting enough not to bite,” Cummings said. “She became a loving challenge, and seven months later I could pick her up, hug her, tickle her tummy and she initiated chase around the room doing the weasel war dance. She also showed me what the dance of joy was. At that point I knew more would come. I couldn’t say no. My heart had been lovingly captured by these wonderfully fun and loving creatures.”

Cummings began working at a pet store a month after she got Jaws. Her ferret research kicked into high gear as she read ferret books, called veterinarians to talk about ferrets and talked to people with years of experience working with ferret rescues. Her work at the pet store also helped her to learn about ferrets, and also about people. People came to the pet store to donate ferrets they couldn’t keep or bring in ferrets abused by others. Some abandoned the ferrets by the pet store’s doorstep. “I took home the ferrets that had physical problems or that were not handling the transition well, and loved and nursed them back to health,” Cummings said. “What a learning process!”

All About Ferret Rescue Successes And Failures
Cummings said one of the most rewarding rescues she had involved three ferrets she called The Survivors. They were three female ferrets that were nearly starved to death when they arrived at her ferret rescue. “Miracle was 12.8 ounces, Misty was 13.6 ounces and Gypsy was 13.9 ounces,” Cummings said. The woman who surrendered them said she returned from her honeymoon and found that the person who was supposed to care for them hadn’t fed or watered them for about a week. “Thanks to a volunteer who had insomnia, we had round-the-clock feeding and caring for these precious babies.” This took place four years ago, and all three ferrets now weigh from 2½ to 3½ pounds. “They are round, healthy furbabies that believe they own the shelter.”

All ferret rescues don’t have such a happy ending.

Grayson was surrendered to Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue in August 2006. He had been passed from one home to another before arriving at the rescue. “My husband helped with the surrender,” Cummings said. “As Mike was looking into Grayson’s eyes, he felt the ferret look at him like ‘What did I do wrong? Why am I here?’ It broke my husband’s heart, and when the people left, he cried.”

Grayson faced many physical challenges. Cummings said all his feet were deformed with some lacking nails, he had only half of both ears (she believes due to frostbite) and he needed dental surgery. “He was a ‘blank page’ — meaning he had no hope and was giving up,” she said.

Cummings said the shelter sent out an article about him. “And a very precious person by the name of Teri wanted to see him, wanted to volunteer, came over to the shelter, held him and they bonded instantly. She brought her three ferrets to get acquainted with Grayson, and it was like old home week. Grayson enjoyed them a lot. He also got into the carrier, looked out as if to say, ‘Well, let’s go home now!!!’ and wouldn’t come out. Teri and Brandon adopted him and he became one of their furkids — a very spoiled one at that. A few months later Grayson weasel war danced and also got into things. He was becoming a ferret again.”

Grayson had the necessary dental surgery but then developed adrenal gland disease and then insulinoma. On December 13, 2007, he lost the battle against his numerous illnesses.

“Grayson had 1 year 3 months 3 weeks and 1 day knowing what being loved by a human truly was,” Cummings said. “Teri was his lady. He loved her very much. He knew she loved him. It didn’t matter where they went in the carrier; he always knew Teri would be there and that he would go home later on. He now, according to Teri, and I agree, has 20 perfect toes and two perfect ears holding up his halo.”

Lancelot was also surrendered to Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue on August 2006. Cummings said his fur was sparse and he was thin but ate well. He arrived with another ferret that they soon realized he wasn’t comfortable with, so they were separated. Some foods caused an allergic reaction in Lancelot, according to the veterinarian used by the rescue, so they were careful with the food they gave him. Another noteworthy aspect of Lancelot was his feces.

“His [poop] was always soft, almost diarrhea-soft, and had an odor that pierced the air and repulsed the olfactory senses,” Cummings said.

In addition to his physical challenges, Lancelot’s behavior was odd. Cummings said he didn’t know how to play, showed no emotions, slept a lot and didn’t know how to interact with humans. Because of this, he was transferred to Little Dudes Ferret Ranch Hospice for a month, but nothing changed. Cummings and Teri went to bring him back to Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue. Teri happened to have two of her ferrets, Grayson and Pippen, with her. Lancelot’s reaction to meeting Teri was amazing. “She picked Lancelot up, hugged on him and he got all excited,” Cummings said. “She introduced him to Grayson and Pippen and he followed them around, made friends and actually played the whole 90 minutes we were there. What a change! Teri and Brandon became foster parents to this precious dooker, health issues and all.”

Cummings said that in January 2007, the board at Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue made the decision for Lancelot to have adrenal surgery. That month, Lancelot sailed through surgery and went home with Teri and Brandon and started healing.

“Teri and Brandon adopted Lancelot, and he had a permanent home for the rest of his life,” Cummings said. “Lancelot weasel war danced for them, got into all kinds of things like a ferret should, learned to interact with the more ‘active’ ferrets at Teri’s house. Lancelot even smiled.”

But Lancelot’s happy days came to an end in February when more health issues arose. “He started losing weight, sleeping more and his ‘doodle’ was now horrible-smelling diarrhea,” Cummings said. “He was dehydrated Friday, Feb. 9th in the evening and went to the vet on Feb. 10th. Lancelot was in bad shape. The vet said he had an ulcer and also found what could be a growth in his abdomen, he was more dehydrated than on Friday, and he was grinding his teeth — he was in pain. The decision was made to help him over the Rainbow Bridge.”

Cummings said a necropsy revealed that Lancelot’s liver was in very bad shape. “He had a form of ‘hepatic lipidosis,’ commonly found in cats and guinea pigs,” she said. “His body was absorbing the fat and not the nutrients in the food he was eating. We believe this occurred because of the lack of care and lack of good food he had to live with before he came to DDDFR.”

Although Lancelot’s time was short, Cummings said he came in a “blank page” and left smiling, knowing love, fun, interaction with other ferrets, and the true love of a human.

Ferrets like Lancelot and Grayson are the reason the shelter exists,” Cummings said. “We are here to provide the basic necessities of life and the extra love, attention and forever, loving human homes. Without the shelter, so many ferrets would die in pain, be fearful, and never know what clean fresh blankets, fresh food and water, playtime and lots of loving hands to protect and care for were. We are committed to the ferrets and are thankful when they come to the shelter and later pick their humans that will take care of them and be their forever homes.”

Keeping The Ferret Rescue Running
Running a ferret rescue that helps so many ferrets is much easier when there are people and funds to help. “All my volunteers are special,” Cummings said. They help her with all the following tasks: cleaning, loving on the ferrets, Meet n Greets at Petco, Woofstock (once a year), Petpalooza (once a year), American Family Pet Expo (once a year), mowing the lawn, housekeeping, picking up rescues, cleaning the garage to make room for ferret stuff, household repairs and a whole lot more.

Fundraising is vital for any ferret rescue and Cummings employs several activities to help raise funds for the shelter, such as boarding and selling products. She considers a 2007 garage sale that brought in $1,100 as one of her greatest fundraising activities for the ferret rescue.

Tips For Ferret Care
Cummings believes education and savings are critical for any ferret owner. Her advice? “Never stop learning about the furbabies, and always have a ferret savings account.”

Ferret Trio Seeks Home!
“This trio was left in a small, metal garbage can in front of Petsmart in the wee morning hours,” Cummings said. “A lady who works there took them home and realized how much work it was going to be. She surrendered them to the shelter.”

Brady is a dark, silver mitt that loves to explore; Cameron is a sable that loves to give Brady a jumpin’ good time; and Glory is a dark sable that loves to play, hide soft toys and jump on the boys.”

To see more ferrets available from Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue, visit the website.

Denise’s Delightful Dookers Ferret Rescue’s adoption process is thorough, with a key requirement being “willingness to research learn, care for and love a dooker.” 

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