The Ferret That Cheated Death

A rescued ferret that nearly died finds a new home and a new purpose.

On August 29, 2009, my husband, Ron, and I met a ferret named Bandit. We had no idea how he would inspire us in the future.

We picked him up from a rescuer’s home who had received the ferret earlier in the day. In his previous home, this ferret had lived most of his life in a cage not much larger than a carrier, with few comforts in it.

We noticed multiple signs of neglect as we examined him, including:
Thinness, lethargy, weakness, tartar buildup, ears filled with dirt and mites, body infested with fleas and flea eggs (even on his eyelids), squinted and watery eyes, bloodied tail from chewing, and balding tail and tail base.

When I reached into the carrier to pet him, he lifted his head to nibble on my fingers. At first I thought he was “nippy,” later I realized he was licking my fingers possibly looking for food, water or comfort. He was too weak to scratch at the adult fleas that were crawling on his body and attached to his eyelids. He would not eat or drink, although some dry food and water were placed with him in the temporary carrier by the rescuer.

When picked up, his body was limp and dangled from my hand. His paws offered no resistance when manipulated.

Although we had a carrier with us for transport, we placed him in a fleece sack so we could hold him during the ride home. We offered him some fresh water, and he drank a small amount.

We advised the Greater Chicago Ferret Association (GCFA) shelter director of the situation, and he told us to drive directly to animal emergency. It was through the GCFA that we had heard about Bandit needing help.

Approximately a half hour into the two-hour trip home, Bandit began to show serious signs of distress. His breathing became labored and raspy, he did not blink and his eyes were glassy, he began to drool, and his body became slightly stiff.

We performed some emergency first aid to bring his glucose level back up, and he became more comfortable. He was quiet for the balance of the drive to the ER.

It was at that point we renamed him from Bandit to Phoenix.

We arrived at the ER at approximately 7 p.m. that evening and surrendered the ferret to their care.

On August 31, Phoenix received his second blood transfusion and showed signs of producing his own red blood cells. He was still in intensive care due to a splenectomy. We took him home the next day for the balance of his rehab. After that, the plan was to take him to the shelter to go up for adoption.

By September 4, Phoenix was doing very well. He slept a lot and took his medication. His activity level increased, but we tried to keep him quiet for a few more days during his rehab. We put some toys in with him and reminded him what playing was like. He used a favorite corner to toddle off to with his toys. He watched some TV with us. Whenever we reached down to pet him, he arched his back up like a cat to try to keep human contact as much as possible. One morning when I offered him some Ferretvite on my finger, he licked it off and then very gently grasped my fingertip with his teeth and tried to take me into his toy corner. I guess he claimed me as his. He never did go to the shelter, because we ended up adopting him.

By September 6, his energy level was wonderful. His poop was now perfect. He explored and played (he even pushed a tennis ball all through our big tube maze). He gave bunches of kisses. He was a bit frightened by our dogs but was very brave about it.

This wonderful ferret definitely came out of his shell. He seemed to be looking for human contact and sought us out if we didn’t immediately pay attention to him. It is amazing how forgiving animals can be.

By July 2010, Phoenix was a happy, healthy, sweet boy. He goes with us to our Meet The Ferrets events and is a wonderful spokesferret for the GCFA and the work that it does.

Now, in September 2010, it has been more than a year since Phoenix was rescued. He is happy and healthy, aside from an onset of adrenal disease. This 6 1/2-year-old ferret has become a Healing Ferret within our home. When another ferret is ill or is in a hospice situation, Phoenix curls up with them and comforts them. Even after their death, Phoenix stays with them — trying to keep them warm and to give them companionship so they do not have to go to the Rainbow Bridge alone.

Kim Crivello and her husband, Ron, had their hearts stolen by ferrets with the arrival of their first ferret in 1985. The couple are volunteers and shelter managers with the Greater Chicago Ferret Association. As part of the Meet And Greet Ferrets program, the two travel throughout Chicagoland and surrounding areas promoting the welfare of all ferrets. They share their home with 20 rescue ferrets (most of which are medically challenged), two rescue dogs and a rescue iguana.

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