Just as retiree Leilani (Loni) Holland thought she finally had her beautiful home and husband, Leroy, to herself, she found herself amidst the pitter-patter of small feet yet again. This time, the sound was of 20 tiny paws that sometimes thundered through the living room and at other times echoed with clickety-click sounds from dainty toenails on the kitchen linoleum floor. Holland is a mother of three, grandmother to 13, and great grandmother to seven children. And now, the North Carolina resident is a ferret parent to five.
Most people her age love to flock to nearby beautiful Belhaven along the Pungo River to take it easy. But you won’t find this lady at the riverside campgrounds lounging in a chair, in her yard rummaging through a garden or crouching over crossword puzzles. No, you will find her dancing — dancing in her living room with her five boisterous, adorable ferrets.
So how did a conservative, older lady from the South find herself in the furry chaos of fuzzies? “Before I owned ferrets I worked. After I left work I had nothing to do but clean,” Holland said. “I really didn’t have any more responsibility. I’m the type of person I guess you could say needs to have something to love and take care of. My husband had a dog [Trudy], so I thought that it would be a good time to get me a pet.”
The Ferrets Arrive
The first pet she considered was a skunk. However, staff at the pet store informed her that skunks were illegal to own as pets in North Carolina. While at the store, she spotted a wee ferret across the room, asked to hold it and fell in love. Holland and Leroy went home and researched ferrets extensively on the computer. They found out how costly it was to properly set up and house a ferret. The ferret was already expensive as it was. She was determined, however, so her husband figured out how to build their own ferret cage while she looked up ferret shelters.
Holland found that there was an abundance of ferrets in shelters across America needing homes. She decided to put in an application to adopt a ferret from her local rescue, the Ferret Guardian Rescue Haven. Two weeks later, she was notified that a 5-month-old, female ferret was left at a dumpster.
“So the next day we went to get materials to build her cage,” Holland said. They also went to the pet store and bought whatever supplies related to ferrets, including a book about them. “You would have thought I was expecting a human baby,” she said. “When the two shelter volunteers got here with her, I was the happiest person on Earth.” She named the dainty creature Tinkerbell. “She is still my princess, and she lets all others who come after her know it.”
Ferret owners know all too well that the amount of fun generated by one ferret can be taken to the tenth power just by adding another ferret. Soon, Holland had five ferrets. She adopted Jasmine and Ariel, ferrets that had suffered severe neglect. Later, Little Bear was added to the family. Then came her beloved Ollie, the ferret she shares a special bond with.
There were bumps along the way and even tragedy. On Thanksgiving Day, Ariel escaped the house and was found killed. There was great heartbreak in the home over the holidays. After some healing and when things settled down, the couple generously took in a ferret with a great many special needs. Rag Muffin is a forever foster, and so the ferret number came back to five.
Benefits To Life With Ferrets
Despite the ups and downs of ferret ownership, Holland’s life has changed drastically and for the better because of it. The ferrets not only give her a new, rewarding pursuit in life, but they also supply an unexpected benefit. “I’m also a person that suffers with depression. They have also made a difference in that,” Holland said. “If I start getting depressed now I can open the gate to their room and let them out, and they will have me smiling or laughing in no time.”
Another added benefit was the discovery of a wonderful group of people in the TriFL (Triangle Ferret Lovers of North Carolina). Holland loves talking about her fun and supportive newfound friends, who she describes as ferret angels; people such as Lorinda, Joanne, Cindy, Erica, Jill and more.
Among her friends is Darlene Wilcox, who said, “[The ferrets] have full run of the house as well as their own bedroom with so many toys and playthings one would think they walked into a Ferret Disney World!” Wilcox added that Holland has an 8-year-old great granddaughter, Briaunna, who shares a special relationship with the ferrets. During her visits, the ferrets enjoy endless blanket rides and cruises in her large, pink Barbie car. Briaunna is especially bonded to Jasmine and loves to hold her like a baby doll and rock her to sleep.
Ferret friends can’t seem to discuss Holland without also talking of Ollie; the two are inseparable.
“He follows me all over the house while I’m cleaning,” Holland said. “When I wash dishes, he will lie between my feet with his little head on one of my feet and doze until I’m finished.”
Ferret owner and foster mom Judy Thomas shares how the Holland and Ollie came together. “We had fostered Ollie for a short time, and we warned her that this is a wild child. She was sure he wasn’t that bad and took him on. Within one day, Ollie had redecorated her spare bathroom, figured out how to climb up the toilet, onto the tank and jump across to the sink to get a drink of water! In the meantime, he had dumped a flower arrangement into the trash. Later that same day, he went into the ferret room and pulled everything off the shelves that Loni had so neatly stacked with bedding and blankets, treats and other ferret supplies. He sewed chaos all over her house. To this day, he still is able to find new things to ‘play’ with, keeping Loni on her toes!”
Lisa Daley further describes Holland and her ferrets’ antics. “I’ve been to her home many times, so I’ve seen her play with them, give them treats, ‘put them to bed’ (as she calls it), and cuddle with them. They drink her sweet tea when she’s not looking, hide the candles she has on her table, and rearrange her bathroom décor. But it all makes her laugh. You can tell she loves every minute of it.”
Daley’s favorite story about Holland and her ferrets involves Tinkerbell. “Soon after she got Tinkerbell, Loni caught a glimpse of her running under the bed with what looked like a piece of fishing line tangled around her head. Loni panicked, dragged Tink out from under the bed and started tugging on the line … that line turned out to be Tink’s whisker. Tink was not amused.”
I believe I must visit this old school, Southern, sweet tea sippin’ grandma one day to see the infamous weasel war dance that she does with her ferrets. Visitors have described Holland’s uninhibited dancing with the weasels. Daley sums it up, “If you happened to peek in her window you’d see a conservative, grandmotherly type lady dancing with these tiny creatures in her living room, and enjoying every minute of it.”