Welcome to the blog for the Oregon Ferret Shelter! Ideally, this will be a nice venue for friends of the shelter to get information about what is going on with the shelter. Or maybe just to view some funny gifs.

To get to the Oregon Ferret Shelter's main website, please visit OregonFerretShelter.org

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ferrets and SNOW!

Oregon doesn't get a lot of snow. But it does get some. I am always surprised and fascinated by it since I come from Huntington Beach, California, where snow has been banned by city ordinance since way before I was born.

Since Oregon doesn't see a lot of snow, my ferrets also don't get to see a lot of snow. But all that changed yesterday.

I love to give my ferrets new experiences. And I wondered what the ferrets would make of the whole "cold white stuff" thing. So my husband and I opened the back door and put little Darkpaw outside for just a minute.

Note: Darkpaw was my first ferret, so she gets to be the star in many of my adventures. Maybe it IS favoritism. I won't deny it.

Well, Darkpaw sat at the door's edge for a second, whiskers frantically flying as she did a sniff to end all sniffs. Then she made a break for it, running through the snow for a second, and we made a wild dash after her. She stopped when the snow got up to her belly. Then she decided she didn't like it. REALLLLLLY didn't like it! James picked her up and she was shivering like crazy. Awww. Poor little girl.

Well, we have eight ferrets now, and we wanted to see if they would all hate it too. (Yes, maybe we are a bit sadistic.) But we needed something a little more convenient than taking them outside one by one.

James, ever the problem-solving engineer, brought in a baking sheet covered in snow and put it in the middle of the floor on a towel. Then we let them explore.

There were only two ferrets who liked it, Snoball and Frank. Frank, however, didn't just like it, he LOVED it! He really went to town! The cold did not seem to bother him as he did several fabulous whole-body snorgles through the mini-drift. He became quite possessive of the snow at some points, warning others off so he could fully spread out in the baking pan of winter delight.

Here are some pictures of his snow experience, along with the one where he tries to muscle Snoball out of the snow. "MY SNOW!" he says.

There was much merriment and mirth until, inevitably, the snow melted, at which point they all joined in for a long cold drink.

So, as far as snow goes, I would have to say that "Two out of eight ferrets interviewed would recommend snow to their ferret friends, as long as they didn't get in the way." It was well worth the effort!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shelter Shock -- a Sad End

I have to report the sad news that Boogety has passed away. He just didn't want to be here on Earth any more. No matter how many hand feedings, how many cuddles, how many medications, how much time out, or toys, or companionship, Boogety had just decided that he didn't want to live.

I had him for two weeks. In that time, he hadn't really gained much weight, but he was still eating as long as I held him and got him started on his soup. I fed him three or four times a day, and each time he got fed, he got to stay out about an hour to play with his friend, Frank.

Boogety didn't have much energy. I saw a trace of his old self a few times. Once, when he first got let out to play in my house, I saw him do a one-hop war weasel. He made it about an inch off the floor. And when he found a ball that makes a rattling noise, he tried to get the whole thing in his mouth, much to my delight. I was hoping that I would get to see more as time went by.

But on a Thursday, he refused to eat. I tried to force him, but he locked his jaws. So I fed him around his closed jaw and took him to Meg's as soon as I could. His gums were very pale. They gave him a transfusion, and Chris took him home with an I.V.

He died that night.

His buddy Frank is still with me. Frank was very lonely after Boogety's death, so I also brought home Snoball, who has a very good nature and is an expert cuddler. Together, we have made it through this tough time.

I will miss him.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shelter Shock

Most ferrets can do OK after they are dropped off at a shelter. I would say that 99 percent of them adjust after a few days and go on to being healthy and happy during their stay.

Then there is that 1 percent. They go into what is known as "shelter shock". They continue to grieve for weeks, even months, after they are dropped off, and can eventually starve themselves to death.

Unfortunately, one of the two ferrets who were relinquished to me during my stay at the shelter went into shelter shock. Boogety, the more sensitive of the two, has suffered greatly over the past few months.

When Boogety came in, he was fat, obese even. He has lost a lot of weight, to the point of being bony. He has little energy. He won't play very often. He has severe ulcers. He won't eat kibble, only soup, even though we give him the exact kibble that he ate before he came to the shelter. His eyes are listless, and he does not enjoy life. Even though Chris did everything she could for him, he failed to thrive.

I couldn't watch this happen any more. So I took him (and his buddy Frank) home with me, hoping that a different environment would help him. Maybe he needed more one-on-one time, I rationalized. Maybe more out time, in a house, would snap him out of his grief. I could tell that he wouldn't be here for very much longer if I didn't do something.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Relinquishment

Intellectually, I knew that shelters had to accept new animals. And each week, when more ferrets would appear, I would always try to learn what had happened so that I could tailor my care to them. But handling a relinquishment is a fairly daunting task. It takes a sense of detachment and professionalism that, quite frankly, I just don't have yet.

When the young woman (with her mother) came by to drop off her two ferrets, my fellow volunteer Tracy was there to help me (thank god!). Tracy showed the women around the place, all the cages and the play yards. She also told them a few things about the ferrets’ chances of adoption. We learned that the ferrets were 4 years old, which is on the older side for a ferret and is typically an age when many of the known ferret diseases crop up, like adrenal and insulinoma. Tracy mentioned that their age would make them more difficult to place. The young woman was holding up nicely until Tracy mentioned that. Then she started to cry.

I felt so bad for her. I went and grabbed her a tissue. When I came back, the woman's mother shot daggers at me with her eyes. I understood that we were making her daughter cry and invoking her maternal instinct. But as hard as this was for that poor woman, I knew that it would be tougher on the ferrets.

Then the woman brought in her two ferrets. They were fine fat little boys, adorable little pudges with soft fur and big eyes. I told the woman that they looked very good for 4 years old and that it was obvious that she had taken very good care of them. She smiled through her tears and said that they were her babies, and that it was tearing her apart to leave them there, but she was moving to California.

*the author now stuffs down her murderous rage at the California Department of Fish and Game, not to mention Arnold Governator*

We finished up some paperwork and brought in the boys' stuff. Then goodbyes were said, and more tissues were issued. Tracy then asked the final, and hardest, question:

"Can you make a financial donation towards their care?"

This is such a loaded and terrible question for people. It is so important for the shelter to get actual, cash money any way they can. Vets need to get paid, medicines aren't cheap, and so many expenses crop up that need to be handled immediately. Cash is the one thing we are always short on.

But the people who are bringing in their ferrets are often very poor themselves, at the end of their financial and emotional rope. This is their greatest sacrifice - they can no longer take care of one of their family, and they feel that the emotional sacrifice alone is more than they can bear. In these situations, neither party can afford to go without even a small sum of money.

It is a no-win situation.

The woman offered us her last $20. Her last $20. This woman had only $20 to her name, but she was going to give it to us. We declined, but we took a promise instead: When she gets back on her feet, she was to go out and pay it forward, to go and do a kindness for someone.

So we all said goodbye, and I took the boys back to their cage that I had set up for them. Their names were Frank and Boogety. (Why did she name him Boogety? "He looks like a Boogety." And he really does.) Both ferrets were confused, and Boogety was downright peeved. I tried to comfort them with Ferretone and with their old bowl from home, but they were having none of it.

(I know I will be accused of anthropomorphizing, but I think that ferrets have feelings that are just as deep as human feelings, and they make emotional connections that are just as real as any human connections. They may not be the same, but they are just as real and just as strong, if not stronger. These guys were realizing that life was going to be very different and that they were going to lose the one person that was most important in their lives. And this seemed to have a very great impact on their actions. Only a fool would see evidence of emotional disturbance and write it off as "just typical animal behavior".)

So, Frank and Boogety are in our shelter now. If you want to come by and see them, or any of a few hundred other ferrets with similar sad stories, just give Chris a call at 503-557-8369.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Got to Run the Ferret Shelter for a Weekend! Yay!

In Battlestar Galactica, the Secretary of Education becomes the President, even though there are 42 people ahead of her in the Presidential succession, because of dire circumstances.

In much the same way, I was elected to run the Oregon Ferret Shelter for a weekend. And now I shall share that experience with you so you can all gain a new appreciation for just how hard Chris and Dave work to help animals in need.

Just so you know, running the shelter isn't just running the shelter part. It's also running the home of Chris and Dave, the owners of the shelter. And since they are animal lovers, this means taking care of a lot of many kinds of animals.

Dave and Chris love their dogs a lot. There is a lot to love -- they have four English Mastiffs. These dogs are huge. And even though Mastiffland is a peaceful place, entering an empty home with four of them inside is not for the faint of heart. After I got the emergency call, I headed over to their house, only to open the door to three of them in the front room on the floor. Three gigantic heads raised, and heart-stopping thunderous howls sounded from the mouths of all. I would not have been surprised if their eyes started shooting laser beams -- it was that intimidating. It takes real nerve to enter a house with that facing you.

Fortunately, they knew me. And I had french fries.

After I was greeted, I went into the kitchen to feed the dogs (the mastiffs plus two more dogs! EEK!). There was only a little food left in the tub on the counter. I hoped that Chris had a huge storage bin of it somewhere because it was not good to let large dogs go hungry. Especially dogs that were bred to kill bears. Fortunately, Chris had a huge bin of it in back. This was going to be the theme of the weekend -- Chris has everything anyone could ever need in quantity. She is prepared for every emergency. If the zombie plague ever happens, and civilization is thrown into a shambles, I will head on over to Chris' compound because she will have the best chance of survival.

I spent the rest of the night checking over the shelter kids, making sure they had food and water, and appeasing the cats. I tried to learn where stuff was. I also sent out the call for help to my fellow volunteers Lin and Tracy. Thankfully, Lin was able to do the meds. And Tracy was able to help me with the toughest part of the weekend --

More on that next time...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weasels Dancing in the Park!

The long-awaited Weasels Dancing in the Park fundraiser took place in July. It wasn't too hot, the ferrets were quite happy, and there was much merriment.

The Tube Race

Always a crowd favorite, the Tube Race was fraught with excitement and anticipation. Who would be the fastest? Who would be the first? And, most importantly, who would actually exit the tube instead of turning around and becoming a fuzzy pipe clog? Many a fast and feisty ferret was thwarted from grabbing the prize due to unexpected shyness and a basic misunderstanding of how the game was supposed to go. The ultimate winner, Tekkie, only exited the tube because there was a juicy iPhone tempting her from outside her comfortable plastic burrow, and we all know how much ferrets love expensive technology!

The Pop Can Tip

The Pop Can Tip was also quite the crowd pleaser this year. The object of the game is for the ferret to knock over as many empty pop cans as possible in the time allotted. However, as usual, the ferrets often had different ideas of how the game was supposed to go. My personal favorite was Millie, who not only did not tip over any cans, she actually stood up, held the top of one with her paws to sniff it, then laid back down, leaving the can completely unmoved. The ultimate winner was Biscuit (pictured), a healthy and hearty boy who was a crowd favorite due to his laid-back temperament, his bumblingly sweet nature, and his habit of spinning like a top whenever he got in a tube. I believe that he tipped over 15 cans, which was a great showing.

The Rice Dig

The Rice Dig was a new event this year. Since anyone who has ever left a house plant within reach of a ferret has discovered that ferrets LOVE to dig, we thought that this would be a great way to use those skills in a healthy way. The object of the game was for the ferret, upon entering the planter full of rice, to dig out as much as he or she could, hopefully flinging it into the air and over the edge, where it would be caught on a tarp and weighed. The one with the most rice by weight would win.

Well, it turns out that some of the ferrets need a little inspiration to start digging. For example, my ferrets need for there to be a very expensive houseplant inside the planter, along with the sounds of me screaming at them to stop, to really get into digging. When I put my little Darkpaw into the planter, she merely sat, a study of daintiness, as if she were a porcelain sculpture instead of the little plant-murdering fiend I know she can be. Little Cinnamon (pictured) appears to have taken on the same faux aura of sainthood in this photo. Ultimately, some of the contestants' contributions did not have to be weighed at all -- they could be counted in grains. I think Darkpaw had five grains. Yippee.

Edit: After a slow start, Cinammon ended up winning the dig with two teaspoonfuls of rice. Way to go!

As an aside: You should know that many ferrets love to dig and would benefit from having a rice box to play in. They look like little otters as they swim and snorkle in the mix. All you need is a box and rice (the sides should be a little high to prevent the rice from showering over the sides as they dig -- I use a Rubbermaid dishpan). Some people use those edible packing peanuts instead; some people use actual soil that has been sterilized. At home, Darkpaw has been known to snorkle through the rice like a pro, poking her face deeply into the mix while looking for toys that I have buried in there. Why she didn't show off those skills at the event, I'll never know.

The Final Score

All in all, we had about 200 attendees and made about $3100 for the Oregon Ferret Shelter. We all had a great time sharing our stories and showing off our companions while helping a good cause. We also had a great time at the auction, where we got to learn about all of the new things available in the ferret world (and about businesses that are ferret-friendly and deserve our patronage). To see the huge list of businesses who helped with our event, click here.

In addition, many people who were unfamiliar with ferrets had a good chance to learn about and appreciate our fuzzies, which is what these fundraisers and other outreaches are all about. I will always remember the little boy who carried Darkpaw around for almost half an hour, having fallen absolutely in love with her. I couldn't blame him -- I feel the same way. I hope that we can continue to have these events that help bring ferrets and people together in a fun and loving way.

Special thanks goes to Lisa Harris for her photos!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summertime has arrived!

Ah yes! Summer is here! And with it comes all sorts of ideas for fun, along with the temptation to take your ferret outside on a leash.

For those of you who have not done this, I advise bringing a friend for the inevitable harness structural failure and resulting chase. Although, since ferrets are prone to being distracted (and what is more distracting to an inside ferret than outside stuff), you may be able to squeak by on your own.

Here are the steps for taking your fert on an outside journey:
  1. Buy harness. Imagine your ferret dressed up in it, adorably marching by your side through the city. This will be your only moment of joy.
  2. Attempt to put the harness on your ferret. No, you may not use glue or staples.
  3. Finally, after putting the harness on tighter than William Shatner's girdle, take your bulging-eyed ferret outside.
  4. Place ferret on the ground, and stand back to watch him or her take in the marvels of nature.
  5. Watch ferret scrape him- or herself on the ground, trying to get the harness off.
  6. Watch ferret get the harness off.
  7. Run after the ferret, catch ferret, sigh in frustration.
  8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 until exhaustion sets in.
Doesn't that sound like fun?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fundraising letters!

Oh the joy I've had making fundraising letters! I've been using this image for our return address on our letterhead.

Does that mean I've been making ...



Sunday, May 11, 2008

OFS meeting on May 10

It's Mother's Day! And the Mother's Day festivities got a great start at the Oregon Ferret Shelter meeting when there was a raffle for the infamous Climb-n-Sail, a highly sought-after and discontinued ferret toy.

I was introduced to the Climb-n-Sail a few months ago, when someone put one into our group playpen during a meeting. My tiny ferret, Darkpaw, who never expresses serious interest in anything, immediately dove into the ship and wouldn't come out for the rest of the night. We had to forcibly extricate her by shaking the thing upside-down.

Since that time, I have been on a quest to find one. I came SO CLOSE last night to winning. I put in $20, but I was DENIED! ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! CRUEL FATE!

I will have a Climb-n-Sail someday, for my little fert. This I swear. In the meantime, I shall simply hold my little D.P., with her newly grown tail fur, and whisper comforting things to her.

Poor leetle fuzz, with her tiny feets and her broken heart.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just stick your arm into this alligator's mouth...

Had a breakthrough today!

Leeloo decided that she, too, wanted to steal dog kibbles, just like all the other ferrets do. (My Golden Retriever just watches them do it, a sad look on his face. I tell him that he shouldn't have left any behind.) The other ferrets must have told Leeloo that I'll take it back from them if I can get it, dog food being a poor substitute for ferret kibble. So she grabbed a piece and ran for the hills.

I found her sometime later, looking rather distressed. Since she did not know the ways of eating giant dog kibble, she had tried to crunch it all at once, sinking her teeth deeply into a kibble that was way too big for her mouth. She ended up getting it stuck between her teeth, firmly wedged into her upper jaw cavity.

I've had to pull a kibble or two from the teeth of my ferrets, especially D.P., who is fixated upon the joy of Iams Weight Control Large Breed. (BTW: I know it's bad for them. But my dog has these big sloppy floppy chops that can send kibble flying around the room. It's hard to find them all before the release of the wee beasties.)

But now I had to pry off a large piece of Iams from Leeloo's very sharp and well-practiced teeth. YIKES!

After a few tries, during which Leeloo was quite distressed, she quickly figured out that I was trying to help her. She calmed down enough for me to pry it from her teeth and out of her mouth -- and she didn't even try to bite me! This is significant progress.

I think I'll go to bed while I'm riding on the high from this victory.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Many Updates!

I haven't been able to update this very much this month. Lots to do. Here are the highlights:
  • Leeloo's biting -- I spoke to Chris, some other ferret friends, and the vet. They all had a lot of useful information on how to continue my rehabbing, along with a lot of encouragement. The vet, Dr. Emily Stuart, told me not to expect too much too soon from Leeloo -- it could take months for her to stop biting, and even then she might be skittish for the rest of her life. It's hard to tell what kind of effect her background will have. But we'd come a long way together already. I remembered that the first dozen times I saw Leeloo, she wouldn't even approach the bars of her cage; she was so afraid that someone would hit her that she hid when anyone approached. Now she rattles the bars to get her "out time" like an old pro. So maybe things are not so bleak, eh?
  • Easter Hat contest! The Oregon Ferret Shelter had an Easter hat contest, and first place was a tie. Lisa had a lovely feather creation -- a hat complete with Easter bunny and a glamorous boa! My entry, the Beaded Spring Fez, was also well-received (but then, who doesn't like a fez?). Lisa got a wonderful gift of sugar cookies. I got a really loud wind chime, which I HAD planned to take outside to annoy my neighbors, but it has instead become a ferret fixation. Techie, the ferret who loves anything technological, rubbery, or noisy, discovered that it is really fun to swing on the key that dangles below, sending hundreds of decibels' worth of chiming throughout the house. It's good feng shui -- no need for a singing bowl now. If there WERE any bad spirits in my house, they have now departed with great haste. Strangely, my ant problem also went away at the same time. Awesome! Oh, if anyone got pictures of the Easter Hat contest, would you send them to me at jeni(at)aracnet.com? Sadly, I have nothing workable on my camera. I would appreciate it.

I would like to thank Carla Smith for a post she made in March of 1996 called "I Had a Bad Biter Too". It's from the FERRET-SEARCH archives, from the FML Issue 1503. Her post was both informative and uplifting, and I keep it by my computer to help me when I am bleeding and stressed.

Must go -- I think I hear the cage bars rattling! Shoes on, Ferretone in hand, loins girded, GO!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rehabbing a Biter, Part 3

Well, had a setback yesterday. And we were doing so well.

After a long session of gleefully trashing my house, Leeloo curled up in a bag in my closet. When it was time for her to return to her cage (so I could clean up the carnage), I gently prodded her awake and tried to lift her out. She nipped me.

"Leeloo," I said, "Nobody likes to be woken up. But it's time to go to bed. There will be Ferretone and sleepsacks and MOTHER OF GOD OUCH OUCH OUCH!"

Leeloo had bitten me. Hard. The "bite and hang" kind of bite.

I grabbed her by the scruff, and she released her hold on my flesh. Then I yelled, "NO! NO!" In her face, and I dragged her a little across the ground, like a momma ferret does to discipline her kits. That is, I dragged her until I realized that I was using her to mop up MY OWN BLOOD!

(Aside: Ferrets are highly absorbent, by the way.)

I looked over at my hand, and rivers of blood are oozing their way through my fingers and down to the floor. At this point, Leeloo is hanging totally limp by the scruff, something she has never done -- usually, she at least kicks a foot or gets a very sour look on her face. This time, I think she was as freaked out as me.

Bleeding profusely, I dripped a nice trail along the floor over to her cage. I put her inside and did a damage assessment. Wow! She must have hooked into an artery or something because my hand was covered with way too much blood for the size of the wound. The flesh between the knuckles of my first and second fingers was blowing up into a Brazil-nut-sized lump (not big enough for a walnut, but close). There was severe bruising already starting.

While I was running my hand under some cold water, I started crying. How am I going to be able to take care of this little ferret? How am I supposed to get her to trust humans again? How can I repair the damage done to her by all of those cruel people? How am I supposed to stop myself from going down to the pet store we got her from and punching out all of the employees for what they did to her? I just don't know. I guess I'll just ask Chris at the shelter tomorrow. Maybe she'll have some good advice.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rehabbing a Biter, Part 2

Little Leeloo has settled in. Yes, we changed her name. She is not sneaky like a Russian spy, as the name "Petra" would lead you to believe. No, her true personality is coming out, and she's more like that superbeing in The Fifth Element than anything else. No guile, all butt-kicking.

Leeloo decided to do a little interior decorating the other day. She pushed everything off the dresser by the window, which included: five bags of ferret food, two pet carriers, a Star Trek cookie jar (with lid), a pair of ferret nail clippers, a basket of plastic eggs, a blanket, and her sister's awards. Fortunately, nothing broke, no thanks to her.

I also took Leeloo over to my friend's house. She runs a foster home for several ferrets, and I help her clean up her cages, along with another volunteer. They were both dying to meet her. She bit both of them. Hard. (To be fair, I did warn them.)

Something tells me that fostering is going to be a little more difficult than I had thought. Sigh.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rehabbing a Biter

So I've taken on fostering a biter. This poor little girl was a victim of pet store brutality. Her name is Petra, and her story can be read here.


I've had her since Wednesday. Tonight was the first night that I saw her sleep like a real ferret, completely sacked out, flipped onto her back and dead to the world. It's a nice change from her usual hypervigilant self. And during the day, she's actually greeting me at the bars instead of wincing away from them.

However, it ain't all frickin' roses. She's bitten me every day since she got here -- not fear bites, but play bites. I hope she gets the idea soon that I'm not on the menu. I'm about a pint low. On the other hand, I'm a cheaper drunk now.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Santa Paws Pays Off!!!

Note from Chris regarding Santa Paws:

I just wanted to take this opportunity again to thank all involved in the Santa Paws Photo shoot program with PetsSmart. We received checks for $2,160.00 and a bonus check from the wishing tree for $1,247.40!! Our vet is going to be soooooooo happy! The ferrets are also going to eat this month!!

Yay for us!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ferrets Magazine Going Under

Under the irksomely perky headline, "Ferrets Magazine Going Online" lies the tragic news that Ferrets Magazine will no longer be in print.


"Our plan is to offer new articles and columns every month, weekly news updates, polls, contests and more. It will be more interactive and readers will get more frequent updates than with our bimonthly print issue -- and we'll be saving trees by going digital."

Screw the trees. I just got a gift subscription this year, and I want to read it in all its papery tactile glory. Sigh.


Sunday, January 13, 2008


Funny gif number one!