Saturday, October 6, 2012

Life as a Ferret

Ferrets are weasels, but they are not wild. It’s pretty easy to tell what they’re thinking.

When I pick one up, he looks up at the ceiling or the nearest bookshelf and thinks, “Can I reach it, if I jump from here?” He’s fairly near-sighted, so the actual distance eludes him. The one thing totally devoid from his mind is the fact that he might get hurt. His world consists of play, treats, naps, and pooping. Danger and pain simply do not exist.

We did once have a ferret that appeared to consider danger. Her name was Shaddoe. I saw her once, looking down on the floor from a dangerous height, and she seemed to be hesitating, as if considering the consequences of jumping down, in a way that is uncharacteristic of ferrets. She lived to be a ripe old age.

But she was the exception. Usually a ferret will jump without looking. He’ll do his ‘weasel war-dance,’ leaping backwards, until he falls off the bed. He’ll sneak into places he’s not supposed to be and get injured. If he gets out of the house, he’ll go up to the neighbor’s dog and try to play. We lost one that way. Another one we got back; it seemed the dog was so stunned to see a small creature unafraid of him that he paused before biting, and our neighbor was able to intervene.

In truth, I would only want to live like a ferret if I owned a human caretaker that was as careful as my husband is. He counts noses every day, sometimes several times a day. He keeps our ferrets in a room that has been, “ferret proofed.” He gives them treats upon demand, and lets them nap in his arms while he tries to play games on the computer.

But if I did own such a human, life as a ferret would be grand. I’d tunnel through laundry, each pants-leg a mysterious and wonderful trip down the rabbit-hole. I’d scratch and sneeze and then take a long nap whenever I wanted to. I’d have my human play with me or hold me, whenever I felt like it.

Oh there would be some stress. I might have to establish dominance over a playmate, or accept the dominance of same, but once the pecking order was re-established, all strife would be forgotten, and we’d nap together, draped over each other like a pile of wet socks. There would also be the occasional period of time when our human ran out of treats, which would bewilder me. How could imperfection enter my world? But the treats would reappear, and having a short memory, I would forget that I’d ever been unhappy.

Alas, I am not a well-kept ferret. I am a loyal servant of ferrets. I go to school so that I can get a good job, and buy them toys and food, and help preserve the stability and peace that they take for granted. But some day, perhaps when I am old and can no longer work, and my mind has become as simple as theirs, then I shall be cared for, and allowed to play and nap when I like, and maybe somebody will watch out for me so I don’t wander off.

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