Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our First Children

Back in the summer of 2004, when Noah and I were in college and just dating, we decided to start a family. No...not a human family, but a fuzzy one. We already had a turtle named Petey together and decided that we needed a larger family. So we added Rosco, Duncan and Wizzer (Wiz Pigger) to our family. They were 3 ferrets; 1 female and 2 males. Back then, we had much less responsibility and much more time than we have these days. Our little ferrets were a big part of our life. We bought them all kinds of ferret toys and treats and even splurged and bought them the largest and nicest ferret cage on the market....the FerretNation! We would play with our little ferrets inside and outside and occasionally take them to the pet store. The ferrets would travel back and forth with me from Ann Arbor whenever I would come home to visit Noah and my family. We took tons of pictures of them and I even had scrapbook pages of them in my scrapbooks (back when I had time to scrapbook). Ferrets have a life span of about 5-7 years and we joked when we first got them that when they died, we would have "real" kids. Well....those 5-7 years sure flew by quickly and at the time, I had no idea how true that statement would be. As time went by and we graduated college, got married and started a farm, our responsibilities got greater and our time got spread thin. While our ferrets had their own bedroom in our farm house and they would get playtime and care everyday, we just didn't have all the time that we used to to devote to them. Luckily...ferrets sleep about 20 hours a day and they had each other for company. While we had a few scares in the 6 years that we had the ferrets...once where they were given a bad vaccine from a vet and almost died, one where Rosco jumped out of a 3 story window and my mom found her running across the lawn when she was mowing it with the outdoor cat following her, and one where Rosco disappeared into a heating vent and had to be coaxed out.....the ferrets were healthy and happy. I know so many people buy ferrets thinking they are cute and fuzzy only to find out that they can be a lot of work and they give them up a short time later or they get neglected and sit in a cage all day long. I like to think that our ferrets had a nice long and happy life.
Last year, our little Rosco (the oldest of the 3) was the first to pass away. She had organ failure, probably due to old age and we nursed her for a week, but she didn't make it. I was so sad to lose our little girl!
Then this past summer, Duncan suddenly passed away in his sleep with no warning. He seemed healthy and happy. Although I was very sad that he crossed the rainbow bridge to be with his sister, I was happy he didn't suffer like Rosco.

After Duncan passed away, we moved Wiz Pigger and his cage to our living room, instead of being upstairs alone. While he was the youngest of the 3, we always thought he would be the first one to go. Boy, did he prove us wrong. First of all, Wizzer was born deaf, not that that shortens his life expectancy, but something interesting to know. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with adrenal disease (which is very common in ferrets). It is where they have a tumor on their adrenal gland and it causes them to lose their hair. It can also enlarge their prostate, making it difficult for them to urinate. We brought Wizzer into the vet and successfully managed the tumor with a melatonin implant for a year and a half. Then last spring, he started having a difficult time urinating and was straining when he tried to go. We brought him back to the vet. The vet said he had an infection and the tumor was affecting his prostate. He gave him another melatonin implant, some antibiotics and a shot of estrogen, but said he didn't expect him to live past two more weeks. He recommended that we euthanize him once it got worse because once he couldn't urinate at all, it would be very very painful. Miraculously, our little Wiz Piggy pulled through! He got better and was almost completely back to normal, although this time, his fur did not grow back, and of course he was already deaf, and we noticed that he didn't seem to be able to see quite as well as he used to and seemed to be going blind. Anyway, we spent the summer giving Wizzer lots of attention, especially after Duncan died. Wizzy was just as playful as always (he was always the craziest and most playful one). Unfortunately, last Thursday I went to clean Wizzer's cage out like I do every morning and noticed he wasn't right. He had all his blankets all over the place in his cage and he had pooped everywhere. Every 20 seconds, he was jumping out of his bed trying to pee, but nothing would come out. It was so sad...he was making little struggling noises. I almost immediately knew that Wizzer's time had finally come. He had been such a little trooper for so long. I called the vet who was completely shocked that Wizzer was still alive after 6 months! He squeezed us in even though he was booked for the day. I came home on my lunch hour and let Wizzer out to play upstairs for a while. He still ran around and explored like he normally does, but would stop to try and pee every 20 seconds. After work, I brought him outside to walk around, but he seemed very uncomfortable and didn't want to go far. Noah met me at the vet's office. As the vet tech brought us into the exam room, I couldn't stop crying. I knew there was no saving our little guy this time. The vet checked him out and said his urethra was completely blocked and his bladder was almost the size of a tennis ball. He said we could try a catheter (which was extremely invasive in ferrets) and more of the estrogen injections (that are only meant to give them a few days more) but said it would be most humane to put Wizzer to sleep since he seemed to be in pain. We agreed that that would be the best thing for our little guy. I couldn't stand to see him suffer any longer. The vet went to get a sedative and I snuggled with Wizzer. He was never really much of a snuggler....he was always more likely to crawl all over you and try to jump from your hands, but today he just rested his little head on my chest and let Noah and I pet him. I felt like he was telling us goodbye and that's how I knew we were doing the right thing. They came in and gave him the sedative and left us to say our good byes. I told him I love him and that he was the best little ferret ever. We decided not to watch him be euthanized as the vet said if he couldn't find a main vein, he would have to inject his heart, which wouldn't be pretty. A few minutes later, the vet brought Wizzer back in. He said that he had luckily found a main vein so he went painlessly. He also showed us that he could palpate the adrenal tumor now that he was relaxed. It was almost the size of a golf ball! They are normally a peanut! Again, the vet was shocked he had lived so long. It is just amazing to me that yesterday, he was just fine and was peeing normally and then today he took a sharp turn for the worse. I am just happy that we caught it before he was completely incapacitated and suffering greatly. We thanked the vet for all he had done for little Wizzer and asked him for the number of a local ferret rescue so we could donate our ferret stuff. When we went out to pay at the desk, he said to the receptionist "no charge" and turned and left the waiting room quickly before we could even say thank you. We decided to send some money and a thank you card to the vet to put towards the ferret rescue vet bills or towards someone else who can't afford their bill. We took Wizzer home and buried him under Sephiroth's Willow tree along with Seph, Rosco, Duncan and my childhood Scottish Terrier Mickey. (You will probably notice in the pictures below that it does not look like the same ferret....that is because he was very dark colored when we first adopted him and he eventually kept getting lighter until we was almost all white. Of course, he eventually went bald and only had fur on his head and legs, but I don't have any pictures of the little bald man. Also his weight would fluctuate greatly depending on the season.)

Life can be very difficult sometimes, but if you are going to survive, you have to realize that life is an adventure, filled with ups and downs. I read a quote today that said "Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?" Noah and I really try to look at life as one big learning experience. I have really only come to this realization in the last year or so. We try not to get caught up in whether an experience is "good" or "bad" but try to examine what we have learned from each up and down. With each new experience, we learn skills that help us better deal with more experiences in the future. Our ferrets were our very first children. I believe they have helped prepare us to be better parents. They taught us what is means to be responsible for something twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They taught us to care for something that is helpless that would not survive without our care. They taught us how to spoil them, especially on Christmas morning when they would open all their gifts. They taught us to love unconditionally, even when we would get so frustrated when Wizzer refused to use the litter pan on a regular basis. They taught us to work as a team and share the responsibility of taking care of them. They taught us to laugh at their silly little antics and life's little moments. They taught us how to protect a fragile little creature from our 130 lb Great Danes who constantly wanted to "play" with them. They taught us how to deal with pain and heartache when they were sick. They taught us dedication and how to stick it out for the long haul, even when life got really busy and stressed. We have learned so much from these little creatures in the last 6 1/2 years. Now that I am two weeks away from having our very first "human" baby, I feel truly blessed to have had them in our lives and as a part of our family. Thank you Rosco, Duncan and Wiz Pigger. You will remain in our hearts and memories forever.


Oak Haven Alpacas said...

that is amazing, the timing of everything.

I am so sorry for your loss. Your ferrets had a wonderful life, spoiled in your care :)


Noah and Jillian Schwander said...

Everything seems to happen for a reason and in its own time.

Thanks Cara!

auto collision said...

They taught us to work together and share the responsibility of caring for them. We were taught to laugh at their antics and silly little less time than life

Free Poker Money said...

They decided to send some money and a thank you card to the vet to put towards the ferret rescue vet bills or towards someone else who can't afford their bill.

sumidubi said...

Wow superb and cute animal.This all picture say about the natural beauty and god gift also.This is great moment in happy life.

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