Have you ever owned a Ferret asks Work at Home Grandma
Meet Mr. Z
The ferret can be a unique and enduring pet. They have an outrageous sense of humor, can destroy your home if left unattended but will steal your heart if given the chance. Years ago my son decided to purchase a ferret. It was quite a learning experience for us all. The story that follows details the antics of Zorro --- known to us as Mr. Z
The first time I met him, he sank his teeth into my right big toe, then tilted his head in bewilderment as I hobbled to the bathroom, blood oozing from my foot, all the while furious with my son for bringing this curious little animal into our home.
“Toes are the only things he’ll bite,” John assured me, then added, “actually, just bare toes.”
“Thanks for the warning,” I said, scowling down at Mr. Z. Seeing my son’s forlorn expression, I decided to forgive the furry little creature. After all, toes were the only thing directly at his eye level.
John’s room was in the basement of our home and equipped with all the amenities: a television, a bathroom, and of course, his own private phone line. So against my better judgment, I agreed Zorro, or Mr. Z as John called him, could stay. But as thoughts of my throbbing toe flooded my mind, I was instantly leery of the homemade cage John was using for his new pet. My fears were brushed aside with a wave of John’s hand and a promise that Zorro would reside exclusively in the lower level of our home.
The next morning, I awoke to the suspicious growling of my Poodle and Lhasa both ensconced beneath my bed. Suddenly, I sensed the three of us were not alone, and slowly, I squinted to risk a peek from beneath my covers. There was Mr. Z’s, long narrow body perched blissfully atop my shoes, his gray coat blending nicely with the taupe color of the pair with which he was particularly intrigued. His raccoon painted eyes peered up at me as he sank his teeth into one of my eighty dollar shoes. Apparently, bare toes were not his only fetish.
My mouth went dry. My face flushed. Fear and anger battled between themselves as I grabbed the phone and dialed John’s number. As John’s sleepy voice drawled in the phone, I whispered, “Zorro is in my room.”
John’s voice was instantly clear. “No way! He’s asleep in his cage.”
By this time anger had defeated fear. “Well, isn’t that strange,” I replied, as a cynical smile formed on my lips. “Then there must be two ferrets in the house because one of them has his teeth firmly wedged around one of my best patent leather shoes!”
The phone slammed in my ear, and John’s booming voice echoed through the house as he stomped up the stairs hollering Z’s name with a gust of fury.
The little ferret, however, was must faster and smarter than the dogs and more cunning than either one of the humans seeking to nab him. Within seconds, he’d slithered sideways across the bedroom and into the living room, whisking underneath the sofa and down the basement stairs to the safe haven of his cage.
After the exasperating experience, I suggested a more secured cage was needed. But John insisted Zorro would soon be trained to stay in his cage. In the meantime, John brought in a large rock from outside and placed it on top of the cage, confident the weight of the rock would keep the ferret securely inside.
I only chuckled at my son’s fantasy, then demanded his bedroom door remain shut whenever he was away or asleep. I wasn’t in the mood for anymore surprise visits.
John soon taught Z to obey on command, to sit on his shoulder, and ride securely within his jacket. Z would travel along to the store and faithfully guard the car while John did his shopping. The bond between them grew stronger as the days went by.
It was a Friday evening when I arrived home from work, tired after a long week. The house was quiet; John and his girlfriend had gone out to dinner. I was relaxing upstairs when I heard the first crash. Startled, I stiffened as a second rumble emanated from the basement. Then another. And another. Cautiously, I tiptoed down the stairs and towards John’s room. My sweaty hand slipped on the doorknob as I opened the door a narrow crack and peeked into the room. Two round eyes glistened at me through the blackness.
Zorro had nudged the rock to the end of the cage and squeezed his narrow body through a small opening at the opposite end. He was perched like a statue at the head of the bookcase bed; uprooted plants with their accompanying dirt covered the bedspread and floor. Flattened books were scattered in every corner of the room. The dresser drawers were opened, white socks and t-shirts mingled with the wet dirt on the floor and bed.
Scared silly, I yanked the door closed. I thought my heart would burst from my chest as my mind raced to solve the dilemma: I should do something, but I was a big chicken. What if this tiny animal escaped to wreak havoc on my safe haven upstairs? I suddenly started to giggle at the irony of the situation. I was still laughing as I made my way upstairs, wincing as another loud crash rippled through the house.
Two hours later, all was quiet when John arrived home. I met him at the door, chewing on my lip to refrain from smiling. “I think you’ll need a tranquilizer before you go down to your room.”
John’s eyes widened as he pushed me aside and rushed downstairs. I heard a loud groan and knew it was much worse in the light than it had been in my darkened preview. The following day, John purchased a large cage from the pet store - one with secured locks and hinges. There would be no more escapes for Mr. Z.
After the incident, I realized how important it was for Zorro to get his exercise and allowed him to visit the upstairs on supervised occasions: it was mandatory John be in the house. After Z’s visits, it was not unusual to find a stash of dog food hidden discreetly behind the sofa or under a dresser. Any small hole could be made bigger and a suitably favorable stash could easily be created. The dogs were not particularly captivated by the ritual as the stash usually consisted of their food.
Soon the stashes became too numerous to track down and thus existed simultaneously with the dust balls and cobwebs. John once spent a panic-stricken Saturday afternoon searching for his sister Janette’s navy blue shoe, secretly buried inside the hassock. But shoes weren’t Z’s only victims. Janette was almost hysterical the day her car keys disappeared. We finally thought to look behind the sofa and found them carefully hidden beneath a stash of dog food.
As time passed, Z developed a personality of his own. He’d somersault across the living room, playing hide-n-seek with the dogs: Z always doing the hiding and the dogs always doing the seeking. Zorro seemed to have his own sense of humor and could be a downright tease at times. An afternoon of folding clothes could easily become a difficult task with Z nipping at your behind then playfully scurrying behind the sofa or under a chair. One day, unable to catch the speedy little ferret, Janette became increasingly agitated, finally screaming out John’s name in utter frustration. Janette’s lips parted in amazement as Z stopped short and scampered down to the basement. We all soon discovered the magic word, “John” brought about an instant behavior modification in the little ferret.
Even though he was a prankster, Z had a vulnerability that came with his dependence on human beings. His favorite pastime, and my major irritation, was to climb my lace tablecloth, determined to reach those items put there to avoid his inquisitive eye. One day Z caught his foot in one of the tiny etchings and within seconds he’d spun himself into a small cocoon. Confused hysteria convinced Zorro I was the enemy, and my attempt to free him brought a stabbing bite into my finger. But John’s soft voice of reassurance calmed Z down and holding him by the nape of the neck, John was able to set him free. Zorro never approached the table again.
Z’s zeal for shoes was second to his greatest love of all: a big juicy stick of red licorice. His eyes would sparkle as he’d sink his teeth into the licorice and hang suspended in the air, refusing to loosen his grip on his prize possession. Once the licorice included John’s finger, and even then the precious red sugar generated an uncontrollable greed in the little ferret. As licorice was John’s favorite candy, it was not unusual to find it in every stash, even in John’s bedroom drawers, tucked neatly beneath the socks and underwear.
Christmas was Z’s favorite time of year. He loved wrapping presents, unrolling three foot rolls of paper and scattering the bows from one end of the room to another. The noise of rustling packages meant Z was drinking from the sap sweetened water beneath the tree, and one by one my carefully positioned gifts were in disarray.
My frenzy in keeping the ferret to task was culminated when he decided to make the Father Christmas doll his own. At the sound of a loud thumping, I ran into the living room to see Z desperately attempting to pull the six inch base of the Father Christmas through the three inch space leading to his stash. The sight brought a smile to my lips and a new safe place for the cherished doll out of Z’s reach.
Every Christmas morning, Z joined in the festivities, shuffling through wrapping paper, tipping boxes open with his nose, and running along the top of the sofa and chairs, visiting each one of us yet never missing a single gift.
When Z was nine, he began to have strokes and sadly, we had to let him go. Some people say a ferret cannot love like a dog or cat, but no one at our house would agree. Zorro found his slot in our lives and tucked his memories in our hearts. He always brought us laughter, sometimes he brought us chaos, and when we lost him, he brought us tears.
Cleaning house is easy now. I no longer find dog food behind the sofa nor a tooth marked shoe in my closet. But I don’t think I’ll ever bite into a stick of red licorice without wishing I could share it with Mr. Z.
So the moral of the story is if you wish to explore owning this charming pet, do your homework first because you will have it in your life for about eight to nine years.