In early May 1996, I had a dream. I dreamt of waking up, opening the bedroom curtain, and seeing a ferret standing on its hind legs with its front paws against the screen, waiting to be let in. I told some of my friends that another ferret was coming.
Fate arrived in a typical manner. A voice on the phone told me about a ferret that would be destroyed unless I acted. Fate moved in on May 24th following a stop at the vet’s for a health check and shots.
At first glance, Fate seemed luckier than most of her new brothers and sisters. She had not been the victim of abuse or neglect. She did seem to have one “little” problem though-she appeared to be unspayed and experiencing heat. This was not seen as a major problem however, since she was very young (under 6 mo.) so it could not have gone on long enough to have a serious effect on her.
Fate went into surgery on June 7th, 1996. I went to work expecting to call the vet later to arrange a pick up time. Instead, while running errands, I called my office and received the message “your vet wants you to call right away”. I made the call with my heart in my throat; had Fate reacted to the anesthetic? Was she dead? I stood at the pay phone and listened as my vet told me that Fate was already spayed and that no ovarian remnant had been located. Instead, a malignant adrenal tumor had been discovered. I asked about removing the tumor and he replied that in his opinion she had a better than 60% chance of bleeding to death on the table if it were attempted, both because of the location of the tumor and because of the number of veins running through it. I asked how long to expect if the tumor was left alone. The reply was six months.
Fate came home on June 8th, and seemed to be recovering nicely. She played with the other ferrets (she was number 12 of what would quickly become 20) and attempted to keep the cat’s ears clean. As time went on, she lost most of her fur, but that didn’t seem to bother her. She also slept more than the other ferrets, even those considerably older than her. She didn’t seem particularly bothered by the progression of the tumor, not even the swelling in her abdomen. As long as she was being loved and cared for, she was content. She loved to be carried around under my shirt, against the skin of my abdomen or chest. That was hardest for me, because the sicker she became, the more time she spent sleeping near my heart.
During her final days her skin started itching and she scratched to the point of opening areas. I attempted to treat the symptoms, but I knew it was time. Her skin was bruising and she had to put more and more effort into the simple joys of eating and moving from blanket to hammock.
On November 26th, 1996, I took my lunch break to release her from this life. A good friend drove us to our destination so that Fate could make the trip in her favorite way, under my sweater against my skin. I held her as she was released from the grip of the tumor. Although Fate’s life was far too short, I am comforted by the knowledge that the majority of it was spent cared for, loved and in the company of other ferrets.
Fate’s ashes were placed in an urn, and have been joined by the ashes of 18 other ferrets that lived out their lives here because they arrived too old, or too sick, or too nippy to be adopted. But the most important part of Fate, and the other ferrets, remains with me and gives me the strength to continue to take in ferrets and find them new, loving homes, and to give them that home here when another can’t be found.