Posted: November 26, 2014, 2:40 p.m. EST
I have always believed that, outside of children, Christmas is the season for ferrets. I have owned more kinds of pets in my lifetime than you could ever imagine — everything from mice to horses. All seem to enjoy the holiday season in their own way. Horses love playing in the snow and trot around with their jingle bells on, kittens love batting the ornaments on the tree, birds love shredding the ribbons and paper, and hamsters can’t stuff their cheeks with special treats fast enough. But ferrets take it to a whole other level. They delight in every bit of it and truly savor every second of it.
As the big day approaches, you can see the spark in the eyes of the older ferrets and uncontained excitement in the younger ferrets. They look forward to stealing that occasional treat, slipping into an open cabinet while you cook, snagging a shiny decoration to stash in their hidey-hole, climbing the Christmas tree, snorkeling in the water under the tree, spilling that unattended cup of eggnog and greeting visitors at the door. They absolutely thrive on the decorations, seasonal smells, visitors, holiday music, cooler weather, treats, flickering lights and, most of all, the presents.
This is why it is so heartbreaking to know that thousands of homeless ferrets sit forgotten in ferret rescues, sanctuaries and in animal shelters of various sorts during the holiday season. However, a program shines a brilliant light through all of that darkness. It comes in the form of the Ferret Giving Tree, which offers ferrets who are without their own family a chance to experience the joy of Christmas.
© Courtesy Bryan Church/Ann’s Ferret Shelter & Adoption Inc.
Bricetta looks over the pile of gifts sent to her by her Santa, Leslie. Bricetta survived a dog bite, was adopted out after recovering, but then returned to the shelter a few years later.
Roots Of The Ferret Giving Tree
The tradition of the tree dates all the way back to 1998. Kristine Lunny created the Ferret Giving Tree’s website and it has evolved and grown over the years due to the efforts of many people who put their hearts and souls into it, such as Kris Mewton and the current operators. Today the Giving Tree is run by administrator Melanie Ellis of Lane Area Ferret Shelter and Rescue in Eugene, Oregon, along with the help of Lynn Lefevre and Marie Smith.
Ellis, who spends hours upon hours each season building and managing the tree, explains the that the Ferret Giving Tree is an online list of ferrets in rescues, shelters or hospices. Each ferret is shown in a thumbnail photo decorating a "tree” on a page.
"Click on the thumbnail image and you’ll be taken to a bio page that lists a little about the ferret, what he/she needs/wants, and/or what the shelter needs/wants,” Ellis said.
If you visit the site and click on a ferret’s photo, you can then click on the Santa Form link and fill it out. After receiving a confirmation email, you are magically transformed into a ferret Santa. Using your new Santa magical powers, you can make that chosen ferret’s wishes come true by choosing from an array of things, such as donating to the ferret shelter, making a payment to the shelters’ veterinarian, or anything else you’d like to do for that ferret. But best of all, you get to go shopping. The tree opened up to Santas on November 1 and ferrets continue to be added until December 15. You may go pick that special ferret for you right now!
© Courtesy Jenny Peterson/Asti's Ferret Haven.
In addition to the gifts, the packaging can also bring joy, as Miss Murphy demonstrates.
Bringing Joy To Ferrets
The tree was designed to be a simple process for both the potential Santas and the ferret shelters. Starting October 15 each year, ferret shelters may register for the current year’s tree. These ferret shelters are run at great sacrifice to the shelter operators — financially, physically and emotionally. This is a great time to help them continue their invaluable work.
Carol Roche, who operates the Ferrets Dook in Binghamton, New York, said "Ferret shelters never get a day off. This is my first year and it's quite humbling to see people helping other people that are taking care of ferrets. It really is an act of kindness.” Because it is her first year, her requests are leaning toward the necessities including food, bedding and stuffed animals.
Ann Church, who runs Ann's Ferret Shelter & Adoption Inc. in Manchester, Ohio, explains what it means to her, "To see them [the ferrets] get excited and hop around like a kit. To see them snuggle up with something that is theirs that they do not have to share fills my heart with love for humanity. It lets me know that if for just one season someone cared about that ferret as much as I have for one year. It lets me know that when they do pass that someone else loved them like I did enough to see how special they are.”
Words can hardly describe how much joy this very simple program brings to those who care for the ferrets in the shelters, those who participate as Santas and, most importantly, the precious ferrets … most of whom are elderly and the sick. This will be the last Christmas on Earth for a great many of them.
"The Giving Tree makes it so that these ferrets are not forgotten and have a chance to be special and stand out, if only for one day,” Church said. These are ferrets who were abandoned by someone. "The Giving Tree makes them front seat and center, and for some of them it may be the first time in their lives,” Church said. "It also means that someone has seen the importance of this one ferret that another person has disregarded like trash.”
Jenny Peterson of Asti's Ferret Haven in Melbourne, Florida, shares how far the joy spreads. "The Ferret Giving Tree is a blessing for my kids here at Asti's. When the packages arrive not only does the ferret that the Santa picked get excited but so do the others in their group. They love digging through everything and stashing the goodies. It also helps me so much. Meaning the supplies we ask for can help us for six months or more, and that's less out of pocket of having to buy these items.”
© Courtesy Claudia Johnson/Oxford Ferret Rescue.
Miss Mabel ferret shared the presents she received from her Santas, Aunt Chris and Uncle Clint.
And The Joy Spreads …
Many Santas of the past report that their small act of kindness can result in a lifelong memory for both the giver and receiver. Claudia Johnson, director of the Oxford Ferret Rescue in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, said, "My most special memory occurred my first year that I put ferrets on the tree. Samantha Jane was my first abused ferret. She was my first ferret chosen and I had the pink sleep sack that was made for her for many years. Even after she had passed, every time I used that sleep sack, I was reminded of her and receiving her presents.”
The benefits of becoming someone’s Santa are never-ending. And they can last forever. Kat Parsons of Illinois has been a ferret Santa. The first time she participated in the tree, she picked an elderly ferret whose face and story spoke to her. "I chose a ferret named Geezer from a shelter in Michigan. His story was heartbreaking. I bought him presents that would help him enjoy what life he had left. What was unexpected is I made lifelong friends with the shelter mom and dad, Mary and Kris Mewton.They even brought Geezer down to Ohio for me to meet him. Geezer, by way of the Giving Tree, gave me a much bigger gift than I could ever have given him.” Her memorable and powerful experience led to her memorializing Geezer on the Internet.
© Courtesy Kat Parsons.
Helping Geezer brought together a ferret Santa and the shelter operators, who became lifelong friends.
Ferret shelter operators and volunteers have much to say about impact the Ferret Giving Tree has had on them and their rescues — far too much to include here. But one thing was present in every one of their responses: gratitude.
Diane Campbell’s shelter, Ferret Guardian Rescue Haven in Hudson, North Carolina, sums it up. "The Ferret Giving Tree is, pure and simple, love. To all of the Santa’s/Secret Santas and the creators/moderators of The Ferret Giving Tree, please know we are forever grateful for all you do to help us shelters and our furkids. Our Christmas holiday is much brighter and happier because of you!”
Like this article? Please share it, and check out:
Ferret Giving Tree Gives Many Gifts
20 Wonderful Things To Do For Ferret Shelters
Holiday Shopping With A Ferret Cause
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