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Barb Carlson, Speaker At The 2011 International Ferret Congress

A profile of International Ferret Congress 2011 symposium speaker Barb Carlson.

By Renee Downs
Posted: May 20, 2011, 7:20 p.m. EDT

In 2008, at the International Ferret Congress Pittsburgh Symposium, Barb Carlson gave a presentation on nursing sick ferrets back to health. This was well-received and many people asked for more about this topic. So, the IFC is pleased to announce the return of this shelter mom. Learn more about her below.
When one of her friends dropped by with her pet, Barb Carlson had no way of knowing how much it would change her life. “A friend brought a ferret to my house and it stared down my fierce hunter cat. I was so impressed that I've been hooked ever since. After I'd seen how my friend's ferret behaved with the cat, I purchased one of my own. I did everything wrong AND the ferret was sick when I bought her. Amazingly, she survived and I learned.”

And learn she did. The mother of four grown children (and seven grandchildren), Barb learned that children are great preparation for ferrets. “As my children grew up and moved out, I added ferrets. I thought it was a great trade. At least when the ferrets get annoying I can put them in a cage. If you do that with the kids, they put you in jail.” Barb opened her shelter, the  Hide-E-Hole Ferret Rescue in Pittsburgh, and her heart to ferrets. “Ferrets have more personality per square inch than any other pet I've ever owned. Also, having had four children, I was used to chaos. When the kids moved out, the ferrets supplied that missing chaos very nicely.”

In 2007, an Australian film crew descended on her house and filmed for 13 hours. They videotaped ferrets doing cute things, like opening the cage door, and interviewed her for three hours straight.

“Let me tell you, three hours of interview will get you to say things you normally wouldn’t say!”

Later, as she watched the resulting documentary, Ferrets, the Pursuit of Excellence, Barb was surprised to see they had used her entire song, which you can still catch on TV.

What they didn’t ask her about was her memories. Although there are many, Barb says, “Probably my fondest memory is of three of my ferrets working together to get my desk drawer open. In that drawer were some silk flowers. I walked into the room just in time to see the ferrets … one, two, three … running across the floor as fast as their little legs could carry them — each with a silk rose in their mouth like some kind of demented Tango dancer! And they didn't want to give those flowers back, either. They hissed at me!”

As with many other ferret enthusiasts, Barb is a big fan of science fiction. As such, she has had the opportunity to participate in sci-fi conventions. You should stop Barb and ask her for the stories about her role as C. Maltz, a Klingon from one of the Star Trek shows — he insisted that his first name be Chocolate — or the time they staged a “wild anchovy hunt at Altercon . . . so Julia Ecklar could track down the killer anchovies!” When it was still allowed, she used to bring a ferret to conventions and her little ferret, Gypsy, was the catalyst for a budding romance between two young people who were eventually married!

Ever diverse, Barb’s eclectic pleasures are demonstrated by her taste in music. “I like many different kinds of music ranging from heavy metal to acid rock to techno to alternative to some rap and country,” to her taste in movies, “comedies, science fiction and *good* horror.”

When she does slow down a bit, Barb turns to meditation to help her relax. But usually she will be doing “something!” It could be sewing, crocheting, making jewelry, designing polymer clay figurines, writing ferret songs or researching the uses for instant polymer snow. But, she says, “Playing with the ferrets is the most fun.”

Barb is sure to be remembered in different ways, and she is not too concerned about what people think. “If you want to remember me as that crazy ferret lady with dead ferrets in her freezer, that's fine. If someone wants to remember my music, poetry or writing, that's fine, too.”

And, she does have a goal for her own life. “I want to emulate people who are happy with their lives, who practice what they preach, and who are kind to everyone. I'd mostly like to be remembered as someone who loved animals and that the animals loved her back.”

For more information regarding the June 3 to 5, 2011, IFC Ferret Symposium in Phoenix, visit the IFC website

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