Posted: May 20, 2011, 7:30 p.m. EDT
In recent years the ferret community has come to know a young couple who were introduced to each other through ferrets. Joel Vanderbush, a presenter at the 2007 International Ferret Congress Portland Symposium, was also a source of great inspiration and entertainment at the dinner and auction. In 2008, he emceed the Pittsburgh Symposium and his wife, Ailigh, presented information on ferret socialization. Together they operate Animalia in Indianapolis, where their mission is “to engage and educate the public to further the appreciation, conservation and responsible care for all animals, exotic and domestic.”
Originally a reptile owner, Ailigh was drawn to the furry little critters. “I had always thought about ferrets since the movie Beastmaster and when the opportunity came to add a ferret to my life, I took it. I already had an iguana, so something furry seemed like a good idea. From that point, I was hooked.”
Ailigh’s first ferret came from the RSPCA in England. “I brought him home, Cat was his name, and he was a feisty biter so I decided to get him a playmate, Mouse. Then, “ferret math took over,” with the inevitable results!
Ailigh is a certified animal behavior trainer and is currently completing her master's in companion animal behavior. You may have read her posts in Ferrets magazine, where she serves as the behavioral consultant and answers questions about ferrets. Joel has a master's degree in education and a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology with a concentration in animal behavior. He has worked as a zookeeper, educator, programs manager, and consultant. Joel is also a wildlife artist.
Ailigh and Joel met during a zoo visit on Groundhog Day (February 2, 2001) and, as Joel remembers it, it was love at first whiff. “I had worked with ferrets in zoo education programs for 10 years. One day at the Indianapolis Zoo, a woman entered my office and she smelled like ferrets. Like the sweet smell of ambrosia, I was hooked. About a year later, I married that ferret smelling woman.”
Ailigh also counts this meeting as one of her most memorable experiences. “He tells me I smell like ferrets — match made in heaven,” she said.
Although they share a love for animals, the couple is different in other ways. Both Ailigh and Joel love the movie Beastmaster, but their taste in music is a bit diverse. Ailigh prefers Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Ramones, Runrig, and musicals, while Joel likes to listen to Big Band and Swing. Given 24 hours with anyone, Ailigh would choose science fiction author Robert Heinlein while Joel’s choice would be Jane Goodall.
Ailigh will be discussing Ferret Behavioral Problems at the 2011 Tempe Symposium. And Joel will return as moderator. Take the time to visit with them and learn about some of the memorable moments the two share.
For more information regarding the June 3 to 5, 2011, IFC Ferret Symposium in Phoenix, visit the IFC website.
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