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Lisa Oestereich, Speaker At The 2011 International Ferret Congress

A profile of International Ferret Congress 2011 symposium speaker Lisa Oestereich.

By Renee Downs
Posted: June 1, 2011, 7:45 p.m. EDT

“She was a friend to ferrets everywhere. Not necessarily to all people, but certainly all ferrets.” That is how Lisa Oestereich would like to be remembered. And so she is.

For more than 25 years — before the Ferret Mailing List (FML) and before most veterinarians specialized in exotic pets — Lisa has worked by day as a commercial property manager for Lee Development Group in Maryland and by night as a ferret friend.

“In my off time, I help run a small rescue called Washington Metro Ferret Outreach.” She also co-chairs all of the Support Our Shelters (SOS) raffles, serves on the board of the Ferret Emergency Response, Rescue and Evacuation Team (F.E.R.R.E.T.) and sews wonderful bedding in her spare time, maybe while listening to good ol’ classic rock and roll.

Beyond anything that she has done alone, however, what stands out to Lisa is what can happen when people work together. What stands out to her among her years of ferret care is something that affected the entire ferret community.

“Like everyone, I have thousands of humorous ferret experiences, but I think the most memorable [experience] would be the McKay rescue a few years back. A 600-ferret rescue — backyard breeder ferrets to boot — with zero prep time. It boggles the mind. To think that all those kids finally got out of there and had a chance to find homes with people who loved them; to have toys and tubes and comfy bedding and a hug goodnight is about the highest reward there is. The response from everyone across the country was astounding and humbling and it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we can do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G we put our minds to and, when it comes down to business, we’re one, big ferret family.”

And, like a family, we may sometimes disagree and argue, Lisa told me. But, when it counts, we are right there with a hand stretched out to help.

Another family activity she would like to enjoy is spending time with her mother. “In my early 20s she died right in front of me, which really stopped me dead in my tracks for a while. We argued a lot during my teenage years and as we were just starting to become closer, she died. I would have really liked to have known her in my adulthood. I can’t imagine all the wisdom I missed out on because I was too busy rebelling. That was a very difficult lesson learned.”

Born into a military family, Lisa has lived around the world and had many wonderful experiences. When stationed in Germany they traveled quite a bit. “I got to see and do the most amazing things. I’d love to do it all over again, but this time I’d be old enough to drive on the autobahn.” So, just how did all of this lead Lisa to ferrets?
“In 1985 my boyfriend, his little brother and I were at a pet store looking around and I saw my first ferret. It took all of about three seconds for me to fall in love with that little guy. We all thought they were so adorable that we bought a male and named him McGarrett (of the Hawaii 5-0 variety). It took about three days for the other two to lose interest and say they didn’t want him anymore. That’s when he became all mine … and the love affair truly began. Boyfriends have come and gone, but ferrets stay forever …”

Fast forward to the early 1990s. “My 6’7”, live-in boyfriend had left his pants on the floor the night before with his brand new, Pierre Cardin wallet still in the back pocket. [Arriving] home from work, I silently made my way to the bedroom to change my clothes and what do I see when I hit the bedroom door? He’s got all three ferrets lined up on the bed, waving the wallet back and forth in their faces to see who takes a bite at it, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt which ferret had chewed the corner off of it earlier in the day.

“Me: What in the hell are you doing?
“Him: It’s a ferret trial. Someone chewed the corner off my wallet.
“Me: You mean the same wallet you left on the floor last night? How old are you?

“At that point, I didn’t know who had the higher IQ, the boyfriend with his brilliant plan for justice, or the ferrets, with their heads waving to and fro, who had not reached out to grab the wallet. I immediately informed the boyfriend that if he touched one hair on any of them, he would be permanently sleeping in the front yard, starting immediately.”

For fun Lisa does some of the same things that are habits of many of us. “It’s sad, but fun these days mostly consists of ... things like getting your laundry done so you have something to wear. Or going on a sock hunt and finding all the mates for the single socks in the drawer. Or now that spring is here, mowing the grass before it rains again.”

While we are in Phoenix, the 22nd anniversary of the rebellious act of one of Lisa’s heroes will occur. Who is that hero? “No one is certain of his name, but he’s been called Tank Man. He is the man who stood up to Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He single-handedly stopped a convoy of tanks in front of the Beijing Hotel. One man standing up to the People’s Republic of China, willing to sacrifice it all to protect others. Wow, that’s something.”

Stop by and meet Lisa at the Symposium. She will be presenting the Emergency Preparedness workshop on Friday night. Do you have an emergency plan?

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

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