Posted: April 30, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
From this point on, the details of how to keep the journal are mostly up to you. Information that I might include might not be interesting to others, but to me they are important. I would expect the same would be true for others. Nonetheless, I suggest the following entries:
While ferrets act pretty much the same, they are still individuals with unique personalities. One way to gauge mental and physical wellness is by behavior. I note levels of playfulness, fearfulness, aggression, exploration, willingness to interact with people, and any other behavior, especially sudden or profound changes. I update behaviors about once a month.
Breeding and Litters:
I don’t breed, but I would record typical breeder information, and update as necessary.
Coat and Color:
Using American Ferret Association standards, I record the coat and color for every ferret. I update coat and color twice a year after seasonal coat changes. Yes, they can change.
Date and Time:
Mark each entry with time and date. You will be glad you did.
Part of my final farewell is to report my ferret’s terminal days and to record as many stories as I can recall. I also note cause and time of death. It sometimes takes me a while to close the book on a ferret, but I have found it helps in accepting my loss.
I record the dental status of the ferret, noting missing teeth, tartar, gingivitis, tooth wear, broken teeth and dental treatments. I update dental twice a year.
Family and Friends:
I note when a family member or friend visits the ferret, describing their interactions. I usually only update this category when I snap a picture of my ferret with someone.
I note all medical issues for each ferret, including sexual status. For example, I record medical problems, vet visits, diagnoses, treatments and outcomes. I also report non-vet medical issues, such as ticks, cuts, falls, etc.; my treatments; and other medical observations. All medical information is updated as generated.
I photograph everything, not just ferrets at play. Kahlúa’s chordoma, Mazy’s adrenal fur-loss and post-surgical scar, and Sampson’s swollen eye were all fair game. I also take a few shots during outings, enrichments, during play — in short for just about every event. Photos are precious reminders of your ferrets’ lives; don’t short-change your memories. Use your camera and update frequently!
This is reserved for events “larger” than typical field trips, such as costume competitions, ferret weddings and other such events. Update after each special event.
Special training, diets and care should be documented and updated as necessary.
Pet store visits, park outings, ferret club events, playing with shelter friends; basically any ferret outing. I update after each field trip.
With each new ferret, I record weight and a number of body measurements most people would ignore, such as body length, width of nose, and girth at iliac crests. I estimate birth date, and, when known, the number of ferrets in the litter, parents, and the breeder and location. If given a pedigree, I tape it to the inside of the back cover. When possible, I take a photo of the ferret with the breeder or shelter operator. I update transitory vital statistics (weight and body measurements) once a day for kits, once a week for juveniles, and monthly for adults.
There’s no requirement to use any of these categories; you may simply wish to keep a “daily diary” style of journal. The style is not important, but the journal will have important meaning for you later. Periodically, I wax nostalgic and thumb through my older journals of ferrets past and, I have to say, I might feel a bit of sadness for the loss, but I also feel gladness for the joyful memories.
<<Back to Page 1
To see all of Bob Church's columns, click here>>
Bob Church is a former photojournalist and current zooarcheologist with degrees in biology (zoology) and anthropology (archaeology). He resides in Missouri with 19 ferrets that keep his chicken blender overheated and his heart overfull.