Posted: June 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
© Courtesy Renee Downs
Isadora the ferret loves to explore and pops up in the strangest places.
As the days warm up and spring fever demands to be satisfied, more of us turn to the Great Outdoors. Already the ferrets are standing at the screen door with that mournful look on their little faces, demanding to know when it is their turn to get out and see about all those smells!
It’s easy to lose a ferret. It can happen to the most responsible owner. Given a chance, a ferret will take any opportunity to look out of its safe spot and to explore what’s out there. And, having once tasted freedom, some ferrets stop at nothing until they can do it again!
Ferret Escape Artists
In my ferret life, I have had several escape artists. Sammie, my first ferret (who survived by the grace of God!) found ways to escape that I never imagined. At least four times he was found outside when I thought he was safely in the house. Li’l Girl spent an entire 14 hours wandering under an apartment complex and the adjacent parked cars before she was sighted. Another time I found her in the central air unit! Shadow snuck out when nobody was looking to amble around my yard and the neighbor’s, sniffing the grass and the flowers and the doorsteps he found.
Maggie Mae came to me with Buddy, Swee' Pea and Rosie, all that remained of a business of 10. One day I came home to find Maggie Mae had somehow escaped the closed cage and wandered downstairs. The handymen who were there in the afternoon swore to me they had not seen her and, no, she had not gone outside through the open doors. What a relief to finally find her trapped in the house.
Odie came to me as a rescue from New York and escaped his previous owners the night before he was to be delivered, only to be found under a car in the parking lot. Anyone who has seen him will tell you that the boy senses an escape route and never visibly acknowledges it, but instead scopes it out without hesitation; when you blink, he is gone in a flash! But Odie doesn't just escape. He hides so you won't know where he went! He flies and he climbs and he jumps like an Olympic athlete! And at 8 years old he has not slowed down one bit.
And, then there is Isadora. Sweet, shy Issy — always protective of her cagemate Duncan and always curious. When visiting my mother in Louisiana, the back yard is closed off to create a large play area with dirt, grass, shrubs, a swimming pool and toys, so the ferrets can play outside. They are always supervised and the perimeter is constantly inspected to make sure there is no opening.
Early one morning, I set up the yard and grabbed my coffee and computer to catch up on some work as Issy and Duncan played. I watched them bouncing around, going in and out of the flowerbeds, digging in the dirt and cooling off in the swimming pool. As always, after about an hour they attempted to climb into the garage, but it was so nice outside I told them to play a little longer. Then Duncan started pawing and biting the pen so I would let him in. I finished typing the last sentence on my e-mail and sent it. Bending down I picked up Duncan, and reached for Issy, thinking she was right behind him. She wasn’t. Carrying Duncan, I walked through the yard looking for her. I didn't see her, but I wasn’t worried as there are places she can hide.
Since Issy heads for the house when given the chance, I assumed she had somehow managed to get into the garage and hidden, or ducked through the cat door into the air-conditioned den. I closed the garage door to keep her from escaping that if she was in there. Because she poofs whenever my ferret Skitch gets near her, I grabbed him to flush Issy from her hiding place. Skitch looked around, but no Issy. It had now been about 5 or 10 minutes since I had last seen Issy.
© Courtesy Renee Downs
Putting up posters is one way to let the local community know that your ferret is lost.
The Search For Issy The Ferret
For the next 12 hours I searched through the entire neighborhood. I was in people's yards, in their shrubs and in their carports. I knocked on doors and stopped cars. I told everyone I met about ferrets and her personality. I told them how to trap her and how she could escape if they took their eyes off her. I walked in the middle of the road to make drivers slow down. I looked under houses and into holes. I reached into dark places, followed the sounds of barking dogs, checked the bayou and talked to more people. Experience told me that escaped ferrets usually stay close to home.
My first move was to call a friend to help. Luckily she was also the weekend cover for the animal rescue organizations in town, which meant I only needed to make one call; unfortunately, that also meant there was nobody else to call.
I knew I needed a live trap, but I couldn't find one. Putting out a cage with food, water and bedding, I made posters with a picture of Isadora and her name on it, including as little info as possible: Reward! Missing Ferret! Missing from . . . Missing since . . . Phone number. I made it personal: "I am a tiny, scared little girl. Please help me get home." Overnight I went through the neighborhood putting the posters on lampposts and telephone poles. I made handouts with the same info.
By daylight I was up and headed out again. I handed fliers to joggers and put them in newspapers not yet picked up and in mail slots on doors. (It is illegal to use a mailbox for anything other than its intended purpose, so I did not place them in those.) I put them on car windshields. I called her name. I squeaked a toy. I stopped people walking into businesses and put up posters in the parking lots. I learned about the online local Lost Pets Network and went home and posted there.
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