Sunday, July 17, 2005

Nothing to fear but the ferret itself

For the record, I was originally going to the pet store to buy fish. They had these cute green puffer fish that cruised around the tank like fat little swimming Legos. Of course, the puffers were saltwater fish, which means that, had I taken them home, they would have been dead in three minutes. That would have been a double tragedy, because not only would I have killed innocent fish, but I’m also a terrible cook. I have no idea what you’d even put on puffer fish. Saucony peppers? See, that’s not even a real kind of pepper. It’s a running shoe. Good thing I didn’t get the fish.

As I stood at the fish tank in the store, picking out which puffers I’d like to take home with me, my wife Kara wandered over to the “small animal” section of the store, where people pay good money to bring home the kinds of animals that other people pay good money for the Orkin man to remove.

Four hours later, I pushed an overflowing shopping cart out of the store, and Kara had a baby ferret curled up in the pocket of her sweater. We named him Chopper, after the junkyard dog in the best movie ever made, “Stand by Me,” though we have yet to teach him the signature trick of his namesake (if you are unfamiliar with the film, I can only offer my condolences).

Once we got back to our place, I began piecing the wire siding and plastic brackets of the dumpster-sized cage together. I looked down at my new little friend, who looked back up at me, scared and curious. His furry little weasel life was in our hands, and we were all beginning to understand that. I’d never been responsible for the life of another creature before. At that moment, I was honestly moved, and then so were his bowels.

“Hey, he just went on the carpet!” I said.

“Get his cage together! You need him in the cage to start litter training him,” Kara said, fresh from Googling “litter train ferret.”

Chopper wandered around the room, checked out every corner, then looked back at us, and fertilized the carpet again.

“He did it again!” I said. “How is that possible?”

“Hurry! We need the cage!” Kara said.

Half an hour later, as I was squeezing the last little plastic bracket onto the cage, sweat dripping from my nose, we breathed a sigh of relief. The nightmare was over. And as I went to pick up our little varmint to introduce him to his new home, he did his business on the carpet again.

“What have we done? Oh, what have we done?” I said. “Did we keep the receipt?”

That day was almost four years ago, and Chopper hasn’t been out of his cage since. That’s a joke. Occasionally, we let him have conjugal visits with squirrels in the front yard. Actually, he’s earned free run of the house. He spends most of his time with his head in people’s shoes, or rummaging through my backpack looking for granola bars.

He loves the granola bars. Ferrets are apparently carnivores in the wild, but Chopper won’t even look at meat. He wants raisins, peanut butter, and granola bars. His tastes aren’t actually all that discerning, as he also tries to eat soap, paint and feminine hygiene products, but I still respect his decision to be a vegetarian.

We didn’t realize when we bought Chopper that we were getting a hippie ferret. Once, when he got out of the house by ripping a hole in the screen door, we found him three days later in the parking lot outside of an Allman Brothers concert, selling hummus and brownies out of the back of a Volkswagen van. I’m still trying to brush the flowers out of his hair.


  1. Mike forgot one of the most important things - a picture of Chopper. SO take a look here to see Choppie!

  2. When I was growing up, one of my neighbors lost his ferret, so he came around looking for him. This was the guy who had 3 teeth, and my mother warned me to never go to his door selling fund-raising items from school. Anyway, he told me how after a bath his ferret would hang up the wash cloth. What disturbs me the most about this is that I was never sure who's bath he was talking about.

    I just have to say that I enjoy your column tremendously. Your stories embody all of the funniness that I hope to portray (lots of big words here!). Keep up the inspiring work.

  3. Jered Earl -- thanks for getting my back, man. You just reminded me to change my profile pic.

    Master of None -- We don't give the varmint baths anymore, 'cause he loses what control he ever had over his bowels while simultaneously tearing around the house (hence the unbathed smell Jered's talking about). And thanks very much for the encouragement, man. Keeps me going.

  4. Great pic! Having killed several fish recently, I'm now considering something a little less fragile...

  5. I'm s'prised he didn't get arrested for selling those brownies. You know they were special...

    As for his eating habits, I gotta say I sympathize with the lil' sucker. When I was a kid, I apparently ate some inadvisable things. Things like a handful of instant coffee, and a handful of Plaster of Paris. Not at the same time, mind you. They just don't go very well together.

  6. i had an impulse buy once and got two red eared slidder turtles. they have a life expectancy of like 80 years if treated right....they will outlive me and be in my will.......

  7. This story just made me laugh, and then your comments from the readers were just as funny, what a refreshing site this is!

    Fiercely amusing... please let me know when you guys bring home an aligator, if I lived next to you everyday I would be nervous!

  8. This is why we do not take our children to pet stores. Draco, um Chopper, is very cute though.

  9. Shan -- Children are hearty, right?

    Devo -- That why you got all that hair on your chest?

    Randi -- I used to have me some turtles, too. They heard the call of the wild, though. There's just no fencing in a wild turtle, is there?

    xsapph -- You are obviously very cool. Much thanks.

    jenbeauty -- Draco! Ha. He does have some kickin' buckfangs.

  10. I stopped by last night and your post wasn't up yet, very much worth the return trip. Can you imagine a ferret knockin' boots with a squirrel? If it was a real kink-fest you could throw in a prairie-dog, they like to watch - er, I mean they like to be on the lookout. No, wait! They like to BE the lookout. Whew, got through that without ONE gerbil reference.

  11. I had a friend with a couple of ferrets. They liked the same kind of food, but their very favorite was a banana that had been saved until it fermented, and then they'd get tanked. She also had a little leash and harness to take them for walks. They were damn cute, but bitey little critters that made me sneeze. Tons of personality though. Chopper is good pre-child practice. Especially the part about the poop.

  12. What a little cutie pie! Thanks for sharing this with us. Glad to hear you're a vegetarian Chopper Tood ;)

  13. Chopper is darling. I'd love to have a ferret, but our terrier would probably love to have him too.
    BTW, glad to see someone else thinks "Stand By Me" was a great movie! It's one of my all time favorites.

  14. Nice meeting Chopper, and you'll hafta post video footage if you ever teach him the trick his namesake was famous for... LOL