Bolton Ferret Welfare

A Holiday Adventure

by Sue Lloyd

Tim was a likeable, 14 year old, lad who loved the outdoor life. His father worked in the banking industry and his mother worked at socialising. Once his school work was done Tim was free to be outside in their large garden where he always found plenty to occupy him.

Tim wanted a job with the water board when he finished school; his parents were hoping he'd change his mind. Tim had been allowed a ferret, a polecat coloured jill with a pink nose he called Nibbles. He worshipped the ground she ran over but sadly Nibbles became ill and had to be put to sleep. Tim buried her in the garden, scene of so many happy memories and pinned to his bedroom wall were the rosettes that Nibbles had won at his local agricultural show in the pet ferret class.

Tom, the local game keeper, offered Tim two spare polecat coloured jills; his parents agreed and so Trixie and Dixie came to live with him. Double the adventures! As neither jill was spayed and Tim borrowed Tom's vasectomised hob, Poacher, the first time they came in season and he took care of them.

Every year Tim entered his ferrets in the local show; they always returned with a rosette from the pet class but never stood a chance in the polecat jill class up against sleek, dark coated beauties that Tim admired along with the judges.

His parents liked to holiday abroad and Tim had to go with them leaving his ferrets in Tom's safe hands. This particular year they decided on an extra break in Scotland, the chosen hotel allowed pets so Tim made Trixie and Dixie a "mobile home" and off to Scotland they went. Just before setting off Tim noticed that Trixie was coming into season again.

"She'll be fine lad," assured Tom, "Poacher will sort her out when you get home."

Tim and his jills loved Scotland, they were out exploring everyday. The forest ran down to some fields full of rabbit warrens but Tim didn't let the jills go down. A footpath led past a farm house and Tim got talking to the farmer who gave him permission to work the jills but Tim declined. Working ferrets under Tom's careful eye was one thing but out in the wilds of Scotland was another. Neil, the farmer, told Tim that he had ferrets but didn't always have the time to go off rabbiting.

A couple of days later Tim wandered along the footpath with Trixie and Dixie on their leads. In a bank were a couple of rabbit holes, removing their leads Tim nervously let the jills enter, no rabbits bolted and ten minutes later Dixie re-appeared, Tim scooped her up. He called Trixie but she didn't appear. He called and called her to no avail. He was due back at the hotel for afternoon tea but how could he leave his beloved pet? "Why, why did I let her go down?" he cried. In despair he ran off to see if Neil could help. Neil looked at the young lad's tear stained face and stopped what he doing and went and got the largest, yellowist albino hob that Tim had ever seen, two red eyes peered at Tim and Dixie.

"Snowy will send her out," commented Neil as he marched up the footpath with Tim in hot pursuit carrying Dixie. Upon reaching the little warren there was no sign of Trixie. Snowy entered the warren however he wasn't gone long, when he came out he sniffed around the side of the bank. Neil hardly dared to look at Tom. "She's not there lad," he said, "you go back to the hotel, your parents will be wondering where you are, I'll look out for her, maybe she'll come to the house."

A very subdued, red-eyed boy sat down to evening meal with his parents that night but he couldn't eat a thing. Next morning Tim made an early start back through the forest to the fields and the little warren, this time he only glanced at a red squirrel as it ran up a tree. Dixie was fed and watered but remained at the hotel. Tim searched and called but no Trixie. He went to see Neil but alas Trixie hadn't turned up at the farmhouse. Neil was saddened to see the lad's distress but there was little else that he could do but look out for her. In actual fact Neil had spent a long time searching for the missing jill but he dared not tell Tim that the she was no where to be found.

It was repeat performance the next day, all to no avail. Time was running out as Tim and his parents were to return home the next day. Neil promised to search for the little ferret and they exchanged phone numbers. As departure day dawned Tim was up very early and with a heavy heart he trudged back to the little warren. Why was I so stupid he thought? There was still no sign of Trixie, he had a thumping headache, he walked down to a little stream and washed his tear stained face in the cold, clear water. A little refreshed he sat on the bank of the stream and closed his eyes, hardly feeling the warmth of the rising sun. Five minutes he thought and then he'd go and say his goodbyes to Neil.

Two black eyes watched him. Then a very tired and hungry owner of the eyes went up to him. Tim, who still had his eyes shut, felt the little creature stretch up against his leg; instinctively he put his hand down and felt the shape of his beloved Trixie. His eyes shot open, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Trixie! He grabbed her and cuddled her saying her name over and over. He sprinted off to tell Neil. In the farmyard it seemed like dream as Neil looked the little jill over and made comment that some food and few days rest see the fairly exhausted jill up and running again. His weather beaten hands gently smoothed over the jill's neck scruff, there were bite marks. Tim shuddered, "has she escaped a fox?" he asked. Neil said nothing and with a knowing eye on the jill's neck handed her back to Tim.

Walking back to the hotel Tim talked constantly to his found ferret telling her how he and Dixie had missed her and how he'd searched for her. His parents were loading the car, even they were relieved to see Trixie back. Tim put her back in with Dixie who chattered and sniffed and bottled bushed her tail. Trixie just fell asleep. After a hearty breakfast the family set off for home. Tim and Trixie fast asleep, Dixie thought that there was a strange smell around her sister.

Some days later Tim went over to see Tom the game keeper. He took Trixie and Dixie with him. Tom listened to the story. Tim showed him Trixie and pointed to the scabs on her neck, "maybe she was attacked by a fox," he suggested. Tom's eyes and fingers scanned the neck, he turned the jill over and commented that she was going out of season.

Five weeks later a sad Tim took his beloved Trixi back to Tom's. Nibbles, Tim's first ferret had presented with a huge tumour in her tummy region, the vet's only option was to put her to sleep and now Trixie had a hugely swollen tummy, Tom laughed, "She's pregnant not ill," he told an amazed Tim. His thoughts on the way home centred on Neil's yellow hob Snowy.

Trixie gave birth to two kits, a hob and a jill. Dixie was a devoted aunt and the kits thrived. Over the weeks they grew large and their coats turned darker and darker. They had dark brown noses and were very lively. Tim still had Neil's phone number so he called him with the news. "Polecat," Neil announced, "she's been caught by a polecat, suspected as much. They'll be a bit sharp."

Tim could hardly wait for the local show to come round! But that's another story!

September 2014

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