Bolton Ferret Welfare

Diary of a Highland Lady - October/November 2004

Ivy on her tartan - 4Kb View from the ferret pens - 5Kb

The seasons are turning fast up here. The hay has been cut and stacked in the barn and there's a lot of coming and going with the local wildlife as some prepare to leave for the winter and others start to arrive. The first arrivals are the geese - noisy honking things that they are - and then some old friends who return after breeding in the mountains. Ronald Raven has come back with his family and so has Russell Crow. They are OK as neighbours although they don't hesitate to pinch the ferret food given half a chance. Meanwhile, the swallows and house martins who nested in the barn are lining up on the fences ready to fly south - and Dr June is going with them. Not that she's perched twittering on the fences (not often anyway) she's just off to Africa. But I'll explain that later. I bet the local blackbirds wish they were going somewhere too. The Royal Scots Raccoon Guards have devised this awful game of catching them by their tails. We have at least a dozen blackbirds with no tail feathers at all! What's even worse is that some of the younger ferrets have also started blackbird baiting and they're collecting tail feathers too! You can't imagine how silly blackbirds look without tails. Robyn says they look like burnt Christmas puddings. Bet they don't feel burnt though. It's getting chilly up here now. It's a real cold blast up the Parson's Nose type weather. It's time to put an extra blanket on the hammock. Maybe I'd better make it two extra blankets as I have yet MORE companions.

It's hard to believe when I started writing this column I was a single ferret. Then along came my dear friend Robyn and, a little later, the rather mixed pleasures of Morgana the Mad. You'd think that would be enough but blow me if ANOTHER ferret came on the scene or, more precisely, into my hammock. This was Pea-Nutt, a rescue ferret that Dr June and Dr Jeff adopted years ago when NFWS President Dick Nutt died - hence her name (and that of her twin sister Nutt-meg). Anyway, Pea-Nutt has had some illness for years and now, in her later years, needs a quiet refined abode. Of course, we welcomed her in (although I did insist on at least one extra hammock in advance) and she has settled well, just as we were all getting used to one another, along came Wilma, a tiny little wobbly old lady. Well, I told Dr June outright: "If this is what is going to happen, I'm going to open my doors as the Lochside Lodge for Retired Gentlejills (and Morgana) and I'm going to be Matron." So now there are five of us. I quite enjoy it really as, of course, I am in charge. I order the menus (someone has to make sure the venison is sliced correctly and that the Ferretone is shaken and not stirred) supervise sleeping arrangements and keep a check on their medications.

Speaking of medications, we were all in suspense over the last few weeks to see if Dr June had any stange side effects from her vaccinations. She's off to Ethiopia to help set up mobile vet clinics and start education programmes to get sick animals treated in rural Africa. In fact, she's probably there now, as you reading this. Anyway, she had to have LOADS of injections (bet she knows what jill-jabs feel like now!) rabies, yellow fever, typhoid, cholera - all sorts. We couldn't wait to see if she actually turned yellow or ran round biting people. But being the boring sort of person she is, she didn't do anything much except make horrible groaning noises in the bathroom. Still, we might be lucky and she could come back with something really entertaining.

Poor Dr Jeff has to cope on his own with all of us ferrets (45 now), the Royal Scots Raccoon Guards, the dog and all the sheep, and there's been lots of new arrivals too. There's Sherman, the Shetland ram, who is as daft as a brush and spends most of his time asking to be tickled under the chin which makes him go so dreamy and dopey he falls over sideways. However, between you and me, he's not as daft as he seems because he can open gates and undo latches and let himself into the ladies' fields when he thinks that no one is about. I don't know if that means we will be having lambs for Christmas by Robyn says that Dolcie is looking frightfully smug all of a sudden.

Then there's the four new Soay lambs, a sort of small wild sheep. A lot of people keep calling them Soya sheep so they got the nickname of the Beanie Babies. There's Simone (she's a French Bean); Sarah's the fat one (Broad Bean); Sybil's very small (Dwarf Bean) and Sasha is the nervy, flighty one (Runner Bean). The Soay ram coming at the end of the year will be called Sean.

Next came Tennyson the turkey. Not just any turkey and definitely not a mobile Christmas dinner. He's a very rare breed called a Crollweitzer. Mind you, he's such a blooming nuisance I could do with the breed being even rarer! Talk about noise and gobbledegook! Until they can find him some lady friends, Dr June and Dr Jeff have let him have two little hen friends. I guess they intend to keep the 'poet' theme but a slip of the tongue meant they ended up being called Kelley and Sheats. They are so thick they don't seem to mind what they are called - the hens, that is.

I expect it will be a couple more weeks before Dr June is back. I'm trying to help Dr Jeff as much as possible but even I can't control the Royal Scots Raccoon Guards and their latest hobby. Apart from blackbird trapping, they've taken to cookery - of sorts. The latest dish comprised of mud, grass, hay, and Jaffa Cakes, all mixed in their water tray and tastefully decorated with monkey nuts floating on the top.

Well, I did try to warn my people. "Stick to ferrets" I said, but humans never take any advice do they? Are they trainable do you think? Tell you what, if YOU have any ideas on how to train humans, let me know. I'll ask Jenny to publish them!

(From Ferrets First Issue no. 20 October/November 2004)

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