Dec 1989 - Aug 22, 1997
Ben was a silver mitt with a black nose, beautiful intense eyes, and a somewhat serious expression.
Ben and her littermate Jerry were not only our first ferrets, but the first companion animals that we picked out and raised together. Clare first met Ben at a pet store in January, 1990. In this store were booths where customers could interact with the animals. When Clare brought Ben into a booth, Ben decided to tug at the decorations on Clare's shoes. She planted her little white feet on the floor and tugged with all her might. Soon we returned to the store to pick up Ben. We intended to get two ferrets to keep each other company and had already chosen the names Ben and Jerry before meeting these particular ferrets. Bill chose a little sable mitt ferret who was Ben's littermate and had been her cage companion at the store. This ferret became Jerry.
Although we had read Wendy Winsted's book and attended a ferret show before getting Ben and Jerry, we were still rather naive about ferrets. When we took them to the vet for their vaccinations, we outfitted a cat carrier with little cardboard boxes to hold food and litter. On the way, Ben and Jerry overturned the boxes and mixed the litter, food, and water together. Sometimes we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into with these energetic little beings who clearly had minds of their own.
Ben was an especially strong-willed ferret throughout her life. Ben was somewhat larger than Jerry and tended to pick on her. They wrestled constantly, squeaking and occasionally hissing at each other. One time when we thought that Ben was getting too rough with Jerry, we put her in a box for a time-out. We were surprised that Jerry then acted as if she missed Ben. Ben was always the alpha, even as our little pack of ferrets eventually grew to five. People were her subordinates too; she bit anyone who dared to squeak a squeaky toy and hissed at Bill when he tried to prevent her from getting onto his desk.
Ben loved to beg for treats and play with toys for almost all of her nearly 8 years. Ben loved raisins, Ferretone, and Ferretbites. She loved to play with her little stuffed football-shaped toys. She liked the crinkly sound they made when she bit them. She also liked to play with a cat toy -- a little stuffed cow dangling from a fishing pole. One of our favorite pictures of her shows her carrying a tennis ball in her mouth while running up the stairs, at age 7, no less!
Ben and Jerry maintained good health for many years. They both had a vaccine reaction in 1994, requiring a trip to an emergency clinic. When Jerry's health started to decline at age 6 1/2, Ben was still strong and vigorous. We thought Ben would be one of those ferrets who would live to be 9 or 10. Shortly after turning 7, Ben began to lose weight and lose fur on her tail. Her vet felt an irregular mass in her abdomen. We had an ultrasound done, and the diagnosis was a large adrenal tumor. We went ahead with surgery because she seemed to have an excellent chance of benefiting from it. Much to our surprise, the tumor turned out to be attached to her pancreas. It was so large and vascular that Dr. Weiss told us she might not survive the recovery period. We visited her in the little ICU cage, and only a couple of hours after surgery she was walking around! She did have the most difficult post-surgical recovery we've ever seen, though.
When Dr. Weiss called a few days later to say that she had lymphosarcoma, we decided to do everything we could to enable Ben to recover from her ordeal and stay with us as long as possible. We took her to a veterinary oncologist for chemotherapy. Ben did well and had a good remission period. She played and wrestled like a much younger ferret. Unfortunately, the cancer eventually became drug-resistant, and Ben died at the end of August. Developing diabetes at the end actually helped her pass peacefully; she was in a coma for the last 12 hours and stopped breathing while Clare held her on her lap at home. Ben died on August 22, 1997 at age 7 years, 8 months.
Ben and Jerry (who died around the time of Ben's surgery) are buried along the side of our house next to a beautiful crape myrtle bush. A little seedling from the big bush grew right on their grave the next summer and flowered. Space is reserved next to our dog's grave in an animal cemetery; if we leave this house we will have them buried there so we can always visit their final resting place.
A few weeks after Ben's death, Bill found a little pet store ferret who looked a lot like Ben. We got her and her brother, who looks a little like Jerry. We named her Bonnie. Although Bonnie is a unique little individual, she reminds us of Ben because she looked like Ben (although as she got older her nose and coat turned lighter and she less resembled Ben) and because she has taken over ownership of Ben's favorite toys. She also has some of Ben's strong will, although she has a timid streak that Ben never had.
Last modified 29-Nov-2001.