A ferret is not for everybody.

Take our late, much-missed Little Joe. Little Joe’s name was ironic. He was the size of a furry beach ball. When we got him from the shelter, we became his third owners. We couldn’t believe anyone had given up this energetic, lovey, kissy little pet who just wanted to play with us all day long, who sat on my feet and snuggled up in Mr. A’s sweatshirt and fell asleep like a living stuffed animal. Then we brought him home. And discovered why he was so fat and why he’d proven impossible to live with.

Joey climbed. EVERYTHING. Bookshelves, the computer cords on the back of the machine, our pant legs, the kitchen cabinets if he could get a little foothold, everything. He learned his name solely from me yelling it at him when I caught him, out of the corner of my eye, up on the windowsill preparing to upend a potted plant or stack of papers.

He couldn’t find the litter box for love or money. Ferrets can, in most cases, be litter trained and we had two perfectly behaved ferrets when we brought Joey home. Not only did he refuse to use any of the seventeen litter boxes we tried, he taught the other ferrets they didn’t have to use the litter box either.

He was, and I say this with all love, as dumb as a box of rocks. He’d run into walls because he’d get a good head of steam going on the hardwood floors and miscalculate a turn down the hallway, skidding like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon. He liked to launch himself off the couch at top speed, with absolutely no idea of where he intended to land.

It’s his dear, dear stupidity that proves the idiocy of what the Cali Fish and Game fellow up there is talking about in the AP vid. Release Joey into the wild and he would have died within days, unable to find food and most likely becoming a tasty snack for a coyote or an owl or a stray dog. He, like all other ferrets sold in pet stores and most from private breeders, was neutered and so couldn’t breed and create a feral colony. He was a house pet, pampered and petted and adored but utterly unable to fend for himself in any way.

What do you have as pets? What animals/birds/fish own you?


Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.