Thursday, August 24, 2006


I've avoided my blog for almost 2 months now, not wanting to post but knowing I had to. On the 1st of July, we had to have Harley and Muzzy put to sleep, and I'm still torn up. I feel like pieces of myself have been torn out. The holes are starting to heal, but they're still somewhat raw and tender, and I feel them every day.

I've lost other pets before (cats, and another ferret a few years ago) and I can attest to the fact that it hurts the same, if not worse. Ferrets have as much personality and spirit as any cat or dog, but we don't get to have them in our lives as long. It's a cruel thing, really, and we had already decided when we lost Tetsuo (their brother) that we wouldn't get any more because it hurts so much to lose them, but remembering that pain hasn't helped with this. I don't think it ever does.

Harley was our first "official" pet as a couple, and he was one of the coolest animals I've ever known. We called him The Anti-Ferret because he was very calm and cuddly, which most fuzzies are not. He was the Alpha male, and made sure the rest of them knew it, even in his last months with us. He liked to just hang out, and loved to have a beer with his people pals. And if you've never seen a tipsy ferret, you don't know what you're missing!

Muzzy was our little princess – we didn't mean or intend to ever get any female ferrets, but I fell in love with her and had to have her. I didn't check her sex when I got her, and we actually didn't notice for a few weeks that she wasn't a boy! We were both smitten, and it didn't occur to us to look. She was feisty from the start (hence her name – I named her after a monster in a Spanish language video I saw in high school), but so small and pretty.

Harley hadn't been well for months. We knew that it was time to let him go, but we were putting it off. Hoping he would have some more good days and at least be ok till Chris isn't traveling so much. But he'd been steadily declining, and hadn't had a good day in longer than we could remember. Or maybe we were hoping deep down he would decide on his own that it was time to leave. Stupid, if that was the case – although he was sweet and cuddly in ways most ferrets are not, his tenacity was classic ferret. He always was a fighter, and lived (in good health) more than a year longer than the vet predicted several years before, when he had several tumors and an adrenal gland removed. Muzzy had been having problems with her hind legs that we attributed to arthritis, though in hindsight I can see that it may well have been the beginnings of insulinoma, but she seemed to be in good spirits and not experiencing anything too serious.

When we went to let them out that afternoon, Muzzy was having violent prolonged seizures that wouldn't stop. We knew from dealing with Harley that it was insulinoma, so we got sugar-water and food into her, but it didn't do any good. Harley was in bad shape too – he had made even more of a mess in his cage than usual, and he was covered in poop and could barely move. So we took them to the vet.

Muzzy did have insulinoma and her blood sugar was 30, which is very bad (ferrets should have levels like people: <100, but not by that much). They couldn't get her seizures to stop either, even with more oral sugar (and we had given her a LOT) and rectal valium. They said they could try keeping her overnight on IV dextrose, but with her blood sugar being so low and having been seizing for so long, I knew there was no way she hadn't suffered brain damage, and (of course) they couldn't guarantee that doing that would do any good.

Chris and I already had an idea what we would have to do, from Muzzy's lack of response to what we did for her at home. And we already knew it wasn't fair or right for us to keep Harley with us like we were. So we decided to send them over the rainbow bridge together, and we sat with them while the vet did it. It was the worst, hardest decision we've ever had to make. Obviously, I don't know exactly how a parent feels, but it felt like we were losing our children. Harley was our first baby, and Muzzy was our first little girl. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

I've never had to put one of my pets to sleep before, and it's just awful. Everyone always says it's the best and kindest thing to do, and I know in my head that it is, but I always assumed that it would feel like the right thing to do, too. And it doesn't. Especially not in the moment, and for the first few weeks afterwards. I felt like I had killed my babies, that there must have been some other option I just didn't see or consider. The whole time we were in the vet's office, I just wanted to snatch them up and run back out to the car with them and drive away, and even now a small part of me wishes I had. But I know that doing so wouldn't have helped them, they still would have been sick and suffering. I know it's all my own selfishness, wanting them back, but I felt like I had done something terrible (and a small part of me still does), and I wasn't prepared for that.

I don't know if I'm overly sensitive, or if people just don't talk about these things even in this day and age, when most of us recognize the importance of our non-human companions in our lives, but this hit me hard. I'm still somewhat in withdrawal mode, saving most of my emotional energy for my family. And I have to say that my family has really been helpful with this. Having my niece and nephew local, in particular, has been a blessing. I can't not be happy around those two! But every time I let the ferrets out, I feel that loss. The other ferrets did too, at first. Maybe they still do. It makes me sad to see Kaneda moving into the Alpha position, acting like he's in charge, though I'm happy he's in such good health and spirits.

Ok, I don't really know how to end this. I wish I had some nice summary or something, but I don't. I just needed to share this, share them, so I could stop beating myself up for putting them off. Thanks for reading.