We have two ferrets. Just saying/writing this feels bizarre to me, after having four - six for so long. But one of the sad realities of taking in a large number of critters (with a relatively short lifespan) in a small timeframe is that you will most likely lose most or all of them in a similar window.
Knowing this, intellectually, and living through it are two very painfully different things. And the reality is that Podo is, at the most optimistic estimate, 4 years old; and Harriet is 5 - 6. They are frisky and perky, and in as good health as can be guaranteed by current veterinary medicine. But the fact remains that they are entering the ages in which we could lose them at any time.
Chris and I decided a while back that after this bunch, we are going to take a break from ferrets for a while. The fact is that giving them the best care (in good conscience, I could never do otherwise) means spending an arm and a leg at the drop of a hat. And while we *can* do that, we also have a responsibility to the other animals in our care, as well as a fierce desire to get out of this house sometime in the next 5 - 10 years. Our furbabies are worth the thousands we spend on them, but we would like to be in a better position sometime soon to change our lives and possibly do better by our current bunch as well as a potential theoretical new bunch. And that means limiting our spending so we can pay off what we owe on the house etc. while maintaining some stability in this crazy economy.
After we lost Kaneda, I realized how precious the time left with the girls is. I was also worried about what would happen if/when we lose one, as ferrets are prone to mourning those they are bonded with and basically refusing to live without them. I looked around online and found no message boards that I liked, so I started looking at groups. I'm a yahoo group addict, and tend to join, lurk, and leave them without getting too attached or involved. But instead I found a group that captured my heart. Sure, not everyone is informed (we all gotta learn!) or as willing/able to spend like I am on critters. But the heart of this group is so strong and true and sincere. I actually volunteered to help moderate, and as a result have been having fun learning basic html and indulging my penchant for heavy editing.
Recently, the members of the group have suffered a staggering number of losses. In a heavily populated group of serious ferret lovers, it isn't unexpected - combine people who love the critters with the addictive quality of said critters (Chris and I are rank amateurs compared to these folks - a number of them have well over 20 fuzzies!) and the short lifespan of the species, and you are bound to encounter frequent heartbreak. But this past spring has seemed to everyone to be especially difficult.
The result for me is a profound gratitude for the time I have left with the ferrets we have left. This is not to minimize the time passed with the ferrets who went before. For people who don't truly know and understand ferrets, there is no explaining. For my life up to 1999 I was a hardcore cat person. And I will remain so until the day I die. But it's like every ferret life is doubly concentrated because of how short it is. They have as much soul and personality as - if not more than - any cat or dog, but it's confined to a life that is half as long. And of course, vastly different. I have known many animals in my life, but nothing approaches the spirit of a ferret. I'm not saying they are better than other animals (though I'm sure many feel that they are), just that they are unique.
I digress. There is no way to adequately express what each ferret soul has meant to me. But now that I am in a place of not taking in any more fuzzies, I think I am more able to truly cherish the experiences I have left right now. Because I know that for the next few years or so, they are all I will have. I still don't know how we are going to deal with the potential mourning issue. But I know that I will squeeze every precious drop of joy and happiness from the time I have left with my girls.
If you have a furry/feathery/scaly baby in your life who allows kisses and/or hugs, go do it now. We never know how many of them we have left.