Weekly Walk 41

Three weeks after the summer solstice, we once again walked the trail, this time in a surly mood.

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We whined while getting dressed because we were tired and wanted to stay home and play; we whined while walking because of the bugs and the humidity; and after we agreed to turn back at the meadow instead of continuing to the creek, we whined on the return trip just because we’d grown accustomed to whining.

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We paused in our whining long enough for my daughter to muse aloud about what great pets ferrets make. My daughter has been checking out stacks of animal books from the library every week for years, and for years, she’s seemed to enjoy them primarily as sources of information. Today, however, I sensed a rather strong interest in ferret ownership.

“They’re friendly like dogs and playful like cats,” she said.

I told her about my mom’s friends in Virginia who ran a ferret rescue from their home and the Christmas break in high school during which I cared for their rescued ferrets and pet cats.

“They have a lot of energy,” I said. “You need to play with them every day.”

“They do have a lot of energy!” she said. Her words were similar to mine, but instead of echoing my note of caution, her tone was enthusiastic. “At least once a day you need to let them run in a safe area of the house where they can’t knock anything over. They get into everything! The book says you should get two so they can play with each other. And they can play well with cats and dogs, but sometimes cats can get intimidated by the ferrets’ aggressive playing style.”

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“What sort of cage do they need? Does it need to be fine mesh? Can they escape through small openings like hamsters and mice can?” I asked, trying to turn the conversation to practical considerations.

We discussed the differences between small rodent pets and mustelid pets. “They’re descendants of polecats and related to martens,” she explained, as though this were another selling point of pet ferrets.

“How long do they usually live?” I asked, knowing this would be her father’s biggest question.

“I don’t know, but I’ll check the ferret book when we get home,” she promised. And with that we heard a familiar bark and saw a fuzzy little dog hopping along the trail ahead of our neighbor. I greeted them with relief as our conversation shifted to dogs and hiking.

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It’s been two days, and we still do not have a ferret. Nor do we have two ferrets.

So far, so good.

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Chimaphila maculata (spotted wintergreen)

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