I have had many pets in my life and I have loved all of them. Still, when one goes, it’s hard not to think they were the most special. So is the case with Misty the ferret.
I got Misty when the kids were preschoolers. My (now ex) husband doesn’t like dogs, and we were embroiled in a dogfight (if you will) over whether we’d get them one. In a fit of frustration, I went to a pet rescuer and picked out two beautiful ferrets, Honey and Angel, and brought them home. Their names described their colors, and it felt like they needed a “shadow” to round out their angelic hues. Ferrets do better in groups. A little while after adopting Honey and Angel, I went to the pet store and picked out a small dark brown girl with the classic ferret mask. She was spunky and rarely stopped moving. She had a precious little dark spot on her nose. They all slept curled up in a ball. They were a rainbow of ferret.
Honey and Angel succumbed to natural causes in the short time that ferrets usually do. They each lived about five years, in addition to the couple of years they’d lived before we adopted them. But not Misty. I finally got the dogs (and two cats to round out the zoo) and Misty kept chugging along, beyond the five, seven and then ten year mark, holding her own against dogs and cats alike.
I liked to say that Misty was the mayor of our house. Whenever someone came over, she’d rouse herself from whatever special corner she’d curled up in (she liked my faux fur throws best of all) and come and check out what was going on. Any bag that came in the house was subject to curious Misty inspection and there very rarely escaped a shoe without her tunneling into it to see if it would take her to Narnia. She was litter trained so she had the run of the house. She was the spirit of fun and independence. I loved watching her pop out in front of a new person and see their shocked reaction. She surprised many an appliance repairman in her day.
For about a year, she’s been showing her age. Her haunches got grey. She stopped venturing up to the second floor. Like the senior citizen that she was, she liked to sleep a lot. Still, when she was up, she was her old self, wrestling and doing a little sideways dance. When she turned eleven, I started to prepare myself for the reality that she wouldn’t live long.
For a long time, she kept going. Then, about a week ago, she got lethargic. She got what seemed to be a cold. She looked disoriented. She stood staring off at nothing for long periods of time. I noticed I hadn’t seen her drink water in a while, so I gave her some with a dropper, which she swallowed down greedily. She stopped leaving her bed. After that I began to hand feed her and gave her water by dropper every couple of hours. I was sure she wouldn’t make it past last weekend.
But she did. I held her for long hours, talked to her, told her how great it had been to share a home with her. Watching her deteriorate was particularly painful because I knew I had to go on a business trip on Wednesday which couldn’t be rescheduled. I both prayed for her to make it and for her to pass away before I left. She did neither. The morning of my flight, I snuggled her a long time as I waited for my cab. She breathed in, raspy, and took less water than usual. I cried the whole ride to the airport.
My mom and my kids were scheduled to look in on her every couple of hours. They did, and she made it through all of Wednesday. I’d asked them not to tell me if she died unless I asked (I didn’t want to get a text in the middle of a meeting and have to hold it together) and I checked in with much trepidation that evening. My daughter sent me pictures of the two of them snuggling together. Misty looked good. Maybe she’d hold on until I got back after all.
But Thursday, in between visits from my mom, Misty died in her sleep, in exactly the same position my mom had left her in during her visit at 6:00 a.m. At lunch time, she was gone. She had died alone.
I know it’s silly to be superstitious, but something strange happened after she passed away. Before I left, I found a special spot in a forgotten corner of my garden and I made the hole where she should rest. I didn’t want my mom and kids having to worry about digging a grave. I made it nice and deep, in the shade of a wisteria plant. It seemed like the most peaceful and protected spot.
That wisteria plant has long been a source of consternation to me. It grows verdant and lush, but it refuses to flower. It twines all the way around the back corner of my house, even growing around the metal bars of the back screen door, giving the kitchen a gorgeous green cast in the summer. I’ve read up on it extensively, pruned it, fertilized it, neglected it, chopped back its roots to “shock” it into flowering. It’s been there about ten years, so it’s not too young to flower. Nothing worked. Last weekend, as I made Misty’s final resting spot, I noticed little leaf buds emerging and made a note that it was time to prune it. Then my mom and kids buried her a little after she died, two days before I was scheduled to come back home.
When I first got home, I was tired and too sad to go look at the spot. But, finally, today, I thought it was time to pay my respects. I cut her a daffodil and went to sit by her. I talked to her as I had before I left and told her I hoped she was in a better place.
It was only as I was getting up after a good long cry that I noticed it. The wisteria plant was covered in flower buds. For the first time ever. I know it’s probably a coincidence. I know it seems crazy to think that my departed ferret is a little angel that sends me wisteria flowers. But they seemed like a gift in my sadness.
Please think happy thoughts for my little fur ball who gave my family so many years of happiness. May you rest well, dear friend.