The joke about Joey, of course, was that he was turned up to eleven. He was everything a ferret should be, cranked up to ridiculous levels.
Ferrets like to chase. Joey could run the stairs of our apartment building, up to the third floor and down to the basement, until Mr. A and I were both red-faced and gasping, and then he’d turn around and look at us like, “Is that all you got, punks?”
Ferrets like to hide things. Joey would steal only one of my black ballet slippers, the ones I wear around the house, and stash it someplace different each time. Once I found it behind the refrigerator.
Ferrets like to eat. Joey just about ate us out of house and home when we first brought him back from the shelter. We had to get a second food dish for the cage because he’d elbow Fox and Stripe out of the way and stick his whole head in there, mowing away.
Ferrets are furry. This past winter Joey grew the most beautiful coat I’d ever seen on a ferret, long and sleek and silky-dark like the sable ferret he was.
Yeah. Was. Joey’s vet called us this afternoon. He took a turn for the worse overnight and his ulcer, which we’d hoped would be healing by now, was instead bleeding very badly. Left to his own devices he likely would have bled to death overnight. Given that possibility, the possibility of him dying alone in the vet’s office with neither of us there, Mr. A and I made the very hard choice to put him to sleep.
He was three and a half and we were his third owners. When we met him in the shelter we thought, how on earth could anyone ever give up a pet like this? He was like a fuzzy beach ball, all fur and whiskers and bounce and joy. When we brought him home we discovered why a) he was so damn fat and b) he’d been given up before.
He climbed. EVERYTHING. He used to climb up Mr. A’s pantleg and into his lap while Mr. A was on conference calls, just to be mean. He climbed the cords on the back of Mr. A’s computer and hoisted himself up on the desk, knocking over Diet Coke cans and pushing whole dinner plates (my wedding china, natch) off the surface before we learned to just never put anything up there that we cared about. We’d hear him banging about up there, go in, yell “JOE!” and he’d just look up, the most incredibly pleased expression on his fuzzy little face, like, “Hey, guys! Look what I did!”
He could not find the litter box for love or money. Eventually we had to put newspaper down in all the places he liked to deposit his little presents and change the paper out twice a day. Worse than that, he trained the other ferrets not to find the litter box anymore either. Once they discovered that Joey was allowed to pee merrily all over the floor, they joined in the party.
He was an instigator. Last summer when I took him outside for the first time, the first thing he did was make a lunge for the neighbor’s cat, which had to be three times his size. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to eat it or make friends, but the cat wasn’t sticking around to find out and took off. Joey just looked up at me like, “Pussies, man. What can you do?”
But all those things, which must have seemed like drawbacks to others, just made us laugh. There was literally nothing he did that did not crack us up. We would put him on the couch and he’d dance around so vigorously that he fell right off it. ANYTHING could be a toy: plastic water bottle, my car keys, ping-pong ball, a cardboard box. And his goofiness was only exceeded by his kindness. He cared tremendously for Stripe when Stripe was sick, cuddling and kissing him and nudging him to play. When I got sick shortly after Christmas, al he wanted to was to be around me, lick my hand, and make sure I was okay. He used to ride around in Mr. A’s sweatshirt, a better warmer-upper than a water bottle.
It’s hard to shake the feeling that we should have had more time with him, or that we should have done something, anything, other than what we did, in order to care for him better. Right now I’m wishing like hell that every time he wanted to play I’d indulged him. Right now I’m wishing he was here, sitting on my feet, looking up at me just knowing that if he stares at me long enough, I’ll give in, get him a treat, because I can’t resist and he knows it, the little brat.
He was turned up to 11. His brothers are confused as to why he’s not here. So am I.