The Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter, Inc. in the News
• Ferret Magazine - Life at the Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter, Inc.
Life At The Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter
Going strong for more than 10 years, the Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue Shelter is Brenda Johnson’s passion.
Posted: August 29, 2008, 6 p.m. EDT
By Troy Lynn Eckart, founder of Ferret Family Services, a domestic ferret information, education and welfare public service organization in Kansas.
In September 1995, Brenda Johnson got a phone call from a veterinary clinic that asked her to call a woman about a biting ferret. That fateful day, Buddy the ferret came home with Johnson, and the Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue Shelter began. Buddy's arrival started Johnson's sheltering life, her love and her passion for saving ferrets. Biting ferrets are her favorites to work with, because she loves the challenge of it and seeing the transformation in them. It took Johnson more than a year to get Buddy to trust humans, but now it usually takes less than three weeks to get biters to trust humans and stop biting.
Since first opening, 371 ferrets have passed through Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue Shelter. Usually about 40 ferrets live at the shelter, depending on cage availability, and the shelter has had as many as 60 ferrets at one time. Johnson does her best to keep numbers low so that managing the ferrets isn't overwhelming. She believes that being overwhelmed and overloaded puts the ferrets in no better than some of the conditions they came from, and she has turned away ferrets if the shelter is full.
On The Radar
The Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue shelter has a website and is known by word of mouth — that is how most people find them. Animal control officers in many of the outlying towns know how to reach Johnson, the humane organizations have her listed as a contact, the Ontario County sheriff's office has her listed for times when an owner has been arrested and they have a ferret or two that needs a place to go. Veterinary clinics refer her shelter to people looking to adopt or in need of ferret assistance, and she's a member of many ferret boards and on several ferret committees.
The Lakeroad Ferret Farm play yard is infamous. "People come from all over the United States to bring their ferrets to play in a yard they do not need to be tethered in," Johnson said. "It is so much fun to have shelter friends come from all over to meet us, so they can play in the play yard. We are blessed."
Cases Of Success And Sadness
Johnson's greatest success story is Crumb Bum, a ferret that came in as a biter. Crumb Bum bit Johnson and severely damaged the nerve between her thumb and wrist area. It took about two weeks to discover that Crumb Bum was blind, which contributed to her biting. Once Johnson discovered Crumb Bum was blind, she let her know she was there before picking her up. She did this by putting her hand in front of Crumb Bum's face so she could smell Johnson. Johnson worked with Crumb Bum the same way she does all biters, and Crumb soon trusted her enough to realize she wasn't going to be hurt.
Johnson's saddest ferret case was a little ferret girl that was found running around Clifton Springs, New York. "I got the call that they could not find her home, would I come get her," Johnson said. "She just did not understand that she was now safe and going to be loved here. I fought to keep her alive, with medical intervention and undivided attention, but she died anyway from stress-related shelter shock. It breaks my heart when fur kids are tossed out to fend for themselves, and when I get them they do not want me they want the human that tossed them out and gave up on them."
Keeping the utilities paid to keep the electricity and air conditioning going for the ferrets when it is hot and the furnace fuel tanks full to keep the ferrets warm when it is cold is a very costly.
"Last winter we went without heat for a bit because we ran out of fuel and the company would not deliver unless I ordered a minimum of 200 gallons at one time," Johnson said. "That was $928 I did not have."
Fortunately, Johnson doesn't face all shelter challenges alone. She has many wonderful shelter friends in her life — people who do everything from landscaping the property to transporting ferrets, to giving medications when Johnson is away. The list of tasks and volunteers is extensive. Even people out of state help by sponsoring ferrets at the shelter, doing illustrations for the shelter, running the raffle website and more.
"There are many more shelter friends that have touched our lives, the list is too long for this article," Johnson said. "I could not do what I do without each and every one of the people that touch my life, near and far."
For Johnson, it's all worth it. "Our ferrets talk to us if we pay attention. They are a living being with feelings of fear, loss and love," Johnson said. "If you listen to them you can know what they need and fill that need for them. They deserve our attention."
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A Schedule Ruled By Ferrets
Follow the usual daily schedule of Brenda Johnson, founder of the Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue Shelter.
Posted: August 29, 2008, 6 p.m. EDT
By Troy Lynn Eckart, founder of Ferret Family Services, a domestic ferret information, education and welfare public service organization in Kansas.
A day in the life of Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter usually begins at 3:30 a.m. with the night crew of ferrets being put in their cages so the early morning group can come out to play. "So begins the same routine I follow seven days a week, 365 days a year," Johnson said.
The shelter, a large house with many different rooms, is divided into play areas by 29 inch high barriers. Each play area is filled with a different enrichment theme to keep the ferrets from becoming bored. The ferrets housed in the playroom get up first, filling four of the eight separate play areas.
"I move another four cage groups from the ferret room to the remaining play areas," Johnson said. "A total of eight cage groups are up at one time to spend their first hour in the play area I put them in."
Cages are cleaned when the ferrets get up for the day, and Johnson rotates the ferret groups between play areas every hour when she's home. By 6 a.m., Johnson dishes out Duck Soup and administers medications to ferrets needing it. But her day isn't completely focused on ferret-related duties.
"At any time there are phone calls to field, e-mails to answer, customers to check out, web orders to fill, adoption requests and possible surrender requests to address, as well as thank you notes to write," Johnson said. She writes most thank you notes while waiting for children to board the school bus she drives.
Yes, in addition to running the shelter, Johnson also holds a job, and its start time is 6:30 a.m. She completes her morning bus run by 8 a.m. and then picks up an elderly lady she cares for by 8:15 a.m. "Kay is 91 years old, does not drive and has no family in the area, so I am her lifeline, the person she depends on for things she cannot do for herself."
After dropping Kay off to have morning coffee, Johnson returns home by 8:30 a.m. to move the ferrets between play areas. If the ferrets didn't mess up an area, Johnson then has time to eat breakfast, but at 9:15 a.m. she heads out to pick up Kay and transport her around town on errands. Johnson cares for Kay seven days a week.
"By 10 a.m., I am usually back at my real job, the shelter," Johnson said. From 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on usual days, Johnson does ferret laundry, picks up the kitchen, moves the ferrets again, rotates the early morning group into their cages so the next group can have play time, opens her store for a bit, takes a break for her main meal, checks e-mail, cleans cages, and cleans any areas that the ferrets might have "trashed" during play.
At 1:30, it's back to the bus until 5 p.m.
After work, Johnson opens her store and finishes up shelter duties. "That may mean hanging the last of the day's laundry out on the line, setting the washing machine timer to start a new load of laundry at 4 a.m. the next day, getting afternoon soup and medications done, putting the mid-afternoon ferrets away and getting the night crew out and into the play areas where they will spend the night," Johnson said. "Once the fur kids are out, I will clean their cages so they are ready for the next morning." The day winds down at 7 p.m.
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Ferret Giving Tree Gives Many Gifts
Hundreds of ferrets at ferret shelters enjoy happy holidays thanks to the Ferret Giving Tree, but it has other benefits too.
Posted: November 19, 2012, 6 p.m. EST
By Marylou Zarbock
As much as some people eagerly await the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, some people in the ferret community await the opening of the Ferret Giving Tree. The Ferret Giving Tree is an Internet phenomenon that began in 1998. It's a way for people to be a Santa for a ferret in a ferret shelter so that the ferret gets a gift for the holidays. People browse the website to see ferrets that need Santas and choose whichever they want. Literally thousands of ferrets have benefitted from the Ferret Giving Tree since it first began, and the numbers keep growing.
"Over the past three years, we have at least tripled the number of ferrets," said Melanee Ellis, a Ferret Giving Tree administrator and its only full-time volunteer. The tree had been managed mostly manually until 2009; that year Lynn, another volunteer, wrote code that automated many of the tree’s functions.
Last year, the Ferret Giving Tree listed 952 ferrets. As of November 19, 2012, fifty ferret shelters are registered and 278 ferrets are waiting for Santas (282 have already been claimed by a Santa).
"Our shelter has been blessed year after year from folks all over the world sending Christmas gifts to the furkids that sometimes will spend the remainder of their lives with us," said Brenda Johnson of the Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter in New York. She first posted ferrets from her shelter on the Ferret Giving Tree in 2008.
"It has opened relationships with folks that have kept in touch and made sure the ferret they chose off the tree had special things for other special holidays," Johnson said. "It is an amazing place to find amazing folks doing amazing things for the ferrets and their shelter families. Kudos to the folks that put the Giving Tree together and maintain it so the ferrets at shelters get a special Christmas."
Shopping for or making gifts and shipping them takes time, and the administrators of the Ferret Giving Tree allow for this. Ferret shelters have approximately 45 days to register and submit ferrets for the tree, beginning in early October and ending on November 30. Ferrets are posted to the tree between October 15 and December 15. Starting on November 1, people can choose ferrets for which they wish to be Santa.
The reasons people choose a ferret vary. It might be because of a ferret's name, its story, how it looks, the ferret shelter it's at — whatever.
Donna Spirito of the Educated Ferret Association in Massachusetts fondly recalls a special ferret at her shelter that got a gift from his Giving Tree Santa. The ferret, Spot, arrived at her shelter as a senior with a medical concern. He recovered and was so sweet, Spirito made him a mascot.
"On his first Christmas with us as our mascot, he received a wonderful box from the Giving Tree," Spirito said. "Oh how he loved his new hammie and especially his ferret chew stick."
Ferret shelters provide a photo of each ferret and its name and profile that not only tells a little about the ferret, but it usually includes suggested gifts and contact information for the ferret shelter’s veterinarian if people wish to help pay part of the shelter’s veterinary bill.
And no gift is too small. As stated on the Ferret Giving Tree website, "Even the smallest of gifts can mean the world to these special little ones."
"We list what the kids wish for," Johnson said. "Mostly treats, FerreTone, blankies and novelty bedding because they are the things that are considered a luxury in a shelter environment."
And Johnson has found that Santas are generous not only to the ferrets the shelter has listed on the tree, but to other ferrets in the shelter, too, as not all ferrets in a shelter typically get posted. "It has been our experience that the Santas send the kids everything on their list, and sometimes even double and triple it for the furkids that did not make it on the Giving Tree that year."
The Ferret Giving Tree does more than just make ferrets happy, as pointed out by Chris Mathis of the Oregon Ferret Shelter in Oregon City. "If people only realized how wonderful the shelter owner feels to think for just once a year someone else takes time to share with our little charges." Mathis said. "We know not everyone can own another ferret, but there are a lot of people who can share in the life of a ferret in permanent care or waiting for a home."
Mathis' fondest memory of the Ferret Giving Tree involves a ferret named Grampy that was 7 years old, had adrenal gland disease and had difficulty moving. "The volunteers all loved that old fellow," she said. "That Christmas we put him up on the Giving Tree. Some wonderful lady made him his very own hammock and sleep sack out of flannel and fleece. He loved to cuddle in it. He one day went to sleep to cross over the bridge in the sleep sack. Today when I run across the hammock or sleep sack, I fondly think of the lady who took her time to make a special set of bedding just for Grampy."
At the Greater Chicago Ferret Association in Illinois, Tracy Tye Stephens said the arrival of Ferret Giving Tree packages is exciting for volunteers, too. "Moira and I took some video of ferrets 'opening' wrapped gifts." To see the video on the GCFA Facebook page, click here. To see other videos and photos of ferrets with gifts, click the Next button in the top right.
In addition to the Santa gifts and inspiration for shelter operators, the Ferret Giving Tree has another bonus. "I do often get emails from people who want to adopt the ferrets they see on the Tree," Ellis said. "I just tell them to contact the shelter the ferret is listed with to see about adopting."
More ferrets are likely to be posted on the Ferret Giving Tree between now and December 15 and although 282 already have Santas, hundreds more are waiting.
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Ferrets In the Family
Ferret likes and dislikes help determine how ferrets might blend with your family.
Posted: February 27, 2013, 1:15 p.m. EST
By Marylou Zarbock
What you like and dislike reveals a lot about you, and the same goes for ferrets. Will a ferret fit into your household if you prefer everything neat, tidy and in its place? What about a household that’s charmingly cluttered? Every ferret is an individual with unique likes and dislikes, but ferret owners and ferret shelter operators reveal a few common ferret characteristics — some expected and some unexpected.
Smart In Many Ways
Ferrets are intelligent. In fact, a 2012 Plos One article by Anna Hernadi, Anna Kis, Borbala Turcsan and Jozsef Topal titled Man's Underground Best Friend: Domestic Ferrets, Unlike The Wild Forms, Show Evidence Of Dog-Like Social-Cognitive Skills, suggests that ferrets share some social-behavioral characteristics with dogs and rely on cues from people for information. Their intelligence makes them both a joy and a challenge.
Sukie Crandall has owned ferrets for more than 30 years and said that ferrets are people-pleasers. "Some will alter their behaviors to manage that, so reinforcing the desired behaviors seems to work best, but others will do the undesired things if people are not watching."
But ferret smarts don’t seem to end with just taking cues from people. Brenda Johnson of the Lakeroad Ferret Farm Rescue/Shelter in upstate New York said ferrets have a sense of adventure and are like a perpetual 2-year-old child who never grows up, but they are also problem-solvers. “[Ferrets] can look at a challenge and work out how they are going to overcome that challenge,” she said. This includes tasks like how to get over a barrier, get to the top of the table, get a Velcro zip-tie undone and removed from a gate and more. Johnson has owned ferrets since 1992 and opened her ferret shelter in 1995.
Crandall said her ferret Hilbert was good at escaping from his cage at night. “He seemed to realize that we would be more vigilant about that if he was too bad, so he worked at trying to be good and even sometimes would put himself back in after we knew he’d been out at night.” She added that Hilbert could also let himself into a room and then close the door behind himself; she theorized this might be to delay being caught doing mischief.
Curious, intelligent and athletic ferrets sometimes cause worry for ferret owners. Bonnie Tormohlen of the Northern Arizona Ferret Alliance & Rescue Inc. (NAFAR) wishes that ferrets would not climb cages. “There are the most adroit climbers that insist on scaling the cages in the sanctuary with the ease of a seasoned mountaineer conquering Mount Everest,” she said. She has owned ferrets for eight years and opened NAFAR in 2007.
On the Ferrets magazine Facebook page we asked people what they regularly have to stop their ferrets from doing. Climbing things, leaping from things and getting into places they shouldn't were mentioned several times. The main concern is safety, and the frustration is evident in Maureen Howe Henn's response. “Getting behind the dishwasher!” she said. “It drives me crazy. He just doesn't understand that ferrets can’t go there. “Some hide things that we would rather they did not hide,” Crandall said, “like my pocketbook for four hours once behind a door, and an $800 pair of back-up eyeglasses.”
Allyson Dickinson complained about ferrets stealing her remote control. Melody Collier’s ferrets steal her shoes and Kay Link Beason’s ferrets steal her underwear and socks.
But stealing and stashing isn't always a source of frustration. Tormohlen had a ferret named Nibbles who she said was a notorious hauler. “He could spend an hour tugging and pulling at a giant teddy bear to get it under the couch,” she said. “We have had many stashers come through our doors, but none have compared to Nibbles. Though our little 8-year-old Lulu has come close with her crocheted egg collection. We have found as many as three dozen stuffed under the couch.”
Crandall said most of her ferrets enjoyed carrying and stashing small, cloth, bell toys. “Some like other things as well,” she said. “We have had males, but no females, who love to drag and stash toy ferrets that are much larger than they are. Some take them by their ears but others prefer the toys’ tails. Our current males loves to stash my soft sweaters, and they are very hard to drag through the house, especially when the younger female decides that she should be riding on the sweater.”
Some Cuddle, Some Don’t
Ferrets are not generally known to be cuddlers, especially young ferrets. A major dislike of Janette McDonald’s ferrets? Being held too long. “They can't stand it,” she said. “I have to get my cuddles and kisses in real fast.”
Johnson sees both types at her ferret shelter. “Some of the ferrets that are here love to be loved, will allow folks to hold them for hours on end,” she said. “and yet their cagemate wants nothing but adventure and where they can find that next adventure.”
Ferret Play Versus Destruction
The ferret instinct to explore, burrow and dig can be hard on a home’s décor. Crandall had a ferret that loved to climb and found a unique way to get down from the top of curtains or a shelf in a clothes closet. “She would find a place where the curtain or a long dress were, then latch in her claws, let her bum hang, and rip her way downward.” Crandall said it was reminiscent of a character in an old pirate movie using a knife on a sail. More common damage includes digging at carpeting enough to ruin it, scratching a couch, scratching doors and even tunneling into furniture. Amy Fowler said her ferrets climb into a hole they made in her daughter’s box spring. “The bad weezils built a fort in there.”
Ferrets Being Ferrets
Possibly the most frustrating ferret behaviors for owners is when ferrets eliminate anywhere outside the litter box or when they bite. “Why must these little buggers do their business in front of the door, like laying a field of land mines in a military zone in spite of there being a regiment of clean, filled litter boxes within inches of the mine field?” Tormohlen asked.
Amenda Hembree Lobstein said her ferrets poop in every corner of the house and know that they shouldn’t. “There are two litter boxes in the bathroom,” she said, “and, yes, Snickers and Dane know they are there, because they move the boxes to piddle behind, in front or to either side.”
Juaned Nany Cruz-Figueroa chimed in about biting. "I know they are both playing, but sometimes they both bite really hard."
A List Of Likes And Dislikes
So far we’ve looked at things from a person’s point of view. But what about ferrets? What do they really like and dislike?
At the top of many ferrets’ list of dislikes is probably anything to do with grooming, which includes nail trims and ear cleaning but most especially baths. “My ferrets hate water unless it is for drinking,” said Patricia Shaskin.
Other ferrets don’t object to water at all. “Mine hate baths, but love showers!” said Aurora Ashley. “They run to and standunder the shower head, lift up their head, close their eyes, and enjoy their mini waterfall.”
Another common dislike involves a health matter. “Mine dislikes medicine, but who doesn't?” said April P. Castelhano. Certain noises also unnerve ferrets, including squeaky toys for some, the sound of a vacuum and even some unexpected noises like sizzling sounds or, as Karen Pedro found with her ferrets, locational noise. “[They dislike] noises from above, especially gulls.”
So what are some common things that ferrets like? Well, aside from everything already listed that owners are trying to stop them from doing, add to the list sleeping, playing with crinkle or squeaky toys (yes, some ferrets like squeaky toys), treats, toys, exploring — the list is long and can change day to day or week to week for some ferrets. Games always seem to be a favorite, from chase to playing with balls and more.
“My little guy loves it when you shake a blanket over his head,” said Yelena Gertzen. “He leaps and pounces and wrestles the fabric.”
And sometimes favorite things aren't just for fun or entertainment. Sheila Rudolph has a blind older ferret that has a unique use for a toy. “She carries her toy in her mouth when she walks around and uses it as a ‘bumper’ so she doesn't plow into the walls. She is my beauty queen, beautiful and graceful, most of all — incredibly smart! I love our ferrets!”
If your ferret does things you wish it wouldn't or if you’re considering getting a ferret, know what you might be getting into. Training can encourage or minimize some behaviors, but training might not work for everything.
“I am of the belief that ferrets will be ferrets; you can’t change that fact, so we change how we do things to keep the most adventurous soul out of trouble and getting hurt,” Johnson said. “If there is an interest in something that can be harmful and we can do without that something it gets removed from the shelter.”
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