Paraguay Blog #6: Ribbit

Things Which Have Gotten Awesomer For Me Since Arriving In Paraguay

6. Alfred has more time to do stuff outside.
  1. My skin cleared up.
  2. I’m drinking a lot more water.
  3. I’ve lost a couple of (admittedly unnoticeable) pounds.
  4. For the first time in over a year and a half my hair doesn’t feel like I didn’t rinse out all the shampoo.
  5. I get to hang out with Nico, the Hagermans’ friendly, obedient boxer. First order of business upon returning to the States? Convincing my parents to add one of these awesome dogs to their household zoo (which currently consists of: One of these, named Patches) (well, and the ferrets too, I suppose, but that’s only temporary).

Things Which Have Gotten Less Awesome For Me Since Arriving In Paraguay

  1. I’m covered in itchy red bites. I think they’re from mosquitoes.
  2. Now that I’ve finally had guarana after a 19 year dry spell, I get the shakes just thinking about going without it again in a couple weeks.

A Really Neat Moth That Landed On The Table Last Night While I Was Blogging

Cool, huh?

Things Which I Already Knew In Theory, But Have Been Reminded Of In Practice, Since Arriving In Paraguay

  1. Leave spiders alone. If you see a spider in your house, it’s because there is something else living there upon which said spider would like to dine, and it is quite likely that you would rather deal with an unobtrusive Charlotte or two (or thirty) than the hordes of insects on which they are feeding.
  2. While you’re at it, leave the lizards, frogs, toads, and all the other bug-eaters alone too.
  3. If you want to check your cup for bugs before taking a drink, that’s fine, but don’t let that glance linger. If it’s small enough to miss visual detection, it’s (probably) small enough to miss oral detection. You’ll survive. Bottoms up.
  4. It’s tacky when people with things like summer houses, weekend cars, and quarterly vacation plans bemoan their fellows’ unwillingness to donate to humanitarian causes when they themselves are similarly unmoved. (You’re darn right I’ve been guilty of this myself more than once!) Either give, or stop complaining about how others aren’t.
  5. I really need to learn how to drive stick.

The Cart and Bull Fall Down

Wesley's interest in helping with laundry extends only as far as emptying the bag. Kids!

I’m trying to get my ferret Wesley to come sit by me on the couch.

“These fingers could be scratchin’ yer itches!” I promise, waggling my fingers at him. He is not impressed, and waddles away to redouble his efforts at destroying the carpet behind my couch.

Dig dig dig…

Oh ferret.

Dig dig dig…

The landlord will have to replace it all whenever the boys and I move out. It should be replaced anyway since I’ve been living with this carpet for almost five years now. Surely they wouldn’t pass it on to the next tennant? No, it will be replaced. Replaced, and with some reason why my security deposit should be used to foot the bill. Fine. Let them keep it. It’s been worth it for your  special company, weasels. (See: “Things I Never Thought I’d Say To a 1 lb. Carnivore.”)

I thought I’d lost one of the ferrets yesterday; Brodie, my skinny boy, my hyperactive climber, my sable.

I was in the living room watching a show on Netflix when Wesley trotted in. He ducked behind the couch where I was sitting, and immediately began to whimper. Was he hurt? Was he sick? What’s going on?! I paused my show and pulled the couch away from the wall to find Wesley pawing at the face of a suspiciously inert Brodie, who lay on his back, legs splayed wide. I swooped down and picked Brodie up, his body cool and limp in my hands.

Oh no.

Ferrets are notorious for going into such a deep sleep they can seem comatose, or even dead. It’s important to know this before bringing one home because at some point, probably at multiple points, you will witness this condition. It’s not unusual, it’s not dangerous. It is normal ferret behavior. But this time? This time it shook me. Brodie’s oddly low body temperature, his uncustomary position, the whimpering and pawing from my other ferret… And mustelidae lover that I am I of course immediately assumed the worst: That Brodie was dead or dying, right there in my hands.

I cradled the pound of fur, teeth, and claws to my chest, trying to find a pulse, trying to find any sign he might simply be deep, deep asleep. His tiny, chilly body was so relaxed I could barely keep him from slipping through my arms as I played out worst case scenarios in my critter loving head.

After pushing the bottle around for an hour with his face, a neck-lick was apparently in order.

Wesley padded over to us and crawled onto my lap where he began sniffing at his fellow troublemaker, alternately pawing at his belly and licking his face, a new behavior couplet. I held Brodie tighter, trying at first not to cry but almost immediately giving up on that plan in favor of weeping openly and praying aloud that I would be able to keep this bounding, thieving, sneezing, pooping, hopping, climbing, giggle-inducing beast a little longer.

Eventually one of his eyes opened slightly, but then rolled back. He was still completely limp, folded almost in half against my chest as I pulled him in closer and closer toward my face, unwilling to let go in case he really was on his way out.

I would rather die while being held, wouldn’t you?

I rocked him, rubbed his cheeks and head, trying for several minutes to wake him. It had never taken so long before. And as I sat there blubbering I knew I’d feel so stupid if he turned out to be okay, if it turned out I was just overreacting to a common situation. But when it’s your own pet? And everything is a few degrees off from normal? And your other pet is exhibiting unusual behaviors too? And you’re all alone?

I freed a hand to phone my mom and asked her to come over so I wouldn’t be by myself, just in case. She said she’d be right over. I love that woman. I hung up and dragged my sleeve under my nose. I was a wreck.

I rolled the pound of dead weight over in my hands, rubbed my little guy’s face, and thanked him for being my buddy for the past two years. And then? His eye flickered open again, this time followed by the other… A hopeful sign? There came a head shift, a paw wave, and finally a sigh from him as Wesley decided we were fine and lumbered away to find something crinkly to crawl in.

We made it! All three of us.

Brodie came to slowly, resting peacefully in my arms. My hope grew less cautious. A minute passed, and then another, each making me feel happier, and more ridiculous, my babbling grin catching tears I no longer needed. My little guy, for now, would remain my little guy.

My dudes, fast asleep.

I knew I’d let myself freak out. I’d let my fear of losing my fuzzy pal overtake me. And the worst part is at some point I realized there might be nothing to worry about, even as it was all still happening. But what is my head to argue with my heart? I will almost always laugh with you, cry with you, sigh with you long before I will even attempt to reason with you.

I’m trying to figure out why I’d want to share this story in such a public way. It makes me seem over-dramatic, I think, because in the end it turned out I’d been wrong and so was upset over nothing. And to anyone without a similar type and level of appreciation for a pet I’m sure it sounds downright silly.

I think– and don’t quote me because I’m still not sure– but I think I just wanted to share a time when a feeling of loss was replaced, quickly and completely, by a feeling of joy.

That’s it.

If I were a master story teller I’d do the same by inventing some clever tale involving not-overly-beautiful people in a loss/joy cycle in a universe of my own design. I’d O. Henry an unexpected heart-string-tug readers would be able to relate to, and they’d share it with their friends on Facebook. I’d submit it to a literary magazine, they’d publish it with watercolor illustrations painted by a tenured biology professor, and over the next three years my characters’ names would climb to slots 7 and 8 on “Most Popular Baby Names” lists across the web. It would span so many forwarded emails it would eventually earn its own page on Snopes from all the people asking if it was true.

But it wouldn’t be.

Maybe that’s why I’d rather swallow my pride and tell you about a pet that didn’t really die, no matter how foolish it makes me look. Because foolishness is believable. As believable as loss. And almost as believable as joy.

A Ferrety Kind of Friday

Things I find myself saying (with an alarming degree of regularity, considering as these are one-sided conversations) to my ferrets, whose sole aims in life appear to be taking my things and pooping on my carpet:

Rough day? Writing Decepticon poetry usually helps.

When they are attempting to steal my notebooks:

“That is a notebook. Ferrets don’t write emo poems; they only think they do.”

They take after highschool Me; what can I say?

When they are attempting to walk across my laptop as I type on it:

“That is a computer. Ferrets don’t walk on keyboards; they only think they do.”

Especially when said computer is in use and there are still keys whose functions are mysterious and cannot be reversed without the Geek Squad.

When they are attempting to nest in my purses:

“That is my purse. Ferrets don’t use purses; they only think they do.”

I keep my purses in a pile on my closet floor, let the ferrets play in them for a while, then search the wreckage for the contents they’ve loosened from zipper pockets I’d long since forgotten about. Thanks boys!

When they are attempting to steal my socks:

I collected these 96 pairs of socks (plus various and sundry other items) from Brodie’s hidey holes all over the apartment. I love that guy.

“Those are socks. Ferrets don’t need socks; they only think they do.”

Actually– I might be wrong about this one…

When they are attempting to scale my shins:

“Those are my ankles. Ferrets don’t eat ankles; they only think they do.”

And ohhhhh do they ever think they do this! Particularly when I’ve just climbed out of the shower and am protected by nothing more than a towel (which one of them is, inevitably, trying to climb). At least let me put my glasses on first so I know which way to go as I plan my escape!

When they are “playing sandbox” in their litter boxes:

“That is a litter box. Ferrets poop in them; they only think they don’t.”

Every time one of the boys hoists his round little rear into a litter box I find myself crowing with delight, my hands alternating between pounding the meters of victory on my bouncing knees, and waving in the air at the sweet, sweet stink of success.


Love being a pet mom or dad? What do you say to your critters when you’re sure no one else is listening?? :D


I  just flung (flang?) ferret poop into my own face.

Go ahead: Ask…


Now that a day has passed and the dust, er… poop… has finally settled, let’s have ourselves a little conversation involving good ideas and bad ideas.

The boys sleeping in their hammock.

To begin: Ferrets are notorious corner-poopers. Whenever any two objects come into contact with each other at any time in any fashion a corner is created.

A corner that must be pooped in.

Preferably right after said corner has just been scooped, scrubbed, and vacuumed.

Because I am an awesome ferret mom of two awesome ferret dudes (who are cute and playful and friendly and curious and healthy and quiet and wiggly and awesome) I have never been surprised or upset to find poop in any of my apartment’s corners.

Because let’s face it: What would be accomplished with my being upset about it, and is there really any cause for surprise when this is among the most common (and goofy) ferret-wide shared traits?

My actual placemats are in English and Spanish. Weasels should be well-rounded.

Instead I plan ahead. Or try to, at least. In some corners I keep litter boxes (which Wesley prefers to use onlyuntil they’ve been pooped in), and in others I use packing tape to hold down laminated placemats to protect the carpet and to make clean-up easier.

In the “placemat corners” I always add an extra line of packing tape that extends above the floor level and onto the vinyl at the base of  the wall. I do this to keep the wall poop-free in the event I need something to push my li’l poop scooping thingy against to actually scoop up the poop.


Poop poop poop. As a word it loses so much impact in ferret stories because it’s just such a prevalent theme.

But I digress.

Placemat Placement: Tools of the Trade

Every couple of days I go on a ferret-chore-rampage in which I clean all the things, which involves, among other activities, giving the placemats a good scrubbing.

Every couple of weeks this chore rampage involves replacing the poop speckled packing tape.

Yesterday was one of those chore days.

Except that because I initially planned on just scrubbing the tape it was dripping with Antibacterial 409 when I began tugging at a loose end after deciding a replacement was in order as the amount of poop present had reached near record levels of grossness. (A level it doesn’t take the boys long to achieve…)

Wesley playing in his octopus

*tug… tug*

Hm. The tape appears to be stuck. No problem. I’ll just pull harder.

*tug… tug…  TUG!*

And so the tape, in a final, dramatic release, boings 12 inches worth of 409-drenched poop crumbles in all their goopy glory SMACK across my face.

Boys? Weasels? Monsters? Beasts of the field? Little dudes? You are lucky you are so STINKING WONDERFUL that your poop freckled mommy cannot help but love you.

Ferrets: Nature’s reminder that into every life a little poop must fall.

ETA: It is worth noting that just because you *think* a discarded cereal bowl is too high for a ferret to reach, this is not necessarily the case.

And should said ferret freak out upon discovering himself suddenly drenched in milk, corn flakes, and oat clusters, laughter is a perfectly acceptable response.

Mustela putorius furo

That’s it.

I’m getting a ferret.

A few weeks back I went to visit an amazing, kickass, fireball new friend and her amazing, kickass, fireball girlfriend (sorry- new people just really make me happy!) and they had just gotten a ferret. He’s a super friendly, curious, excitable little guy named Wesley and I had a great time messing around with him and watching him explore the living room and– and just being a ferret.

It took all of 20 seconds of watching this little dude before I knew that a ferret just might be a suitable replacement for me since the cat option seems to have fallen through.

A few months ago I was looking into getting a cat. I was reading everything I could find online, contacting area animal shelters about availability, pricing litter boxes, food, and vet visits. I was so excited at the prospect of bringing a kitty into my home! :D

But then I learned that bringing a cat into this apartment complex would require a $200 security deposit to my landlord, and the cat would have to be declawed to even be considered since this would be my first time owning a pet and they tend to frown on allowing people who’ve never had pets before to get new ones while living here. Also: I have no interest in cutting off an animal’s toes at the first knuckle, but what if the cat I hit it off with at the shelter hadn’t been declawed? I’d leave it behind in favor of one I didn’t have as smooth a rapport with just because it had been clipped?

Diagram from Kindness to All Animals

Plus, I have minor allergies to cats. They’re nothing compared to what they were, and as long as I don’t hold my lids open and rub a cat directly onto my eyeball, I’m fine. But my brother, and my mom to some extent, still has fairly serious allergies to them and I’d hate to bring something into my home that made it so he couldn’t come over.

And then in the middle of all of that I lost my job and so I wasn’t able to afford any of it anyway. I would still love to have a cat, but that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now.

As for ferrets: I have to say I’m a little surprised I’m even considering them. As much as I want to get one now, this wasn’t always the case.

When I was a kid my family knew another family that had a few ferrets and all I remembered about them was that they smelled awful, they were viciously mean, and they went to the bathroom all over the house. That initial experience was just so off-putting I couldn’t understand the animals’ appeal, but knowing now that those were just mishandled makes a world of difference.

I’m not financially stable enough right now to get one, so I’m aiming for some time this fall. Not only will this give me more time to cement my finances a little bit, but I’ll have had more time to learn about proper care for them and all that. I know I know- you learn by doing. But if I can know more of what I’m getting into ahead of time- I’ll take it! And costs: the ferret itself will set me back $140 if I go to the Pet World here in town. I think it’s a good place to go, though, because the people that work there are so good with the animals in their care, and I want to know that the most recent people handling the animal were good to it. Plus, Pet World ferrets are all descented and spayed/neutered, which are two big pluses for me.

I’ll need to set aside some money for a good sized cage, a couple of litter boxes, food, toys, etc., and all together it don’t come cheap! But how exciting to finally bring him or her home!