The Curse of the Blob
by Bill Beck
Lightning played across the distant hills of the Peak District and thunder grumbled in the darkening skies.
"Looks like we're in for a good soaking," I said.
We had been taking Yogi and Boo Boo for a walk at Alderley Edge in Cheshire. It is a beautiful spot with everything a ferret could wish for: a light sandy soil, tree roots to explore and plenty of rabbit holes to disappear down. When we had started out the weather had been perfect for ferret walking with a warm breeze and a clear sky, but now a thunderstorm was appearing from nowhere and we were all going to get very, very wet.
We made a quick about-turn and headed back to the car park as fast as we could. No sooner had we got into the car than the first fat raindrops started splashing onto the roof. As the rain lashed down and the car park started turning into a lake I had a great idea.
"Let's go and see Graham at the Gauntlet Birds of Prey Centre," I said. "By the time we get there the rain will have stopped and we can have a chat, see his ferrets and show him Yogi and Boo Boo".
Now the Gauntlet Bird of Prey Centre is where Yogi and Boo Boo came from, Graham having found these two ferrets for us. It is located within Matthew's Garden Centre at Monks Heath, which is only a few minutes drive from Alderley Edge (and of course the thought that we might go to the garden centre's cafeteria for a cup of tea and a cake afterwards never entered my mind).
We left the car park and soon arrived at Graham's just as the rain ceased and the sun came out, as I had so confidently predicted. We went in.
"Hello!... do you want another ferret?" he asked almost straight away.
"Certainly not!" we replied, "we've got quite enough on our hands as it is with Yogi and Boo Boo!"
"Are you sure? Have a look at this one." Graham said.
He left the office and returned a few moments later carrying a young ferret. He was a silver mitt polecat, which is to say that his body, legs and tail were a deep glossy brown whilst his paws were creamy white. He also had a white bib on his chest and some brown markings like a little waistcoat. His face bore the most innocent, dopey and trusting expression imaginable, with large dark eyes, long white whiskers and a huge pink hooter. This ferret was gigantic, with feet like a carthorse, and a tail that looked as if it might have been stolen from a large tomcat.
"No, no, we couldn't possibly!" we chorused - but we were sunk after just one look from those big, soft, limpid eyes. "Oh, go on then."
The ferret's name was Paleface and he belonged to a friend of Graham named Joe. Paleface was a kit of about twelve weeks and Graham was helping Joe look for a good home for him. The ferret was at the Centre because he was going to be re-homed with another acquaintance of Graham's later that day. After Graham explained all this to us we asked whether whoever was going to collect Paleface would be upset if we took him instead, but Graham didn't think this would be a problem as there were other kits in the litter.
We picked Paleface up and gave him a good looking over. He certainly seemed to be in excellent health. While I was examining him, he climbed up onto my left shoulder and began slowly chewing my ear in a relaxed and reflective fashion. Having carefully detached him, I gave him a cuddle. He was obviously a big softy. Next we wondered how Paleface would get on with Yogi and Boo Boo so we carefully introduced them to one another. There was much sniffing, twitching of whiskers and chuckling sounds, but no aggression from anyone.
And so Paleface came home with us.
Despite the fact that there was no aggression between the ferrets when we were at the Birds of Prey Centre we were very watchful when we got them all home as this was after all, Yogi and Boo Boo's home territory. When Paleface approached the other two he would start to make a slow chuckling, dook-dook-dook noise and the closer he got to Yogi and Boo Boo the faster the dook-dook-dooking became. We said that it was Paleface's ferret-detector going off, it sounded just like a Geiger counter!
Unfortunately, whilst Paleface (alias 'The Blob' as we had unkindly nicknamed him, because he was so big and fat and never stopped eating) hit it off with Yogi, he did not get on well with Boo Boo who seemed to feel threatened by him. This was probably because although Paleface was younger than Boo Boo, he was nevertheless much bigger. In fact at one point things were getting so bad that we were on the verge of returning Paleface to Joe. However, all of a sudden, they seemed to reach an understanding and became firm friends. At about this time we came up with a proper name for Paleface, alias The Blob, who henceforth became 'Rupert'. We chose this name for him because his white face and paws reminded us of Rupert Bear of the eponymous cartoon strip in the Daily Express newspaper.
Having become emboldened by this, Rupert embarked upon a life of crime. It turned out that he loved to chew certain fabrics, especially those that had a fluffy or furry texture. In our dining room we had floor length curtains which had taken Ann a long time to make and Rupert soon started converting these into net curtains. He did the same with the bedroom curtains which he found he could reach by climbing onto a bedside chest of drawers. We tried to divert his attention from the curtains with furry toys but these he shredded in short order and then went back to chewing the curtains.
Eventually the little horror lost interest in the curtains when we made it too hard for him to reach them. He then turned his attention to the draught excluder on the lounge door instead. This consists of a cylindrical length of foam rubber the width of the door and covered in black material, the whole being held in place with Velcro. You may now be sitting in the lounge when you are alarmed by a CRASH! as the door slams shut followed by a sound like tearing canvas. This is Rupert pulling the draught excluder from the Velcro. He then thunders off across the back hall (backwards!) and into the dining room, where he hides his trophy under a cupboard before starting to chew it to ribbons. We have now had to remove the foam inside and replace it with a length of plastic drainpipe so that he doesn't swallow any foam.
He has also invented another new game for himself. We have two floor-standing CD racks in our dining room and Rupert loves to play with the CDs in them. He lies on his back with his head in the space below the lowest CD and then reaches up and flicks the lowest one out of the rack with his front paws. When this is out of the way, he flicks out the one above it, and so on, until there is a pile of CDs on the floor.
So now Rupert is a member of our ferret family. He has his own individual personality and his own little routines. We love him to bits, even though he is a 'cuckoo' in that his arrival was unexpected and at first not entirely welcome (at least not with Boo Boo). We are very glad that we got him, but nowadays we always listen to the weather forecast very carefully indeed before we take our ferrets out and about anywhere near Alderley Edge!