Dave's Story

by Janet Williams

Not a good start to my year! I am so used to Dave, my big boy, taking a mouthful of food with him when I take him out of his house it took me a couple of days to realise that the bulge at the side of his mouth wasn't his usual greediness! I called Pam (my area coordinator) to find a ferret-friendly vet nearby and got an appointment for that afternoon. We saw Raquel at Fern Cottage, I was impressed by how much she knew about my big fuzzbutt, unlike the vets I use for my six Labs, who kept leaving the room to make phone calls to someone to ask advice!

Now Dave likes to eat everything he can get his little paws on. He had eaten a big portion of rabbit a few days before (bones and all) so I just thought that he had got a rabbit bone stuck in his mouth and that it had caused an abscess. How wrong I was! The lump was removed on 12th January and the biopsy showed that it was an aggressive form of Spindle Cell Sarcoma. It had grown from a 2mm join at the back left hand side of his mouth along the inside of his cheek. We had been at a show on 11th December and there had been no sign of anything in his mouth then. Raquel said that Dave probably only had about three weeks to live. By now he was feeling very sorry for himself; he had gone downhill so quickly even in that one day. My little world was falling apart!

Dave is my favourite; I know I'm not supposed to have favourites, but he's so laid back, so calm and friendly. He's a proper ferret (a pastel polecat) and lives with Denzil, another hob (albino) who's scared of everything. Denzil shakes when you take him out of his hutch, but he only really gets scared in the hutch if you take Dave away from him. Now that Dave has become a house ferret, Denzil often doesn't eat! Denzil will poo his way around the toilet area whereas Dave will use a litter tray, that's when Denzil doesn't keep tipping it over. Dave also only toilets in one place, which means that when I'm cleaning the crate in the kitchen, he will climb back in and just sit and stare at me until I lean back and let him go to the loo!

Within a week after his operation, the lump was back and I thought he wouldn't last three weeks. However, by his post-op check-up, he was fighting back. He had weighed in at 1.5kg at the time of the operation and was now 1.62kg. Raquel said because of how well he looked and how lively he was, she would be happy to remove the lump once or maybe twice more!

He still visits Denzil every other day as he needs a day to recover now when he has been playing. He is living in a large Ferplast Jenny cage in the kitchen. I got that for cost price from my local pet/farm shop as someone had ordered it then decided they didn't want it and the shop hadn't been able to sell it on, so they offered it to me for my ferrets.

Every evening Dave comes out for a wander around the kitchen while I clean the crate out; he likes playing with the recycling boxes and my feet. Then he flops down on the mat and watches me, or he'll snuggle up by my feet, but gets annoyed when I keep moving about and gets back into bed. He's now on a 1.5ml dose of Metacam, which I give him in ferret paste each morning. He's also due to have the lump removed for the second time on 16th February as it's getting a bit uncomfortable again.

Dave enjoying a mushed up chick

Postscript: Sadly on 23rd February Dave passed away in my arms at the vets. The tumour had spread to his throat and up into his brain. He's buried under his hutch in the garden with his favourite bed, which really confused poor Bert (one of my dogs). He tried to drag me away and then tried to dig the dirt off. Bert doesn't usually dig, he just looked so confused, he kept looking at Dave, nudging him with his nose to get him to move and then when I was filling in the hole, Bert started whining and howling, which upset me even more. From the initial diagnosis, the spindle cell sarcoma took just five and a half weeks to kill him.

(First published in NFWS News #90 May 2011)