Jean-Pierre Puts The Boot In

by Bill Beck

My wife Ann and I have been keeping ferrets for nearly ten years. We have been closely involved with rescue ferrets for much of that time, and I thought that I had heard some bizarre ferret rescue stories. But I had never heard one quite like that of a poley hob which recently came into the care of Bolton Ferret Welfare (BFW).

It seems that this ferret was found in a laundry basket in a hotel in Blackburn with a sizeable bash to the bonce. The more we thought about it the more improbable it seemed. How did he get the injury? Was it deliberate or accidental? Did he go down a laundry chute to end up in the basket? If so, did he fall or was he pushed? How did he get into the hotel in the first place? Did he arrive in the basket? I don't think we'll ever find out the answers to any of these questions.

He was picked up by a lady who took him to a vet and then passed him on to Sheila Crompton of BFW. We saw him first at a show organised by C & D Ferret Sanctuary in Cadishead, Manchester. After the show Sheila came back to our home for an evening meal and, as it was a warm day, we decided not to leave her ferrets in her van, but to let them out to play in our shady garden. Well, when we let this new arrival out he bounced and he pounced, and he pounced and he bounced and he chuckled his socks off. When it came time for Sheila to return to Bolton he was still at it. We didn't intend to get another ferret but somehow he got left behind and was still doing the weasel war dance nearly five hours after he was let out!

He is a very striking looking boy with quite a pointed face for a hob and a very dark mask. He has large ears and by far the longest whiskers we have ever seen on a ferret. I have read that short whiskers are an indicator of poor condition in ferrets; it certainly seems that the converse is true. His temperament is excellent and he will certainly earn his keep on the PR circuit. Unfortunately for the sympathy factor though, the wound on his head has healed completely... but I suppose we can always give him another one just before the next event, can't we?

Soon after we got him he appeared to lose quite a bit of weight from his back end but this was just due to moulting, and possibly a loss of some flab with all the exercise. He has balanced out again now but at one stage we were convinced that we had a 'cut and shut' ferret, with the front-end of a hob and the back-end of a jill. Sheila had been going to name him Jean-Luc II (BFW's famous skate-boarding Jean-Luc I having passed on to Rainbow Bridge) but because all our ferrets have bear-related names, we decided to call him Jean-Luc le Bear. But then we thought that Jean-Pierre le Bear had a better ring to it, so we settled on that.

Soon after J-P arrived we went on holiday to the Peak District, taking our ferrets with us as always, and staying in the picturesque village of Hartington. On the second day of our holiday we went for a walk in nearby Lathkill Dale. The walk follows the river through lush vegetation as it flows through a thickly wooded valley. This is a very beautiful and tranquil place and could have been purpose-built for ferret walking. There are tree roots to get tangled up in an all sorts of mysterious holes to explore, including entrances to some old lead mines (just think of the size of the bunny that mad that hole, Jean-Pierre?). The river flows over weirs and waterfalls along the route and as it was a warm day, we paused at one of the weirs to cool our toes. We walked to the edge of one of the tumbledown walls and took our boots and socks off. Sitting down we dangled our feet in the blissfully cool water whilst the ferret wandered about (still safely attached to us by their leads of course!) to explore the riverbank.

A couple of minutes later I saw an old boot, half-submerged, come floating down the river heading for the weir. 'Heh-heh' I thought, 'some poor hiker's lost a boot in the river!' Then I thought, 'That's funny, that boot looks just like one of mine'. I looked around and saw J-P standing next to my remaining boot, watching the stately progress of its companion downstream. 'Oh dear!' I exclaimed (or rather something not quite like that at all). Fortunately, by stretching out my right leg as far as I could without falling in I was able to divert the waterlogged article of footwear, and redirect it to the bank before it got swept away over the weir. As I squelched back to the car, I reflected upon the delights of ferret ownership in general, and J-P ownership in particular.

In the end we decided not to send him back to BFW, or to send Sheila a bill for a new pair of boots. It looks like he's here to stay and he's certainly made himself at home. He seems in excellent health and has obviously been well handled from and early age.

J-P gets on well with our other seven ferrets excepty for Chubbley who is 'The Boss Ferret' and expects J-P to know it, and Fred Bear who is 'Wannabe Top Ferret'. Still, apart from a slightly chewed neck he's OK and we're looking forward to everything settling down soon. He has already started his PR duties where his name intrigues people; children sometimes ask if he really is French. Well, just look at the photo and make up your own mind!

First Published in NFWS News #76 December 2006

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