Paddington Gets In A Jam

Bill Beck relates how Paddington bit off more than he could chew.

Or rather ‘A jam gets in Paddington’
Or even ‘A jam jams Paddington’

Some ferret books will tell you that ferrets rarely vomit. We haven’t found this to be the case; our Honey Bear would often do so after eating too many slugs. On one particularly memorable occasion he managed a spectacular demonstration of projectile vomiting, spraying the floor, the skirting boards and the back of our video unit in one flowing arc of masticated mollusc (ugh!). Sir Rupert de Bear has also thrown up the odd half-chewed earthworm from time to time.

So when Paddington was violently sick one Thursday morning, we were not especially concerned. He seemed OK afterwards and we took him out for a walk with the other ferrets. That afternoon however he seemed a bit off-colour, but we just assumed that he had picked up a minor tummy bug or something of the sort. Well, you know what they say about the word ‘assume’; it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’!

The next morning (Friday) Paddington had his usual breakfast of diluted cat milk but a short while afterwards he was sick again. We put him in quarantine with his own food and water but it soon became obvious that he wasn’t having either. He was now looking very depressed and lethargic and refused even Ferretone, so we knew that something fairly serious was wrong. We phoned our vet and arranged an appointment for that afternoon.

As soon as the vet examined Paddington she could tell that something was seriously wrong and immediately took him for an X-ray. This showed what she at first thought was an intussusception (this is a telescoping together of part of the bowel, rather like what happens with the finger of a rubber glove when the end gets pushed down inside itself). She put him on a drip straight away and prepared to operate as soon as his condition had stabilised. Needless to say we were in a state of shock. However, there being nothing else for it we returned home to await developments. Molly the vet phoned later that evening to say that she had operated on Paddington and had removed a cherry stone from his small intestine. He was in a stable condition but quite weak and that she would take him home with her to keep an eye on him overnight.

That night we racked our brains trying to think of where Paddington could have got hold of a cherry stone. There were some cherry trees on the nearby meadows: had a bird dropped a cherry in the garden which Paddington had found and eaten? We had an ornamental cherry tree in the front garden but it was a very young tree and had not yet fruited. It was all a bit of a mystery. Paddington stayed with the vet over Saturday and she declared him fit enough to go home on Sunday. When we collected him Molly showed us the stone that she had removed. And then light dawned. It wasn’t a cherry stone but a damson stone. And what had we had for a late evening supper on Wednesday? Answer: home made damson jam on toast! Now Ann had had quite a struggle with making this jam and had not been able to remove all the stones before bottling it. Obviously one of us had found a stone and left it, still coated in yummy jam, on our plates - just where a marauding ferret with a sweet tooth could snaffle it while we weren’t looking. So there was an end to the mystery. Looking back, Paddington had shown most of the classic symptoms of an internal blockage as described in our various ferret books: the vomiting, the lethargy, the lack of appetite… we had just failed to put it all together. Our only defence would be that we had seem similar symptoms many times over the years but that the cause had never before been a blockage. Of course we were to blame for the near disaster, but who would have guessed that a ferret would have swallowed something as big and hard as a damson stone, even when coated with jam? I guess it just goes to show that as far as ferrets are concerned you have to expect the unexpected.

Paddington has since made a full recovery and is once again his old, bouncy self. There are still some jars of damson jam in the larder, and although we did briefly consider their humane destruction, we have since decided that we will eat them, but only when we are certain that there are no ferrets in the vicinity. You can be also be sure that we will be very, very careful about the disposal of any damson stones!

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