Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kids Create The Darndest Things

One of the most wonderful things about being a parent is having your children come home with some of the most interesting and highly creative thingamajigs.

Take for example this ‘sweet’ creation:

This edible thingamajig was my daughter’s recent project at her school. Her teacher had asked the children in her class to put together a display that was made up of whatever candies and cookies they preferred.

When she brought this project home, my daughter received a lot of praise from me and her stepfather for her creativity, and our gratitude for sharing such a wonderfully edible treat with us.

Well, this ‘sweet’ creation no longer looks anything like it did on the first day. After a few days of picking candies and wafers off it, it resembled ancient ruins. I just wish I’d taken a picture of what was left.

In any case, it was the ‘sweetest’ thing my daughter had ever brought home from school. Literally.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where To Get A Ferret

Okay, so far I’ve written about what ferrets are (not rodents), how much they sleep (plenty) and how sensitive they are to heat (extremely). On today’s ferrety Friday (need I say that it’s the best day of the week), I’d like to write about where you can get a ferret. Because once you’ve done your homework on these fuzzy faces and you’re absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right pet for you, the next step is to actually go and pick one up. But before you go and pick one up, you need to know where one can be picked up from.

“Well, duh, don’t you just go to the pet store?”

You can. But there are other options.

“Like what? The ferret factory?” [Snort]



There are four places where you can find a domesticated ferret:

1) Pet store
2) Shelter
3) Private breeder
4) Newspaper classifieds

Photo from SXC

Because writing information about all the locations in one post will prove to be quite long, I’ve decided to break it up into different posts. So today I will be concentrating only on the pet store. On the next 'Ferrety Friday', I will include information about adopting a ferret from a shelter, and, if it doesn’t take up too much space, I’ll include the private breeder and newspaper classifieds. Otherwise I’ll have to put together a third post.

“Hey, you didn’t include the ferret factory.”

Go away!

“Hmpf... You’ll miss me, you’ll see.”


The Pet Store

The first place that will come to mind when considering getting a domesticated ferret as a pet is – you guessed it – a pet shop. If this is where you’ve decided to go, there are a few things you should consider:

a) Choose a store with staff that is properly trained in day-to-day ferret care and reasonably familiar with a ferret’s emotional needs, quirky personality and unique behaviour. It’s important to deal with people that are able to answer all your questions and provide you with information that will help you better care for your newly-acquired pet.

Photo from SXC

b) Don’t assume for a second that large, chain pet stores are better than small, independent ones. A chain pet store may have a wider range of products available, but if the staff is unable to assist you in your purchases or is unqualified to answer your questions, more products for sale aren’t going to help you. The selection may be impressive but the assistance is poor.

(Example: Not too long ago, I visited a local chain pet store to inquire about a few things for Bailey (my daughter’s pet ferret, for those of you that don’t already know that). No one in the store was able to answer my questions about ferrets because no one in the store was familiar with them or their day-to-day needs, either through training or personal experience. The store was selling an assortment of products for ferrets, including food, toys, cages and vitamins, yet they couldn’t help with any of them. Basically, you were on your own.

On the other hand, the employees at the independent pet store where my daughter got Bailey from always chat up a storm when I make inquiries about ferrets and their care. Since their information coincides with the information I’ve gathered over the past year from magazines, books and online sources, it’s clear that they are well-versed when it comes to ferrets.

Now, one can argue that just because pet stores sell products for many different animals, doesn’t mean that they have to know something about all of them. I don’t agree with this. I think a big box store like WalMart that is a jack of all trades but master of none can get away with this because they don’t specialize in anything. They just sell stuff; lots of different stuff. You’re on your own at a place like this, which is expected. But a pet shop specializes in pets and pet products and, at least in my opinion, should be able to answer some (not necessarily all) questions about their products and the animals they pertain to. People go to these places primarily because of their expertise (at least I do). If no one in a pet store is able to assist you or answer any of your questions, you may as well just go to the big box store where a similar product may even be cheaper. Because if it’s just a point of picking something off a shelf and paying for it, why go to a specialty shop? And pay more money?)

[Stepping down from the soapbox...]

c) Make sure that the store you pick up your fuzzy from gives you a written health guarantee or health certificate. If they don’t, consider going elsewhere.

d) Visit each store more than once before making a final decision. Drop by at different times of the day (if possible) and speak to a few of the employees. Ask questions to determine whether anyone in the store has any reasonable knowledge of ferrets and their care requirements. Throw in a couple of trick questions and see what happens. Will the employee bluff their way through since they’ll believe you know nothing about ferrets, or will they try to point you in the right direction? One question you can ask is: “What types of vegetables should I feed my ferret?” If the employee at the pet store begins to make a list of veggies, head for the hills. Ferrets are strictly carnivores; they are unable to properly digest vegetables. Furthermore, a small piece of undigested vegetable matter can cause an intestinal blockage and put your pet’s life at risk.

If the employee answers (with horror in his/her eyes): “Ferrets are strictly carnivores. Their diet should consist of at least 36 percent animal protein. You should not feed them fruits or vegetables; it can cause illness and even death” then stick around. This is someone that obviously knows a little something about fuzzies.

e) Do not purchase a pet on your first visit to any store. Your initial visit (and perhaps second and third) should be to determine whether this is the right place to deal with. In addition to inspecting the animals in the store (all of them, not just the ferrets), you’ll want to walk around and inspect the store for cleanliness, product availability and orderliness.

f) Inspect the cage the ferrets are being kept in. Is it large enough for the fuzzies to move around in? Is everything reasonably clean? Water? Litter box? Bedding? Is there enough food? Is there any food?

g) Ask the employees in the store if the ferrets are ever taken out of their cage to play? Or if they’re ever taken out of their cage to be petted or held. Ferrets are inquisitive and very social; they need exercise and contact with humans to keep them healthy and happy. And although it’s unreasonable to expect the store to allow these little furballs to roam free (they’d disappear), setting up a playpen and placing them in it for an hour a day isn’t asking for too much. A happy, well-cared for ferret will make a happy, healthy pet.

All of the above points can be applied to any type of pet you are contemplating on bringing home. What you are searching for is a well-maintained store that employs staff that is reasonably-versed in the pets and pet products they are selling to the public.

And when it comes to choosing the right store for a ferret or ferret products, my advice is this: Do your homework; learn all you can about ferrets on your own and then begin to visit your local pet stores. The one that answers your questions confidently and as accurately as possible, is the one you should concentrate on. Remember, despite being similar to cats and dogs in many ways, ferrets are neither. They are different in many ways with their own set of unique needs.

And finally, let’s hear what Bailey has to say:

Shush Bailey...you’ll scare the readers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Caving In To A Poinsettia

I just couldn’t resist bringing home this poinsettia yesterday while hubby and I were out:

Every year it’s the same old story. I begin each holiday season by declaring: “This year I am NOT going to bring home a poinsettia.”

Then as we get closer to Christmas, the declaration is slightly edited: “This year I am probably NOT going to bring home a poinsettia.”

And eventually becomes: “This year I am probably NOT going to bring home a poinsettia” [pause] “Unless it’s a really beautiful specimen that has been left behind on a dusty shelf with just a few other abandoned poinsettias, all of which will inevitably die a sad and lonely death. Then and ONLY then will I bring home a poinsettia.”

“And was that the case with this poinsettia you took home yesterday?”

Well, not really. It was actually amongst many other pretty poinsettias, and the display wasn’t all that bad.

“I see. So you simply caved in to a poinsettia despite your oh-so unyielding holiday declaration.”

Well, wait a minute. What you’re not taking into consideration is that there’s a very good chance that it would eventually end up abandoned on some dusty store shelf where it would die a sad and lonely death. So I simply spared it that inevitable misery.

“Uhuh. You caved.”


Call me weak.
Call me undisciplined.
Call me impulsive.


The poinsettia I took home is beautiful. And together with the amaryllis’s intimidating floral display, my Christmas cactus is finally starting to open up its buds. It’s been shamed into doing so by two other popular holiday plants. Cool.

Isn’t it amazing how a tiny little plant like this can create such huge flowers?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amaryllis Not Waiting Till Christmas

I’ve pleaded, scolded and shamelessly begged, but my Amaryllis has decided it’s not going to wait until Christmas to put on a display. It would have been nice, especially since the flowers are such a Christmasy red, but it won’t be happening this year.

Every day there’s been a significant change in the development of the flower buds, so I’ve been snapping photos by the gazillion. Two of the flowers have opened and they are stunning. There are two more to go, so the plant is not quite done yet.

This is where the Amaryllis in my kitchen is at as of this morning:

Don’t you just love these flowers? They’re so bold and beautiful...

Not far from this blooming beauty sits the Aechmea fasciata...

...and the Vriesea splendens...,

...both of which are old enough to produce flowers. Perhaps the Amaryllis, with its grandiose display, will shame them into doing something this coming year.

As for the newly-purchased Christmas cactus... Well, it’s still debating whether to open its buds or not.

I’ve already had ‘the talk’ with it, the one where I tell my flowering plants that “there’s a limited amount of quality houseplant space in this home, and the ones that don’t earn their spot, out they go, to make room for another plant” So far, nothing. I think the Christmas cactus is calling my bluff. Darn.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Heat And Heatstroke

So I started off the day with the intention of writing a reasonably lengthy post on where to get a ferret. But then all sorts of other responsibilities got in the way, including compiling a list of addresses for people I’m planning to send Christmas cards to on behalf of the family; people that I like. Or people who’ve shamed me into sending them one by sending me one unexpectedly. These people weren’t going to be on the Christmas card list but now I feel obligated to add them to it. Not that I have to. Or that I’ll lose any sleep over it if I don’t. But still.

Hm, you know what? Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t send these shifty people a card. I mean, these card-sending lovers have nerve mailing me Christmas cards and making me spend more time on my compilation of addresses than I had planned on spending; precious time that could have been put to better use – yes, like writing a lengthy post on ferrety Friday.

Okay, I’m just fooling around. But I did manage to write up an entire paragraph with this nonsense, didn’t I? So it wasn’t a complete waste.

In all honesty, I really have no excuse for not finishing my ferrety Friday post, considering I’ve had an entire week to work on it. No excuse. Even if I’d written a few lines a day, I would have completed it. But alas, I’ve been surfing the internet during my free time and reading other people’s interesting blogs.

Photo from SXC

Now, seeing that I didn’t have (make) time to polish up the “where to get a ferret” post, I decided to put together a shorter one, albeit a very important one. About heat. Not the type that animals go through before they’re spayed or neutered (some humans too). The type where temperatures rise to such scorching levels that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. Alright, maybe not that high, but you get the message.

“What is so interesting about hot weather?”

It’s not so much interesting as it is important. Extremely important. Because ferrets do not handle heat well at all, and during the warmest months of the year when temperatures rise above 27°C (80°F), they can die from heatstroke within minutes if precautions are not taken. Interesting enough for you now?

"Yes" [Hangs head in shame]


When it’s very hot, a ferret should be kept indoors in an air-conditioned room, away from direct sunlight. If you don’t have air-conditioning, you will need to take other steps to prevent heat stress and heatstroke.

1 – Move your ferret to the coolest, shadiest room in the house.

2 – Provide plenty of cool water.

3 – Wrap an ice pack in a towel or tube sock and place it in the cage for your ferret to lie on.

4 – Fill up a spray bottle with cool water and squirt your fuzzy to cool him/her down.

5 – Place your ferret in a plastic (baby) pool or bathtub that is filled with a small amount of cool water where it can splash and cool off.

6 - Do not travel with your pet in a car on hot days unless you have air-conditioning.

“Why do they overheat so easily?”

Well, it depends on who you ask. One source of information will tell you that ferrets don’t have sweat glands. The other will state that they do have sweat glands, but that they are poorly developed. And still another will tell you that although they do have sweat glands, a ferret’s thick fur prevents evaporative cooling. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matters is that you have to prevent heatstroke, watch for symptoms of it and act quickly before it proves fatal.

Photo from SXC

“What should ferret owners watch for?”

Ferrets do not normally pant like dogs do, so if your fuzzy begins to do this, it’s a sign that he’s suffering from heat stress, and, unless you act immediately to prevent it, is in danger of heatstroke.

Signs of heatstroke include rapid panting, red or pale gums, depression, sluggishness, dizziness, disorientation, vomiting (may include blood), red tongue, dark red paws, thick, sticky saliva, shock and coma.

If you suspect that your fuzzy is suffering from heatstroke, take action immediately. Remove him from the hot area and begin to lower his internal temperature by applying cool water with a wet cloth on the key areas of his body (groin, lower stomach, feet), by submerging his body in lukewarm water (keep his head and upper body above the water) or by wrapping him in cool, wet towels.

Whatever method you choose, it must be done gradually. Cooling a ferret too quickly or lowering its temperature too much may cause other problems. Even if you manage to revive your pet, I will suggest that a trip to the vet’s office is vital to make sure that fuzzy is not dehydrated or suffering from other complications.

“Well, this certainly proved to be an important topic.”

You bet your sweaty glands it is. You can’t take chances with the heat or else you’ll lose your fuzzy wuzzy in minutes.

So that’s it folks. I did write much more than I’d planned but this is much too important an issue to cut short.

Now, as usual, let’s sign off with Bailey’s comments.

Hey Bailey, what do you say?

Awww...come here my fuzzy wuzzy...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Old Man Winter Returns But Wimps Out

So we had our snowstorm yesterday, and it can be summarized by one word: meh. For awhile, it looked really ugly outdoors, promising a really good, down and dirty Canadian snowfall. And it started off nicely. In fact, it was so intimidating in the beginning that my husband said “Turn on the Christmas lights to give the people hope”

Old man winter was stomping through the city, making lots of noise, dumping snow here and there and all of a sudden pffffft...it fizzled out. I mean I’ve seen some really impressive winter storms in my lifetime, really impressive. The type that include strong winds, freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall; all elements, that when combined, create near zero visibility and leave the city pretty much crippled. Well, yesterday’s storm was not one of them. Because old man winter wimped out.

Anyhow, here are a few pictures of yesterday’s (snort) BIG storm:

Alright, so that’s enough photos of this week’s snowfall, which is getting a little dull. But at least it helped fill up three days worth of blogging. And anyhow, tomorrow is ferrety Friday, and old man winter takes a back seat to that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Old Man Winter Returns

Some guests just don’t get when they’re overstaying their visit. Take old man winter, for example, the ‘cool’ dude that came to my city a couple of days ago and painted the town white. Well, he’s back. And this visit is not friendly. As I write this, he’s outside painting the town even whiter, but with a touch of rage (so much for the charm of winter; now it’s just plain ugly out there). Yessiree folks, we are having our first snowstorm. If I was a kid, I’d be jumping up and down with joy as I looked forward to all the fun things me, my brothers and the neighbourhood kids would enjoy outdoors. As an adult I’m already feeling the aches and pains that will come from having to clean the driveway and all the pathways free of snow. Most of the aches and pains will be my husband’s, but still. I will have sympathy pain.

Anyway, I wasn’t very happy about old man winter’s visit on Monday, but since he comes and goes as he pleases because he has free passes from Mother Nature, I really couldn’t do anything about it. At least the damage was minimal after he left; the temperature rose above zero, the sun came out and the city looked very charming with the (minimal) newly-fallen snow. And it was easy to clear the driveway and the pathway, so there were no aches and pains involved - sympathy-type or other. So all was well with my little northern world.

And to prove it, here are some more pretty pictures of the first visit:

The pictures below were taken by my daughter yesterday evening:

Nice, no?

Well, the old coot decided to return today with a vengeance, storming through the city as if he’s ticked off about something. Perhaps he had a fight with Mother Nature or father time or Santa Claus or the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy. Or who-e-ver. I really don’t care what his problem is. HE CAN’T HAVE A TANTRUM HERE.

Anyhow, there’s not much I can do about it. I will snap some pictures (during and after the snow) and post them on my blog. I know, I know, who the heck cares about my city’s weather? But since it’s hard to come up with posts this time of year, I figure I may as well milk this for all it’s worth.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Old Man Winter Comes To Town

Old man winter dropped by for a visit yesterday and painted the town white while he was here. This is what the city looked like after he was gone:

Even Mr. Inski’s spot wasn’t spared...

Now, as much as I don’t like winter, I will admit that it is very scenic. Even magical, if one were to really push the issue. But I think I would appreciate this ‘magical’ sight just as much in a postcard (while I’m sipping pina coladas on a tropical island) as I would up close. Perhaps in a place like this:

Fiji - Photo from SXC

In fact, I know would.