I’ve always been a bit conflicted regarding the subject of pets. On one hand, I hate the concept of ownership of another living thing. On the other hand, I love the adorable, little things. If left on my own, I probably would not have a pet, but my wife was a ferret owner before I came along, so when we moved in together, we all became part of the same family. Since then, our family has grown. Animals take up a significant part of our life now, so allow me to introduce you to our triumvirate of triumvirates.
I’ve already mentioned these guys to you and, since they were our first pets, it seems only right that I should talk about them first. Currently, we have 3; one male, Ollie, and two females, Luna and Harley. They are rescue ferrets, as all of ours have been for the past decade or so. The most ferrets we’ve had at any one time is five, which is a lot of ferrets. They are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active during dawn and dusk, and are obligate carnivores. Mischievous and sly, they have the “fuck you” attitude that I like in my pets. They’ll sleep 20 hours out of a day and spend the rest planning an Oceans 11 style bank heist.
Before you get any ideas about owning a ferret, let me destroy them for you. Ferrets are not for you. I have talked more people out of owning ferrets than I have talked people out of suicide, and I worked on a suicide hotline. Born escape artists, if you don’t tirelessly scrutinize every inch of whatever area you’re going to keep them in, they will find a way out. They will be gone and most likely dead inside of a week. Leave anything around for them to chew on and something will inevitably get stuck in their intestinal track and, boom, dead. That or surgery for a few grand. Courageous to the point of stupidity, they laugh in death’s face every damn day. Oh, did I mention their tendency towards adrenal disease and kidney failure? I’ve fed the little suckers by hand, injected water under their skin (sub-Q) to keep them hydrated and stayed awake over 24 hours at a stretch caring for one post-op. Unless you love ferret enough to see yourself doing those things, ferrets are not for you.
When we first expanded our menagerie, chickens were our first non-ferret to join. I gotta admit, these girls are hard to love. They are not cuddly. They do not love you. They are straight up bitches sometimes. That being said, if you had any idea how much chicken art I’ve done, then you know I find them gorgeous. Also, you can’t beat fresh eggs from your own free range chickens. I shit you not. Seriously, the difference between what our girls lay and the bland, uniform monstrosities that you buy in the grocery store is straight up legit.
These guys do demand a degree of vigilance, because everything thinks they are so very tasty. I’ve fought off more than one racoon who was looking for our little Chic-fil-A. We’ve lost at least one to a raccoon and one just disappeared. Could’ve been a hawk that flew off with it, but there weren’t even signs of a struggle. We have an 8 x 8 chicken run, walled in on all sides with fine mesh (about 1cm, I think) wire screening on all sides. When I say all sides, I mean it; four walls, a top and a bottom. Why a bottom? Because you wouldn’t believe the number of things that want to burrow up from below. If not to eat our chickens, then to get to their tasy, tasty feed.
The latest addition to our crew are two Nigerian dwarf goats near the end of 2017, Colleen and Moon Pie. Colleen got bred and, in the summer of 2018, gave birth to our little chocolate chunk, Starfire. We didn’t initially intend to keep Starfire, but she kind of grew on us and now we have three goats, hence, our triumvirate of triumvirates. They are pets, but we milk them, too. Or rather, my wife milks them; I have yet to put in the time in to learn. She uses the milk to make cheese and yogurt.
I lump goats into one of three categories: meat, milk and fiber, depending on their uses. Ours are basically pets, so there’s a fourth category, but goats, in general, are considered livestock, so have been defined by the resources they provide. As much as I love goat meat, the last thing either my wife or I want is a slaughterhouse in our backyard. The neighbors probably wouldn’t be too thrilled either. Since my wife spins and knits her own fiber, I would’ve guessed that we would have fiber goats, but the cheese making won out. No complaints here. I like our goats, and their milk, just fine.
Speaking of our backyard, we actually delivered Starfire ourselves there. It was quite the experience. I can remember, back in medical school and internship, being with an OB/GYN doc and waiting for a patient to go into labor. Just waiting for my pager to go off. Yes, I’m that old, we used pagers. It could be an hour or it could be a day. Every minute that ticked off was one spent in anxious anticipation, like an exam that one was nervous about and the proctor could jump out at any moment, even if you were asleep, and proceed to start the test. Waiting for Starfire to be born was very much like that. Not having any experience in recognizing the signs of goat labor, we probably spent a week or two in that Sword of Damocles state, getting maybe 3-5 hours of sleep a night. Once it began, the delivery itself was over in about 40 minutes, but, boy, that waiting. And, we’re about to breed Colleen and Moon Pie again, so hopefully I’ll handle it better this time. On the plus side, I’ll have a blog post all about new baby goats in a few months, so it’ll all be worth it.