Thursday, 29 November 2018

Losing My First Pet

I would like to tell you, strangers on the internet, the story of my first pet, Jay Jay.

By first pet I don’t mean the first pet I ever had in my life, I had lots of family pets growing up. An array of kittens, stray cats (much to my mum's annoyance) and an incredible rescue dog. Plus eleven goldfish, can you believe you could just win them at the fair?

What I mean is the first pet that was just mine

Have you ever seen the film Along Came Polly? Jennifer Aniston is some care-free, commitment-phobic girl who starts dating over analysing, extreme worrier Reuben. Well, in the film Jennifer’s character has an adorable blind ferret, named Rodolfo.

Ever since I saw that film I just had to get a ferret. I was looking for one over the summer after my first year at university, when my friend, who I hadn’t spoken with in a while, called me up out of the blue and said she knew someone who had a litter of ferrets and would I want one.


The next day I was stood in a strangers cold backyard, being shown a business of ferrets and trying to decide which one I wanted.

It had been raining that day and there was one particular ferret that would put his head in a small puddle on top of the wooden cage, look surprised and shake the water out of hi whiskers. Then repeat the whole thing again. And again and again.

Obviously that tiny idiot was the ferret for me.

I picked him up, looked deep into his small black eyes and realised that, wow, I knew bugger all about ferrets.

So I took him home, stopping off to pick up a book on ferrets on the way back.

I fell in love with his cute furry face straight away, though I was totally scared I’d do the wrong thing and screw him up.

I named him Jay Jay because in a Lorelei Gilmore moment I thought why shouldn’t I name him after myself. My middle name is Jayne and my sister often calls me Jay Jay.

He was my favourite thing in my world.

I took him to university with me, much to the displeasure of my housemates. Spoiler alert, not everyone wants a smelly ferret in their house (they don’t smell that bad...sort of).

He was so loving towards me, following me around and giving me kisses, we had a great bond. 

After university I moved straight into rented accommodation with my partner, which meant I had to get a job, any job, and quick.

Unlucky for me and thousands of other students, I left university during the recession, so jobs were few and far between.

I ended up doing pain inducing shift work for the next two years. That meant early starts, late nights and working almost every weekend. 

As a result, I was hardly home at the same time as my partner, and with most of my friends having moved back home after university I now had a lot of free time  with nobody to spend it with. It was during one of these fun, lonely days that I set up an Instagram account for Jay Jay. After all, I was spending the majority of my free time with him. 

I’m extremely glad I started his instagram, it made me capture many memories.

A couple years later my partner and I made the move to Manchester. Since we had a lovely new flat we decided we should get Jay Jay a lovely new three storey cage as well.

We were a happy little family.

A few months after we moved we noticed Jay Jay had started to slump a little. It didn’t happen often, so we didn’t think anything of it, especially as ferrets tend to flop themselves on the floor whenever they’re tired.

One day we were taking him on a walk around Salford Quays. Usually he was hyperactive on walks but this time he kept slumping all the way, his back legs would just drop to the floor.

We got worried and started looking up vets as soon as we were back at the flat. Not all vets are specialists in small animals so we had to find one that was. 

What followed was a lot of tests, surgery and uncertainty.

For a while they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. He got some antibiotics, but they didn’t work. He got other medication, but that didn’t work either.

Eventually they did exploratory surgery and discovered he had a cyst around one of his veins, which was restricting the blood flow to his legs, hence why he couldn’t use them and kept slumping. 

They reckon it was probably caused by him falling over, and some dead cells clustering.

It was too close to the spine for the vet to operate on, so they gave us some more medication to try and help.

But things just got worse. Eventually end Jay Jay lost control of his bladder. He would poo in his bed, but we had to squeeze his swollen bladder to make him wee. 

It was then that we realised, after weeks of hope, tears and vet bills, there was nothing more that we could do.

It wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, it’s one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life.

I looked online and read many articles on ‘how to know when it is time to let go of a pet’ to seek confirmation.

We knew it was the right decision, there were several signs, but it all amounted to the fact that Jay Jay’s quality of life was no longer there.

He soiled himself, we had to help him wee, he struggled to move around, he could no longer do the things he used to enjoy, medication was not helping him. We made one last call to the vets. 

When we took him there they told us that there was nothing more they could do and they advised putting him down.

It was time to say a very tearful goodbye.

We passed him between us several times, showering him with hugs and kisses. I made sure I had the last hug and kiss, before handing him to the vet.

Handing him over was the most painful thing I have ever done. 

Once I let him go that would be the last time I held him, the last time I kissed him and the last time I saw him.

I knew what was about to happen to him.

I can’t fully describe the guilt I felt. He was my first pet, I was responsible for him. I was supposed to look after him and make sure no harm came to him. 

By handing him over it was almost as if I was administering the injection myself. 

Thankfully the vets don’t ask for you to pay straight away, they let you go home and pay later, so I got to run out of there before the major crying started.

That evening I decorated a shoe box and filled it with things, like his favourite blanket and favourite cat teddy.

In fact, it was the only teddy he would ever play with. My mum got him a few throughout the years but he would drop them all in his litter tray, saving the spot in his bed for the cat. 

The next day I called in sick for work and took Jay Jay back to my home town to bury him. We chose a spot in the beautiful woods near my dads house. 

I spent the next few days racked with guilt and overflowing with tears.

In the morning I’d go to check on him before remembering what had happened. Or I would dream about him and wake up thinking about what happened.

Whenever I saw his empty cage I would feel a stabbing pain in my heart, I started to avoid going near it.

As with all things like this, time is the only healer. With every week that passed the pain ebbed away a little bit more. 

I could think of him without turning into a human horse pipe and share his stories without choking up. 

A while later, on a dark rainy morning, the kind of morning where everything went wrong, my boyfriend told me he had seen an advertisement for ferrets for sale.

Initially I felt very guilty for even thinking about getting another ferret. That would be disrespectful to Jay Jay. If I got another ferret, did that mean I didn't love Jay Jay?

I decided to just go for it, and that evening we went to pick up two gorgeous chocolate brown ferrets, which we named Fudge and Brownie (after my favourite Ben & Jerry's flavour).

I instantly fell in love with them, just like with Jay Jay, they were so flipping adorable.

Eventually the guilt dissolved as I realised I could love these new ferrets and Jay Jay at the same time.

I still miss him a great deal, and I always will.
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