The Story of Huckleberry Finn Ferret
Huckleberry Finn Ferret, FIRST's mascot for the past three years,
was a loving, quiet, and gentle animal who enjoyed public appearances
and being seen with people of influence as he personalized the plight
of animals, particularly ferrets, and showed the world how wonderful
ferrets can be.
Found as a stray in the fall of 1996, he was an unaltered male
with an estimated age of four years. Clearly an escapee from one
of British Columbia's many ferret mills situated in the Abbotsford
region, Huckleberry endured the effects of severe misbreeding and
mistreatment that characterizes the circumstances of too many ferrets
raised in this province.
Malnourished, ill, and frightened of people, he suffered from chronic
gastrointestinal inflammations due to poor diet and untreated infection;
congenital deformations of the heart; congestive heart conditions;
and a grape-sized tumor above and behind the heart which impaired
his ability to eat and drink. Trauma to his face required the extraction
of three broken fangs and three incisors; two premolars were lost
due to disease. His spine was damaged in two areas where vertebrae
were misaligned, and he had severe arthritis in the haunches and
base of the tail, both conditions resulting from physical abuse.
In his last year he was prone to strokes and suffered blindness
due to detached retinas. Through this all, he still enjoyed life,
especially with his ferret family and his public outings as mascot.
Huckleberry was the fifth ferret taken in by FIRST after inception.
Due to his poor general condition and the high maintenance expected,
he was classified a ward of the Society, and, as such, would remain
permanently in the care of the Society. Unsuitable for adoption
and being a prime example of the misery a small animal can suffer,
he was chosen to be the Society's mascot. His scruffy appearance
and determined demeanor required a name suitable to him, and so
he became Huckleberry Finn in his new life.
Huckleberry stayed at the home to the Society's President while
his medical needs were seen to. He remained isolated from the five
resident ferrets during this period, having a small room to himself
for safety, as Rasputin, the only male ferret in the home, had demonstrated
a very powerful protective streak for his four girls and tended
to attack other ferrets mercilessly. At the end of his stay, Huckleberry
somehow managed to escape into the apartment at large while no one
was home. Upon the return home, a somewhat panicked search for either
a furry body or cowering ferret took place. After an hour's fruitless
search, an unfamiliar hindquarter was noticed in the ferrets' primary
nest -- Huckleberry, undisturbed and peacefully sleeping.
The resident ferrets immediately came up to peer into the nest.
Rasputin, the fearless and relentless defender of the home, climbed
in, curling himself around and over Huckleberry to protect him:
Huckleberry was home. Thereafter, Huckleberry's family of Rasputin,
Lucretia Borge, Minerva, and Jennifer would care for him and protect
him. Unfortunately, this little family would not last long. Within
a few months, Rasputin died of Aleutian disease, and Luci, his mate,
pined at his loss and also passed on. The loss of Rasputin, who
was thought a litter mate, marked the start of a long decline in
Huckleberry's health. Within the year, Minerva died, too, of lymphosarcoma.
New youngsters joined the family over the year: Lochinvar, Vlad
Teppis, Vampira, Gainesborough, and Dante. Huckleberry enjoyed the
youngsters, even if they were a touch too rambunctious for him,
and they all loved and respected their "grandpa Huckie,"
bringing him treats and grooming him. Though his illness, their
company and attention helped him cope.
Even with his degenerating health, he was happy to be involved
in activities which promoted the Society and its aims. Huckleberry
took part at the introduction of the Society to the Vancouver Regional
SPCA advisory board where he made a grand impression and helped
create the fundamental working relationship between the two societies.
At the 1997 Pet Fair, Huckleberry took up residence in a small tent
on the Society's table for the two days, happily snoozing away the
day and coming out to greet people or meet special guests such as
"Sarge," the police dog. He appeared at all events the
Society participated in. Never shy, he was in the spotlight whenever
possible to promote the welfare of ferrets.
Since November, 1998, Huckleberry was too ill to take part in any
events. His outings were restricted to short walks on warm, dry
days and the occasional visit to his vet's office, mostly just to
say "hello" and to supervise the clinic for a short while,
which he loved to do. It was clear that his health was deteriorating
quickly and he experienced a series of strokes. He remained at home
due to increasing incontinency and difficulty walking.
At 23:35 on the 21st March, FIRST's beloved mascot, Huckleberry
Finn Ferret, passed away peacefully from an apparent heart failure
at an estimated age of seven years, having spent the entire last
weekend of his life happily cuddled-up with his parents and loving
No ferret has overcome so much adversity to do so much for the
welfare of other ferrets. He is sorely missed.
FIRST will establish a memorial fund in Huckleberry's name to assist
in the emergency care of badly abused ferrets and to promote legislation
to protect animals from abuse. Donations to this cause will be gratefully
(Huckleberry's total veterinary expenses came to $1,865.50, of
which $738.98 were while he was cared for by the Society, the rest
was covered privately by his parents. All these fees were heavily
subsidized by Huckleberry's vet. Additionally, there were several
procedures which were not charged for. The real cost of caring for
Huckleberry was at least twice the total.)