Of Ferrets and Men

Back when Josh was in high school, we studied Steinbeck’s novelOf Mice and Men. It was a bittersweet portrayal of the friendship between two men named George and Lennie. Lennie is a large man with a mental disability who is very devoted to George and dependent on him for guidance. Although others consider Lennie to be limited in most capacities, he proves himself to be a strong and tireless worker for even the hardest of manual labor jobs. Lennie likes to touch things, and has a love for petting small, furry animals. He dreams of one day living in a house with George and tending rabbits. Lennie is a big guy with a soft spot for little animals, who is only appreciated by those around him for his ability to utilize his size and strength as he works alongside George. After Josh and his sister, Beth, finished the book we discussed the plot and concluded that literature unit. It was a month or so after that when Josh told me he identified with Lennie. My son is a big guy, 6’3″ now and was probably over 6′ at the time. His shoulders are broad and with his AD/HD he has always had more energy than most. His learning disabilities have caused some people to conclude that he just isn’t that bright though he comes in handy for reaching things up high and for carrying heavy loads. As Beth pointed out, Josh is really smart but he just doesn’t have the kind of smart that shows up very well. In any case, it saddened me to see the similarities that Josh recognized between Lennie and himself. Josh also works a job that requires a lot of manual labor, and, like Lennie, he loves animals. We have three pets that he dutifully helps tend to, and he volunteers with the cats at our local humane society. He adopted an abandoned ferret from the humane society, and with all the animals he has been gentle and attentive. His ferret, Tabitha, had been abandoned in an apartment closet when the previous owners moved out. When Josh got her, she was an adult of undetermined age and he had gone out and bought all the supplies needed to care for her. He had sole responsibility for his pet, so when she got sick we found a vet who treated small pets. Josh found out that Tabitha was having seizures, and he had to give her medicine twice a day. The medicine needed refrigeration, so Josh bought a small refrigerator to keep in his room near her cage. Tabitha quickly learned to turn her head away from the medicine syringe and to clamp her furry ferret lips closed, but Josh never grew impatient with her. He talked to her and persisted until he got the medicine she needed into her. Despite this care, Tabitha developed new health problems, and Josh made several more trips to the vet. Tabitha was losing fur, was having seizures, needed medicines to counteract the side effects of the other medicines, and was often up during the night disturbing Josh’s sleep. Through all of this, Josh never complained, but continued to buy the medicines and special food the vet recommended. He crooned to Tabitha and held her, telling her she was still cute despite having lost most of her fur. Last week, Tabitha was in obvious pain and returned to the vet to see if she could be helped but to no avail. She died on Sunday, and Josh was not surprised but was saddened to lose his Tabitha. We don’t know how old she was, but Josh had been her owner for the last couple years. He brought her home to bury her, and I watched out the window as my big, strong son carefully tended to his ferret for the last time.

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