Since it opened in the early 2000s, WeezleWings Ferret Sanctuary operated by Susie Riddle has hospiced 67 fursnakes (Riddle’s term for ferrets), but that’s only the number of ferrets that were helped directly at the sanctuary. Riddle said WeezleWings has also paid for many non-WWFS ferrets to have veterinary care and surgeries (most of whom they’ve met, although many they have not) sent emergency supplies, and acted as liaisons between prospective adopters and other shelters.
It’s impossible to say exactly how many ferrets have been helped by WeezleWings, because of the many ways WeezleWings helps. It opened its doors in the past to many ferret shelters so the shelter-owners could take vacations, travel or have respite from the day-to-day rigors of operation. “We have done this in the past on many occasions and up to six months at a time,” Riddle said. “WeezleWings also has been contacted many times and has been instrumental in keeping many large surrendered or abandoned groups together, with one or two members of the groups deemed unadoptable, these groups are extremely hard to place.”
WeezleWings typically houses 25 ferrets, although that can change rapidly. Riddle said the number of ferrets at the sanctuary depends on the resources at hand and the donations the sanctuary receives.
Riddle considers each and every ferret case rewarding. “Whether they are an immediate hospice situation or if they become a WeezleWings resident for any length of time. It’s an honor to have been able to love each and every fursnake and to help every one we can.”
On its website, Riddle said bios for the ferrets focus on their future, not any horrors the ferrets survived in the past. She wants to focus on the positive, not the negative. “Since so much of what we do centers around end-of-life care, it’s often hard to stay upbeat,” Riddle said. “We have become adept at supportive and calm bridge crossings, and we have our own grieving process. Afterward we work hard to focus on the happy times shared with each ferret.” She said they celebrate the ferret lives as much as they mourn their passing.
Sponsor A Ferret
Riddle said that what WWFS needs most are sponsors for its ferrets. ““The average WeezleWings fursnake has a high degree of medication, medical supply and veterinary needs, as well as food, soup and special supplement costs,” she said. “Often it takes more than one permanent sponsor per ferret to help us get them what they need to stay happy, healthy and comfortable. Any donations of money, ferret or sanctuary items are always appreciated.” And of course the daily staples of ferret food (dry and moist), paper towels, supplements, Ferretone and baby wipes.
Those who sponsor ferrets get periodic updates. “So many of our sponsors and donators bond with their ferrets,” Riddle said, “and it warms our hearts to see so much love coming from their aunts and uncles who have never even met them, most having no clue how much their monetary support and occasional gifts to the ferrets enable the sanctuary to continue operating and help more ferrets.”
Behind The Scenes At The Ferret Sanctuary
A typical day at the sanctuary involves the usual feeding, cleaning, medicating, rotating play groups and more. And emergencies can happen any time and require immediate attention. “I am usually in the background ‘fursnaking’ so it is very important and necessary for our volunteer staff to be the face and voice of the sanctuary,” Riddle said. “I count my lucky stars for the wonderful staff WWFS has now. Connie Chrobot is amazing and can step into my shoes in an instant if needed. She makes a five-hour drive to the sanctuary every month or so and stays two weeks at a time to help with everything, from ferret care and sanctuary repairs to vet and supply runs. She also sews unique and sought-after bedding for WWFS fundraisers.”
Riddle also praised Donna Hogarth, who operates the website. “She does an excellent job at updating our website on a regular basis. We can honestly say the website has never looked as good as it does now, and we have Donna to thank for it. She also sponsors Roux-Bear and Snoodlebug at the sanctuary. Add to all of this that she’s a very calm person who is able to stay focused on the situation at hand, and it’s easy to see she has a grounding effect on us.”
Marnie Schagunn is another volunteer for WWFS. “Marnie is a creative genius and a driving force behind some of our fundraising ideas,” Riddle said. “Marnie also sponsors Citie Boi, one of the sanctuary’s fursnakes.”
A vital person for any ferret sanctuary or rescue is a ferret-knowledgeable veterinarian, and WWFS has that. “Dr. Kenneth Kimbrough is our hero,” Riddle said. “He has gone out of his way on many occasions to stabilize WeezleWings fursnakes, from controlling terrible seizures to juggling blood transfers from several ferrets to another needing immediate transfusion. Dr. Kimbrough is very ferret-savvy and that is important in itself. A good vet is essential”
Kimbrough said he’s dealt with Riddle for about 10 years and operated on many of the WWFS ferrets. He believes Riddle has a gift. “Most people don’t have the time and patience, and most don’t have the knowledge to do what she does,” he said. “She’s uniquely suited to the task she’s undertaken. Many ferrets in her care live considerably longer than they would in another person’s care. Susie’s a real special person. I don’t know anyone else like her.”
Riddle sums up her thoughts. “The WWFS volunteer staff and Dr. Kimbrough are the real heroes at WeezleWings, not me,” she said. “I get to do the thing I love and that’s taking care of the fursnakes!”
Advice For Ferret Owners
Riddle said the best thing ferret owners can do is learn everything they can about ferrets. “Their dietary needs and the challenges they’ll face as they age,” she said. “Also make sure you’ve got a ferret-knowledgeable vet and that you maintain a good rapport with him or her. Remember that a ferret, or any other companion animal, isn’t disposable. When you bring one into your life you do it for that animal’s lifetime. Keep in mind that your pet’s life is likely to be shorter than yours, so enjoy every minute you can in the company of your pets. Make your time together count.”