1999 – May 25, 2008
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Dante Doodle was old and his broken down body in pain but he was young in spirit and remained a fighter ‘till the very end. My Doodlebug was always a fighter – he fought his medicine, the sub-q fluids, using the litter box, and was always resistant to new foods but I never minded. It was the day he stopped fighting that I feared and that day came way too soon. Even in the shadow of death, I believe Dante was refusing to give up his fight for life, for my sake, but I couldn’t bear to watch him labor with each breath and struggle just to move any part of his body, knowing how much pain it was causing him. Pain and suffering he just didn’t deserve. Dante wanted his life and wanted to live it well and I tried to give him every opportunity to do just that. As I watched my little boy endure and rally back from surgeries and a host of illnesses, I realized that Dante’s life was just as important to him as it was to me and therefore I was willing and compelled to do whatever it took to give him the best life possible, for as long as possible. There is no difference in the will to live life and to live life with a will and purpose and Dante and I gave each other a bit of both.
I do not wish I could have had one more day, one more hour, or even one more minute with Dante - my Doodlebug, my Mr. McGoo, my Doodle Schmoodle - because I know that would have only meant one more day, one more hour, or one more minute he would have been suffering in terrible pain at my expense. But if only I could have had just one more moment to pour into my Dante Doodle one more ounce of love so I could make sure he knew just how MUCH I loved him - that's all I would have asked for. Of course, if I could truly have any wish granted, it would be that Dante would have never experienced any pain and discomfort from his illnesses because he didn't deserve to suffer. My Doodlebug deserved the fulfillment of my promise to give him unconditional love and comfort, total devotion, the best medical treatment available to him, enough food, water, and treats so he would never know hunger or thirst, and a wonderful, clean, safe home for the remainder of his days here on earth. I do believe I kept every part of my promise to him but knowing that still doesn’t ease the grief or emptiness in my heart right now because the one thing I could neither promise nor give Dante was eternal life.
Dante Doodle was someone else’s throw away and burden but he was the light of my life, an absolute delight, an angel, and my treasure. He was already old (to the ferret world at least) at 6½ yrs. of age when he came to me (it was shortly after my Snowball’s passing during Memorial Day weekend, 2006) but Doodlebug was no less feisty, independent, strong-willed, stubborn, playful, crafty, and precocious than ferrets half his age. It was well-known that Dante didn’t care for other ferrets and try as I might to find him a suitable playmate and companion, he made it clear to me that he wanted no one in his life but me. He just preferred human interaction, he loved being loved on, and never tired of receiving constant attention. Dante Doodle was a wonderful ambassador to the ferret community and everyone he met fell instantly in love with him, me included, so that’s the way it was – just Jen & Dante. Despite the stubborn, independent side of his personality though, Dante really was a very loving, gentle, tolerant, patient ferret with such personality and character who just never really grasped that he was only a ferret and not human.
Although Dante had a host of silly quirks, he was quite content with his small comforts, didn’t demand much (except when it came to food), and was perfectly happy to go about his small bit of business every day. Dante Doodle always seemed to be on an important mission – some mysterious quest when he toodled around the house, checking out the same things in the same places every day. But I gave him freedom and his independence to have his secret missions and, in return, he was my shoulder to cry on and my “cuddle fuzzy” (incidentally, he sometimes resisted cuddle time like a stubborn old man too proud to admit he’s NOT too much of a man for that “mushy” stuff). However, near the end of his time on earth, Dante stopped resisting the constant hugs, cuddles, and kisses I smothered him with and I’m convinced he secretly enjoyed having his head massaged, being stroked behind his ears, and being wrapped in his blankets while snuggling next to me in my bed.
Dante’s list of quirks, likes, and dislikes seemed to grow every day but I was always happy to oblige him (with an occasional grumbling of course). His favorites were drinking water from the bathtub drain, snuggling in the pocket of our favorite "stadium fleece blanket", car rides, removing and hiding my shoe insoles, salad shrimp, chicken N-bones, practically all things sugary and sweet, and he was overly fond of anything with a rubber handle (which landed him in emergency surgery for a gastro-intestinal blockage in late ‘07). His dislikes? That’s easy – anything not on his list of “likes”! I’ll never understand how a ferret that hated baths loved frolicking in the bathtub with the water trickling and climbing out soaking wet. Nor will I ever understand why one ferret needed at least five different beds in one room! And there is no explanation why my Doodlebug loved the salad shrimps but wouldn’t touch large shrimp, why he would tip over his water bowl and lick the water from the floor, and why he would eat cooked chicken pieces (warmed of course) but turned his cute, speckled nose up at chicken soup (basically pureed chicken, water, and Nutri-Cal). But that was Dante and as quirky as he was, my Doodlebug brought such immeasurable joy and laughter to my life and is what made him so endearing.
I will always love you Dante Doodle – my Mr. McGoo, my Doodle Schmoodle, my little boy – with a very special love that no other will ever know. It was truly a privilege to share time and life with you and I am forever grateful to God for entrusting to me the care of such a beautiful, sweet, loving, precious, funny little creature as you were. I have never been more proud to wear any title than that of “Dante’s mom”. You earned your wings the moment you were born so now fly to the Bridge with your healthy new body and frolic free from all pain and suffering. I love you with an everlasting love and will think of you every day and cherish every memory of you I am blessed to have in my heart.
Note: I have requested a private cremation so that Dante’s remains will always be with me and I’ll also keep his squishy ball, green clover print blanket, a well-worn crocheted egg ‘sock’, and a placard with his paw prints and locks of fur on it.
by Katie Butler-Ackenback
The little creature snuggled all the while in the arms of the Lord,
The little creature snuggled all the while in the arms of the Lord,