I have intentionally prolonged the posting of this update, mostly for my sake. I have sometimes questioned whether I would ever be ready to write about this, and though I do believe I am still in need of further emotional healing, I have decided to undertake writing this post for your reading in spite of it.
Before I begin recounting this heart-wrenching tragedy, I would like for you to really get to know who Sebastian was and what he meant to me. I hope that upon finishing reading this perhaps lengthy post, you will, to some degree, see Sebastian through my eyes - as a unique, irreplaceable individual with a sweet soul.
When I brought Sebastian home in January 2013, I was unaware of how that tiny ball of irresistible fuzz would touch and change my life. Early on I discovered his notable ear for music as I plucked a song on my guitar one day and little Sebastian laid next to it on the couch, listening intently. I made it our evening routine, after his long, eventful days of intense play and terrorizing the house, to sit back on the couch with the guitar. There was no feeling so warm and satisfying as watching those content, burgundy eyes gradually close as Sebastian drifted off into a sleep while I played for him. There are many moments in life that you wish would last a lifetime; those evenings certainly could be categorized as such.
Bringing Sebastian out of his cage in the mornings always resulted in me being buried with his affectionate weasel kisses, usually on my nose. It was not uncommon for him to make a flying leap from the upper shelf of his cage into the refuge of my arms. He subsequently transformed himself into a scarf by wrapping his slender body around my neck, and while perched on my shoulders he would proceed to cover my ears and cheeks with more kisses. This roost that my shoulders served as always remained Sebastian's favourite hangout. Several times each day the sound of his pitiful ferret-whimper was audible and I would feel his paws against my legs as he begged for a ride, pleading with his beady, sparkling eyes. Occasionally he napped there, although most of the time he refused to miss out on the excitement surrounding him.
A daily ritual of ours was taking a stroll out to the field for burrow-digging, and quite often, Nana or Kaiser would accompany us to partake in the activity. The determination that powered Sebastian's short forepaws as he clawed at the earth was quite entertaining. His perseverance paid off, and before long his burrow became remarkably impressive. Each day he lengthened and perfected it, and during his breaks he would dook and "war-dance" around his masterpiece. His burrow came to be roughly one foot deep and three feet long.
Each day, of course, was spent racing through the house, chasing Nana or Kaiser, or stashing various objects that tickled his fancy - Nana's toys, food dishes larger than himself, the dust pan, water bottles, cash and receipts, wallets, socks, gloves, shoes and other footwear, Nana's tail (or so he tried), etc. I was provided with daily amusement observing which objects he found of particular value, and watching where he hid them was sometimes equally amusing. On one occasion, I witnessed little Sebastian attempting to purloin the big dog bed and hide it in a closet like a master criminal. As you can probably guess, the hilarity of the event prevented me from immediately reclaiming his loot. I decided to utilize his "stashing" instinct and taught him to tidy up his toys on cue, placing them all in a fuzzy basket I bought for the purpose. It was a trick that never failed to incite smiles and laughter in visitors.
I always admired Sebastian's social nature, especially with other animals. Sebastian and Paris (the largest of my rats) were the most unique and exceptional pair, for the two shared an incredible inter-species relationship. Paris resembled a little hair stylist as she meticulously groomed and cleaned the unruly hairs on Sebastian's back, while he of course continued to explore his surroundings. Kaiser was Sebastian's chief play-mate. It was with Kai that he would engage in all of his intense wrestling matches with Nana playing the role of the referee. Needless to say, Sebastian was always the victor as he was far too quick to catch and small enough to weasel in behind the furniture out of reach.
Sebastian's outstanding intelligence and problem-solving skills are unparalleled. I could see the wheels in his head turning as I taught him behaviours and it was nothing short of fascinating watching him learn, even for his own purposes. He had taught himself to get atop the stove by climbing onto Nana's back, then onto a chair, and finally onto the stove (thank goodness, it was turned off when he did this). Nana's cooperation with his plan, to me, was just as entertaining. He had at another time taught himself to open the kitchen cupboards and raid all the pots and pans (which then needed to get rewashed). He certainly kept me on my toes with his antics, but I loved every minute of it.
At the end of those especially long and hard days we would have a movie night. With Nana at my feet and Kaiser on the couch next to me, curled up snugly in my arms or on my lap was Sebastian, who was at last exhausted from the day's adventures. Only occasionally would he stir to reposition himself before falling back asleep. These special evenings together, too, I would place in that category of moments I wish lasted forever.
|Sebastian sleeping on my lap|
Of course I could continue writing more about my Sebastian and his zany personality, but I am afraid that it would fill an entire book or two. And there are always those certain things about him that no words can truly describe and no sentences can convey; those things that you just learn and understand about someone by living and bonding with them. Though I may not be able to present these details to you, at least with this short introduction and video compilation you have some sort of idea of who Sebastian was. I hope by now you have at least gathered that Sebastian was a huge part of my life and a cherished family member, and if that is all you have gathered, I am satisfied. I love my little weasel immeasurably.
The events of this unfortunate ordeal began when I discovered diarrhea in Sebastian's litter box. For those of you who are unfamiliar with ferrets and ferret health, loose stools or diarrhea can be a symptom of a blockage or numerous other illnesses, some life-threatening, and therefore its presence should never be dismissed. Sebastian was taken to the veterinarian immediately. An examination was done and x-rays were performed, which confirmed that there was no blockage. He was sent home with medication for his diarrhea and I was told to call immediately if it did not clear up. When Sebastian did not respond to the medication, he was back at the vet's office. Another physical exam, blood-work, and other tests were done to explore the possibility of juvenile lymphoma as well as to gather additional information to aid in confirming his illness. He was put on further medication while his vet contacted other ferret specialists, who advised her to put Sebastian on the medication he had already been on.
|Sebastian's front legs "knuckling over"|
During this time, Sebastian lost his appetite and would only eat when fed by hand. Shortly afterwards he stopped drinking also, leaving me to give him water via syringe every 30 minutes to an hour. Also at this time, Sebastian's front legs began "knuckling over", a condition I was familiar with in dogs (called carpal flexural deformity) but never in ferrets. Sebastian was back at the vet's several other times and put on a calcium supplement, which I must say did ameliorate the problem in his front legs. I made an appointment for Sebastian to see another well-versed exotic vet (not local) and brought him in the following day. He was given an injection of subcutaneous fluids for rehydration and stayed at the clinic overnight while they did more x-rays and performed tests.
When I picked up Sebastian the next day he was sent home with additional medication, an IV unit, and a high quality food to aid in his recovery. The veterinarian told me once she received the results from the tests she could determine the best route to take for getting him better.
On the evening of June 7th as I put my little weasel to bed for the night, he lifted his head and looked into my eyes as if he was beseeching me to play with him. I tossed one of his toys in his direction, and to my surprise he gripped it with his teeth and pulled it into his bed. It was the first playful gesture I had seen of him since he took ill; I was filled with a new hope that he would get well again soon.
The following morning of June 8th, Sebastian made no attempt to arise from his comfortable hammock. I lifted him gingerly from his bed and before I attempted to hand-feed him his breakfast, I noticed something in his eyes. The way he looked at me.... it cut me like a knife. Some people say that animals can't talk, but I could never so strongly disagree as that moment when I looked into his eyes. It was as if I was looking right into his soul; like his eyes were speaking directly to me. And Sebastian's message to me was clear. He was telling me goodbye.
I held out my hand as I spoke softly to him and with his remaining strength he licked it twice, then slipped into a coma. I held him in my arms for some time before replacing him in his favourite hammock.
It was at around 4:30 that afternoon when Sebastian breathed his last. I have been overwhelmed with devastation since that moment. I was determined to discover exactly what had taken the life of my baby at such a young age and why. He deserved a life so much longer than the short six months he was given and it grieved me deeply that this had happened to him.
While I waited for the results from the previous tests, I had decided to get a post-mortem examination done for more information concerning his cause of death. On June 17th Sebastian's vet spoke with me regarding the initial notes gathered from the necropsy (which wasn't done locally). They had found a "large abdominal mass" located under his spleen; both of us were extremely puzzled as to why this went undetected and did not show up on any of the x-rays. She believes the location of it may have contributed to its remaining hidden, with his other organs blocking the view. They are currently examining the mass to determine whether or not it is cancerous and are doing other tests also. I am still awaiting the results.
To say I am vexed that we had not located the tumour while there was still time is an understatement. Of course, it is quite possible that the surgery still would not have saved him, especially if he does test positive for lymphoma (I am waiting for the results). I still wish there was more I could have done for him; it absolutely breaks my heart in pieces. I don't believe anyone can truly understand the immense pain I am in.
The most difficult stage in tragic events like these is adjusting to life without that special someone. The family now seems...... incomplete, for lack of a better word. Sebastian's vivacious personality and enthusiasm was infectious. He brought everyone to life with his spright, and that was one trait I truly admired about Sebastian. Even while he was ill, he never allowed the problems of life to influence his emotions. I wonder how different this world would be if we people learned to do the same.
In the evenings I habitually sit on the couch to play guitar, but it is no longer the same. The feeling of loneliness suddenly permeates my heart - it shatters when I look at that empty spot on the couch next to me where Sebastian would curl up to listen to the music. I close my eyes and envision that he is right there next to me, listening to the strings being plucked and drifting off into a sleep. Sometimes I feel that, somehow, he is listening. Even if he is not with me, physically, he still remains in my heart.
I cannot express how much I miss having Sebastian on my shoulders keeping me company and occasionally licking my ears. His pitiful whimper is a sound I shall never forget - a sound he made when he begged for a shoulder ride or when I was out of his sight and he was searching for me. Sometimes I think I hear it, then suddenly become aware of the silence in the house as if awakened from a daydream. Once again I become filled with loneliness.
I will be searching intensely for an item or one of Nana's toys only to discover it strategically hidden in the closet or under the couch. My heart breaks at the sight of it, and a part of me wants to let it remain where he placed it. But I know I must move on, and that is really the hardest part.
The world keeps on turning even in the event of such a tragedy. I look outside at the farmer plowing his field and my heart breaks knowing that Sebastian's special tunnel is now gone. Though it is true that there are no things in life that last forever, nothing can rob me of the memories Sebastian and I had made together. In the end, those are what really matter.
It can be hard during these especially difficult times to prevent one's self from becoming depressed, miserable, or angry. Though at times it may be tempting to do so, I instead remember Sebastian and his positive perspective on life. Even through the hard times, he always had a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye, and he lived his days to the fullest. He has inspired me to try to do the same.
Though you may not have known Sebastian personally as I have, I hope that he has touched you in some way. I hope that when you look at his pictures or watch his videos, you do not see him as "just another ferret". He wasn't just a ferret. He was Sebastian.
I will always love you, Sebastian. There will never be another like you. Thank you for filling my life with the joy and laughter that you brought to everyone you met. You are special, and I feel honoured to have been the one you shared those six months of your life with. There was nothing you could have done to make me love you more, nor to make me more proud of who you are. Thank you for being you.
Rest in Peace, my little Sebastian Willoughby.
|Sebastian Willoughby: November 18, 2012-June 8, 2013|
♥ My Little Shadow ♥