Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mister Gus

Our good buddy—Gus, Mister Gus, Guster, the Bumble, Sweet Kisses—is gone.

This little white ferret lived a good life with us, entering our house with his three pals, Blink, the Dude, and She-Devil, eventually outlasting them all. For the last year or so of his life, he was a solo ferret, and a very good one. Being a ferret was what he loved, and he did it with pride.

Of course, he was a little OCD. That comes from being a ferret, I think. (I was going to say "anal," but that just brought memories of this.) There were a number of items that he obsessed about. He had a toy shaped like a jack that he tried to pull into a hanging hammock tube. He’d carry it in his teeth from the bottom of the cage to the top, rest it on the platform, climb into the tube and pull it. It was too big to get in, but he spent a lot of time trying. (And at one point, he even succeeded, bringing the jack through a slit at the top! A proud day.)

Then there were the jingle balls. They needed to go in the corner, in a little nook between the CD racks. We could shake the little balls and send them rolling around the room, and he’d unfailingly bring them to where he could keep an eye on them.

But his greatest accomplishment was Sweet Kisses. For Valentine’s Day, Kathy gave me a blue heart-shaped pillow that said “Sweet Kisses” on it, like one of those conversation hearts. Gus took a liking to it. (Or maybe it was hate. Who can tell?) Every day, he’d climb up onto the sofa, find the Sweet Kisses pillow and grab it in his teeth, and then jump down to the floor. Now, while it doesn’t weigh as much, the pillow is about his size. So when he would leap into the air, it was always a surprise how he’d land. Sometimes he’d land like he intended, four feet on the ground and Sweet Kisses in front of him. Other times he’d land directly on the pillow and bounce off. More often, his momentum would take him over Sweet Kisses, flipping him upside down onto the floor once the pillow hit the ground. Regardless, he’d still have that pillow in his teeth. He’d give it a shake or two, then let it go. Once it was on the floor, he could ignore it. (He did try to drag it into a corner once or twice, but the geography was a little too tight for success, and he gave up. Maybe he’d learned his lesson from the jack toy.)

These things could give us endless entertainment. He wasn’t much of a snuggler, but every now and then, if we were lucky, he would give us little kisses—particularly if Kathy had just eaten chocolate or if I’d just had a beer. And then he’d run off to fall asleep in a fleece in the corner, or behind the TV, or pretty much anywhere. He’d mastered sleep.

We miss him something terrible. There hasn’t been a day I’ve woken up since he died that I hadn’t had to work to pull myself out of bed, aware that I wouldn’t be able to get a hug from Gus once I made it downstairs. Just the same, I’m glad we had so much time with him… most likely, extra time. Last year he was pretty sick. He’d lost all the hair on his body (only his head was spared), due to symptoms from insulinoma. I worried about him every day. But our vet gave him an experimental treatment, an implant that would treat the disease. Soon, Gus was starting to grow hair again, and was certainly feeling better, too.

He had a theme song, of course:

Mister Gus! Mister Gus!
I don’t wanna cause a fuss!
But you’re so cute! You’re so cute!
In your little ferret suit!
You’re so nice! You’re so nice!
I’ll freeze you in a block of ice!
And thaw you out when it’s time!
You’ll see the future, blow your mind!
Mister GUUUUS!

(This was usually sung in several verses, some in Spanglish--“en tu pequeno ferret suit”--some with a Transylvanian accent, and so on. I’m not sure if he ever got the Captain America allusion.)

This last month or so, he started to lose strength in his hind legs. It went from a little wobble now and then to him not being able to count on them at all in a matter of weeks. We were giving him medicine to deal with the problem, but it wasn’t helping. And eventually, Gus decided he’d had enough. He started refusing all food, like it was medicine. We used a syringe to get some food into him for a little while, but eventually decided that he knew his body best, and was making a deliberate decision.

Oh, hell. All pet stories end the same, if you go on long enough. You don’t need to hear this, and I don’t want to tell anymore. What matters is this little fuzzy, fussy white guy brought a lot of love into our life, and I still can’t believe he’s gone.



Sharon GR said...

He knew he was loved. He was a sweetie and will be missed.

Lisa Chippendale said...

Nice tribute to Gus, Rob! I hope writing it was at least a little cathartic, and that you start to feel better soon.

Rob S. said...

Thanks. You're right, I don't really start to feel closure until I memorialize them here. (Of course, I'm *still* walking around the house in the morning muttering "what a good little guy," but I'm working alone, and have to mutter something...

WendyS MSW said...

Hey Rob. What a wonderful tribute to Gus. It's nice you have the memories and pictures to go along with them. You'll miss him, but as your dream told you (post above), he's okay (and apparently there's some sea otter in him!).

Rob S. said...

Thanks, Wendy. Yeah, I feel a lot better after that dream. I've got a little otter in me, too, so I can relate.