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Sage and Candace


Elizabeth Maua Taylor

Our neighbors found out that our daughter Danielle has a penchant for saving unwanted pets. She would come home dragging a cage, some twice as big as she, her luminous blue/violet eyes at the ready to burst into tears while making her appeal. We've taken in pet rats, fish, mice, turtles, etc. from folks who for one reason or another could no longer keep them.

One day, looking out the window, I saw two giant cages gliding towards the driveway. I couldn't even see Danielle. Now what, I thought. The cages were on casters, they were so big.

She looked up at me with her freckles and long lashes and deep baby blues ready to spill, and she pleaded their case. It seemed one neighbor was moving out of state and the animals were too old for traveling, and this neighbor was thinking of taking them to the pound. Can we, pleeeeease?

The cages were custom-made, well-built, and immaculate. Inside each one was a corner litter box, a hammock, an impressive fleece "sleeping bag," and food and water bowls on the second level. I looked inside. Peeping out of the sleeping bags were the cutest, most adorable ferrets I've ever seen. I said yes without thinking.

Oh, dear.

I immediately called the neighbor. She told me the ferrets were already five years old (their life span), and won't survive traveling cross-country. She said she looked for ferret rescuers but was unable to find any, so the last resort was the pound, which meant death for the fine creatures. They couldn’t be adopted. They were illegal in California. Oh. Right. Well, I already said yes to my daughter so it was pointless to tell this neighbor exactly what I thought of her. I asked for the rest of the ferrets' food, and, uh, thanks a lot!

Now I had to sell the idea of owning illegal animals to Tom. So I set to work, getting the house polished, cooking a great dinner, and making my award-winning cherry pie. I got dressed up and wore perfume. The kids even tried to coach me on what to say. He walked in the door, put his briefcase down, and just looked at me.

Turned out I didn't have to do anything. The ferrets sold themselves. It was Tom who cleaned the cages and bought the special food and vitamins. He came home one day with a sheepish look on his face, and held up a pair of what looked like designer fur-lined sleeping bags for morbidly obese snakes. These had hooks on both ends, to hang from the roof of the cages. Well, he'd said, those sleeping bag thingies have been laundered so many times that they're not soft any more...

The ferrets, male and female, were named Sage and Candace. Their cages were in the patio in the summer, and the laundry room in the winter. We left their cages open and they had the run of the house during those winter months since they were completely litter-trained, curling up anywhere they pleased; we just had to be watchful of where we sat. Candace’s favorite spot was on anyone’s lap. She jumped up on my lap while I sat in front of the computer. She would curl up and sleep, or curiously poke her head under my hands while I typed. Sage loved to curl up on the drapes, under the area rug by the front door, in between the couch cushions.

Danielle carried Sage around her neck as if she was wearing a fox stole, and Sage loved it. She took him outside carrying him like that, and it freaked out people who didn't know what they were. They wore bell collars, and they came running when they heard the rattling box of their Bandits treats, their collars loudly and happily jingling. We kept them in their cages at night, but one of us would invariably sneak into the laundry room 'just to check on them.'

We found a vet who specialized in ferrets. First thing she wanted to do was put them down for being old, even though they were in excellent health. Besides, she said, they were illegal. I yelled at her; since when did old age become a disease? And, it might be illegal to own them but it wasn't illegal to care for them! She gave them their shots, I paid, and never went back. We took care of them on our own thereafter, and they lived four more years.

It was difficult when they died. Sage had a stroke and died in my arms. Candace died within a month, also of a stroke. For a while after their deaths, and during certain times of the day, we kept expecting to hear them scampering about or poking around in my kitchen shelves. But eventually the pain of losing them subsided, and was replaced with warmth by memories those two cuddly, innocent fuzzies gave us.

It's been years since we gave away the cages. But one day, while going through old stuff to give away, Tom held up a pair of hooked little sleeping bags, then went into the laundry room. I followed him. He was sizing up the area. Then he turned to me and said, that if I knew of any ferrets in need of rescuing, he knew where to get the custom-made cages...

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