Steamboat Springs When Lisa Archer Leach and Maggie Smith of the Routt County Humane Society heard about canine parvovirus outbreaks at the Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering in North Routt County last month, they headed north on a mission to offer free vaccinations and educate the gatherers about the disease. What they found was a severely paralyzed ferret named Two Cents who had lost the use of his hind legs.
"We were just past the trade circle when we were approached by a girl that had acquired the ferret from a guy camping near her," Archer Leach said. "There was a report of a dog attack, but we suspect mishandling - swinging it around by the tail. The tail had become disengaged from its spine, so its back legs were paralyzed and it had lost bowel control, so it was living in a box."
Archer Leach and Smith took Two Cents to Pet Kare Clinic in Steamboat Springs, where Archer Leach said the staff "fell in love with him" because of his friendly disposition.
After X-rays and pain medication, Dr. Paige Lorimer nursed the ferret back to health before contacting Bill Higby to help find it a home.
"I said yes, picked him up, built his scooter, and we were out playing that night," Higby said, explaining how he used his toy-making experience to craft a padded, double-axle wooden wheelchair for the ferret, which he renamed Scooter.
Now, Higby says Scooter is a "wild thing," and that with his "rehab" combined with weekly acupuncture treatments at Lorimer's office, Scooter has regained limited use of his bowels and legs.
Higby said he has "ferretized" his home, which allows him to let Scooter play with the five other ferrets he lets run wild in his home.
Higby's home is lined with a network of PVC pipes for the animals. The Steamboat native said he has kept ferrets since the early '70s - as many as 18 at a time. Higby said Scooter is the sweetest ferret he's ever owned.
"The reason I have so many ferrets coming and going is that people buy them for their kids because they're cute, but they're carnivorous and can get mischievous," Higby said. "When they get older, they realize they can't handle them and they give them to me. : They bite hard, but they're as friendly as you treat them."
With Pet Kare's veterinary expertise and life in a cageless environment where he is walked twice a day and fed a steady diet of Iams adult cat food, Higby hopes to have Scooter back on all fours by the end of the month.