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June 2, 2007

Freckles the ferret to world: 'I will survive' — Family pet narrowly escapes death in washing machine


If you could understand ferretspeak those would be the sentiments of the 9-month-old pet of the Foutz family of Roanoke, Virginia.

Long story short: On May 21 Freckles (above and below, in pictures taken last Tuesday, May 29 at his home) spent 35 minutes in the Foutzes' washing machine — while it was on — before being rescued just before the machine went into what would have almost certainly been — for Freckles — a deadly spin cycle.

Doug Doughty's story about one tough critter appeared in yesterday's Roanoke Times, and follows.

    Ferret Makes a Clean Getaway

    Freckles the ferret has been known to get into things, but a run-in with the washing machine almost cost him his life.

    Freckles, the Foutzes' fearless ferret.

    Try repeating that quickly a few times.

    Freckles, a 9-month-old male ferret belonging to the Foutz family of Cotton Hill, is a tongue twister and much more.

    On May 21, Freckles spent 35 minutes in the Foutzes' washing machine and lived to have somebody else tell his story.

    Andrea Foutz, the mother of two and wife of former Cave Spring High School football coach Ben Foutz, doesn't know when she'll be able to do laundry again.

    On the morning in question, she had put one load of dark-colored laundry into the washing machine before heading to her children's bedrooms in search of any stray garments.

    Freckles did not have a history with the washing machine, but he was known to wander.

    "He goes everywhere," she said. "He opens closet doors, he burrows, he gets into [son] Zachary's dresser drawers, even though the drawers are closed. We let him out for an hour, he gets tired, he crawls up in the dresser and sleeps."

    One of Freckles' favorite pastimes is to collect flip-flops from the various Foutz closets and stack them under Zachary's bed.

    "I put the clothes in, went downstairs and put the kids on the bus, and I sat down to work on the computer," Andrea Foutz said. "About 8 o'clock, Ben came down and said, 'You know, this is really funny, but I haven't seen Freckles.'

    "I thought, 'That's weird because he follows us everywhere.' "

    The Foutzes have a gate that keeps Freckles upstairs and away from their dog, Abby, a wire-haired fox terrier.

    "We don't let them out at the same time because, technically, Abby is bred to hunt vermin," Foutz said.

    Are ferrets considered vermin?

    "I don't know," she said, "but they look enough like them."

    Freckles not only follows family members around the house, but has been known to come running when his name is called. When Foutz went upstairs to intensify the search, she heard a click that the washing machine makes when it switches to the spin cycle.


    "It stopped and, all of a sudden, I got that feeling of, 'Oh, my God,' " she said.

    She opened the washing machine door and there was Freckles, pale as could be and gasping for air.

    "I caught him right before the spin cycle, or else I don't think he would have made it," she said. "I just started screaming, 'Ben, Ben.' "

    Ben Foutz would concede that the rest of the family is more attached to Freckles than he is.

    "I've grown more attached to him," he said. "Financially and otherwise.

    "I thought he was a goner. I was ready to take him downstairs [for disposal], but Andrea just felt so terrible that I wrapped him in a towel and pushed on his chest with two fingers. I don't know if you'd call that CPR or not."

    Within minutes they were in the car and headed for the Roanoke Animal Hospital.

    "Ben wanted me to give him mouth-to-mouth on the way there," Andrea Foutz said. "I told him, 'I'm not doing that.' So we called the vet, said we were on the way, and they said to hold him upside down to get the water out of his lungs."

    It turns out, Dr. Mark Finkler was on site. Finkler is known nationally for his work with ferrets and has lectured on the topic at Virginia Tech.

    When Freckles "came in, it was hypothermic, it was having trouble breathing, its heart rate was slow," Finkler said. "There was a good chance this fellow was going to die. On X-rays, his lungs didn't look so good."

    Once hospitalized, Freckles was put on oxygen and given intravenous feeding. He was transferred to an emergency unit overnight, but was home within 36 hours, although IV tracks were still visible one week later.

    The obvious question is, how did Freckles not drown?

    "Well, that's a miracle," Finkler said. "I guess front-end loaders are low volume as far as the amount of water they use."

    Freckles also must have demonstrated some impressive leaping ability to jump into the washer.

    "One thing I told the Foutzes when things were looking really bleak was, 'Cats have nine lives, but ferrets have 10,'" he said. "I really believe that. They have survived things where I would have thought a dog or cat would not have survived.

    "They're very curious creatures. We had one ferret brought in here who got his head too close to the vacuum-sweeper hose. They've come through some pretty dire circumstances."

    Finkler, who observed patient-physician protocol and sought permission from the Foutzes before granting an interview, had photos taken and expects Freckles to be the topic of a future lecture.

    Can you say, "Freckles, the Foutzes' famous ferret?"

    Andrea Foutz said she feared that animal-rights groups might frown on Freckles' story and expressed hope that a newspaper account might have a positive "spin."

    Better for Freckles, there was no spin at all.


June 2, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Aw, look at that face. I'm glad he got saved.
What we'll do for our animals.
I bet old Freckles won't be jumping in there again.
He's probably nice and clean, though.

High-energy pets like ferrets and young kittens, as much as I love them, are just too much. I don't think I could keep up with a 2 or 3 month old kitty any more. Give me a big old sedate, conniving, opportunistic, food-hustling, lord-of-the-manor couch puddy -- with occasional bursts of manic, comical running, flipping, and ambushing -- and I'm happy.

Posted by: Flautist | Jun 2, 2007 6:13:30 PM

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