Matthew and Lee, two ferret lovers, founded Ferret Dreams Rescue & Adoption in 2005. The rescue encompasses about 600 square feet in Matthew and Lee’s Denver home. The space includes an intake area, storage, a play area and the rescue room. They also have an enclosed patio for ferret and human friends, and a memorial garden in their backyard for the many animals who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
Matthew and Lee run Ferret Dreams from a sense of love and consideration for these wonderful animals. Lee had ferrets as pets, and in 2005 when his aunt asked if he would help her client re-home a pet ferret, he and Matthew took the little guy in and found him a home within two weeks.
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“We thought, ‘Well, that was easy,'” Lee remembers. Just days later, a trend began. Another person mentioned needing to find new homes for ferrets, and Matthew and Lee took them in. This time, it took almost six months to find the two pairs new homes. Taz stayed with Matthew and Lee as a pet.
“Six months was a long time, so we thought maybe we’d be done, and then the very next day divine providence showed up again, and there was another ferret to rescue,” he says. “It strikes me as odd that as soon as we adopted one out, we’d get more.”
At the time, Matthew–a tailor by trade–had been making ferret hammocks and other items on the side. He named the business Ferret Dreams and built a website. When the couple decided to officially start the rescue, they kept the business name.
“The dream is that all of the ferrets who come to us will go to good homes, that they will get healthy, that they will have a good life,” Matthew recalls.
Since 2005, Ferret Dreams has found new homes for more than 400 ferrets, some who have come to Colorado from as far away as Florida. They work closely with area shelters, and have even trained vet techs about ferret health and behavior. The men have a daily routine of feeding, medicating and playing with each of the ferrets, including their three pets–Lilly, Taz and Champ. But the routine isn’t the hard part about the rescue.
“The hardest thing is knowing you’ve made the right decision when you adopt out a ferret,” Matthew says. “It’s almost like sending your kids to college. You did so much to protect them. Sometimes we lose sleep with worry–we really want people to call us and let us know how it’s going.”
He points to a wooden urn on a living room shelf, with brass plates on the front. “Those urns, when those ferrets passed away, when we spent every night force feeding them and every dollar trying to save them. Some of them only lived hours. Some of them lived years, like Homer and Marge. We got the urns with nameplates so we can remember each and every one of them.”
In 2009, Ferret Dreams became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Matthew and Lee cover the operational expenses–food, toys, bedding, litter–out of their own pockets [you can help by sponsoring a permanent resident through the DreamAngel program]. They direct donations to the rescue’s medical fund, which in 2010 spent nearly $27,000 on care for ferrets at the rescue and those adopted out with pre-existing medical conditions. They’ve developed a strong network of ferret-expert vets in the Denver-Boulder area who help with discounted medical fees.
“We love these animals,” Matthew says. “Ferrets are probably the most misunderstood pets, which makes them so mistreated. They get stuck in cages, and they have a negative image in the public. We can’t save them all, but if we can pass on better understanding and teach people to at least care for your ferret and treat it right, that’s great.”
“At the end of your life, you have to look back and say you’ve made some difference in the world,” Lee says. “We want Ferret Dreams to succeed for the ferrets.”