Also, I was concerned about his quality of life in a state where his existence would have to be a secret. Moca loves playing with other ferrets and animals, and most of all he loves going outside.
I already had two ferrets in Philly when I got Moca. He loved going out in the yard and sniffing everything. His favorite was going under the porch and coming out with dirt under his claws.
Whenever I let him out of his cage, he always asked to go outside by waiting at the door and turning his head toward me and back toward the door.
I couldn't find anyone to hold onto him until I got settled, so I brought him on my 43-hour journey across America. He slept on my lap most of the way through Nebraska and into Wyoming.
On Tuesday, I decided to stop at a rest area and turned off a dirt road to look at a mountain. When I stopped the car, Moca hopped out, and just for a few seconds I turned my back to get my camera out of my bag. When I looked for him, he was gone.
I squeaked his toy that he normally comes to, but got no response. I figured he must have hopped back into the car and nestled somewhere among all my belongings.
I drove back toward the rest stop and saw a family. A tall woman with red hair walked up to me.
"Did you lose a pet?" she asked.
Her daughter walked over from their car and handed Moca to me reluctantly. Apparently, Moca had wandered over to them and made himself comfy in their car until I arrived.
The mother identified herself as Rhonda Pollock and said she was a former zookeeper in Greenville, S.C. Rhonda, 43, told me she had owned more than 30 ferrets over the years, and that three ferrets currently live on the family farm in Waterloo, Iowa, along with two goats, two alpacas, three ducks, two peacocks and 18 chickens.
Her 13-year-old daughter said that the ferrets had their own "ferret room" at the house - complete with a walk-in closet with toys and a dollhouse.
Rhonda said that when she found Moca, she decided to keep her because she recently lost a ferret to cancer and knew that Moca didn't belong in the wilderness.
As it turns out, the family had flown to Oregon for a vacation, but Rhonda's husband broke his leg and they had to drive back to Iowa. They just happened to stop at that rest area to see wildlife at the precise spot where I had turned off on a dirt road and her daughter happened to find Moca. They just happened to have ferrets and were coping with a recent loss.
Rhonda and her daughter asked if I still wanted him.
I realized that Moca would have a far better life on her farm than I could provide hiding him in some apartment in California. I would be away from him working, and I always felt guilty about his being alone when I wasn't around.
So I let him go with the family and drove away, eyes clouded with tears.
It still makes me cry when I think about it because he was my friend, my family and my fuzzball baby. Rhonda has told me that Moca seemed confused the first two days they were traveling, but that once he arrived at their home and was introduced to the other ferrets, he setlled in, jumping around and playing with the others and cuddling with them to sleep. Plus, there was the ferret room.
It's hard to compete with that setup, which means I made the right choice.
Still, I can get him back if I want. Maybe if I get a place with a nice yard.
Email Emily Kight at firstname.lastname@example.org