December 8, 2015 — It’s probably safe to say that ferrets do not appeal to everyone, but for one ferret lover, the Midwest Ferret Fellowship Faire is on par with what Westminster means to dog lovers.
Elizabeth Balke, a Baker College of Muskegon student in the veterinary technology program and owner of two pet ferrets, recently answered the call to volunteer at the Ferret Faire and found her time was well spent.
A resident of White Cloud, Balke said she researched ferrets extensively before deciding to purchase hers, but after volunteering at the Ferret Faire, she found there is much more to learn.
“For example,” she said, “I learned that many of the ferrets sold in pet stores are from one main ferret farm. These ferrets are spayed or neutered very young, which can cause them to grow poorly. Now I know why my own pet-store ferrets are smaller then normal.”
For this reason Balke says it is best to talk with a veterinarian and locate a certified breeder when seeking to purchase a ferret.
The Ferret Faire was one of many volunteer opportunities that Veterinary Technology Program Director Laurie Wright, DVM, offered to students in the associate degree program during fall quarter. She has built relationships with many organizations that provide volunteer opportunities to help students become job-ready at graduation.
Wright said that the West Michigan Ferret Connection has been especially helpful every year by welcoming Baker class visits to its shelter and providing students with hands-on experience in working with ferrets. The director, Dee Gage, has already requested student volunteers for the next big event—the April 2-3, 2016, West Michigan Pet Expo at The DeltaPlex Arena and Conference Center in Grand Rapids. The students provide education about ferrets to expo attendees.
“The growing appeal of so-called ‘pocket pets’ and exotic pets means there is an increasing need for trained veterinary care providers as well,” Wright said. “The Baker College veterinary technology curriculum includes a required class on exotic animals that helps introduce students to more unusual pets. The knowledge gained through that class and experiences like volunteering at the Ferret Faire and the West Michigan Pet Expo can give a student a real edge when it comes to getting a job after graduation.”
Balke believes that most people know very little about ferrets and some are even afraid of them. But she is determined to teach others and hopefully help dispel some of those fears.
“I know that ferrets are very friendly because I have them,” she said, “but many people believe they are born to bite. The truth is, you are 12 times more likely to be bitten by another human than by a ferret.”
Balke said she gladly introduces her ferrets to family and friends, which helps both feel more comfortable around each other and proves that ferrets are not the villains they are sometimes made out to be.
“Ferrets are easily socialized,” she said. “I recently had my young cousins over who are five and six, and they easily handled my ferrets who behaved very well. As with any pet, it’s all about training.”
After graduating June 2016 and passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam, Balke hopes to work at a veterinary clinic that cares for exotic pets like ferrets as well as the more typical cats and dogs.
For more information about the veterinary technology program at Baker College of Muskegon, contact Kathy Jacobson in the admissions office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231.777.5200, or visit www.baker.edu.
The largest private college in Michigan, Baker College is a not-for-profit higher education institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It serves more than 23,000 students on multiple campuses and online. Baker grants certificates and associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in more than 150 programs across diverse academic fields, including business, health sciences, engineering, information technology, education and human services. An impressive 97 percent of available graduates are employed. Every Baker graduate receives Lifetime Employment Assistance—free and forever. Baker is a pioneer in distance education and offers students the option of completing a degree 100 percent online, without ever visiting a campus. For information, visit www.baker.edu or follow Baker College on Twitter, @bakercollege, or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/bakercollege.