On a snowy Monday morning, Moose is at home and dressed for the season.
His wee ferret face peeks out from his wee Santa cap, but that red sweater (as adorable as it looks) is a wee bit of a problem.
Moose’s human mom — attuned to his every ferret need — sees him squirming.
“You want to take your coat off?” asks Haley Pearson.
And before Moose can reply, he’s naked.
Pearson and her fiance, Channing Shattuck, have three ferrets and a mission: to stop the world from turning up its collective nose at the furry rodent-like creatures. (Who are not, by the way, related to rats.)
Ferrets are part of the mustelid family along with otters, minks, badgers, weasels and skunks.
But in appearance: “More like a miniature raccoon,” Shattuck says.
Ferrets are friendly and funny and inquisitive and smart and make great pets, the couple say.
Moose, in particular, is a poster child for ferrets. And while he’s not featured on a poster (yet), he does figure prominently in the couple’s third annual Modern Ferret calendar.
The Modern Ferret — the Facebook page and Instagram account — has been around for three years. The social media pages began as a way to celebrate ferrets, Pearson says.
And Moose, age 4, was the inspiration.
Pearson grew up with the usual pets — dogs and cats — and she’s always had a soft spot for animals.
The couple met at Cal State University-Long Beach — she’s from California, he’s from Virginia — and after graduation, they started traveling. They spotted baby Moose at a pet store in Las Vegas.
“I was always curious about ferrets and we were looking for a pet to take care of together.”
Moose did not disappoint.
Four months ago, they landed in Lincoln.
“We fell in love with the town,” says Pearson, a freelance designer. “Everyone is Nebraska nice.”
Pearson works from home and Shattuck works for ARYSE, an orthopedic and sports-brace company.
They both work on The Modern Ferret, providing entertainment and advice to 15,000 Instagram and 5,000 Facebook followers.
“It basically started as a photography Instagram that focused on ferrets,” Pearson says. “And it really seemed to resonate.”
On The Modern Ferret, one can find photos and videos of Moose and his ferret brothers (Newt and Albert) doing goofy ferret things.
You can find ferret greeting cards and pins, tote bags and barrettes.
You can also find the 2019 ferret calendar — Moose in a bow tie and a party hat! Moose in bunny ears! Moose and Albert with their arms wrapped around each other, kicking off ferret love in February!
But Moose is more than a model who looks fetching in a hoodie and blue ball cap.
After chatting with their veterinarian — who had never met a more mellow ferret than Moose, Pearson and Shattuck say — the ferret has been the star attraction on classroom visits, introducing school children to the joys and therapeutic value of the 3-pound anti-stress ball.
“When you show a kid a ferret, they get excited,” Pearson says. “When it has a hat on ..."
“It makes everything better,” Shattuck says.
Indeed, Moose has several hats to choose from for his classroom visits, along with sunglasses and a wardrobe of small ferret clothing, many sent by fans of The Modern Ferret. (Or, as Moose’s people call them, “the ferret community.”)
In November, the couple launched a Kickstarter campaign for travel expenses to Wisconsin to take Moose to visit a teenager with a rare disease who’d recently lost her own ferret, Noodles.
They quickly met their goal and this spring, Moose will be ferried to Door County for a visit aimed to cheer up a ferret-loving family.
I learned a lot about ferrets on my visit to see Moose. Ferrets only shed seasonally. They like to poke around inside purses and winter boots.
They are obligate carnivores, like cats. They are natural predators, like their ancient ancestor the European polecat, although the only thing the couple has seen Moose capture is a June bug.
Ferrets are amenable to walking on a leash, if they are allowed to lead the way.
They sleep 18 hours a day.
And they are quite cute.
And in the case of a ferret named Moose, particularly calm, a claim you have a chance to test for yourself on a snowy Monday morning.
Here, says Pearson, whose goal is to have Moose spread the joy of ferrets by meeting as many people as possible in his short ferret lifetime.
“We say he just melts in your arms.”