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Inevitably in early January, I get the call: "My aunt got me the wrong ferret calendar!"

"Oh no," I sympathize, confirming from a description of the photographs that it is not my calendar. "My calendar," I point out, "is The Ferret Calendar, the one with a theme, the one with the ferret in the sheep's hat (or the little ferret cowboy or the exuberant albino drummer) on the cover. You know, the unusual ferret calendar." Well, after too many of these conversations, I finally decided to make it easier for your friends and family to recognize my calendar by putting my name on it. The Ferret Calendar is now Jeanne Carley's Ferret Calendar.

Then, my talented graphic designer, Chris Chu, decided we should go a step further and introduce me to you in the calendar's inside spread. Good grief, after eleven years I'm expected to move from my very cozy position behind the camera into the spotlight? Okay. I agreed. But after this year, I am retreating to the place I feel the most at home-where I look through the lens and not into it.

In any case, I do welcome the chance to tell you how I feel about ferrets. I love taking pictures of ferrets. They are funny, sweet, and incredibly endearing. Ferrets amaze me with their intelligence and happy personalities. I can't imagine working with any other pet the way I do with ferrets. They inspire me with their exuberance, curiosity and adorable dance of joy. They are my muse.

But those of us who love ferrets know that they are not for everyone. Most baby ferrets are given up in the first six months by people who did not expect their strong odor, or the time and supervision that ferrets need. Other ferrets are often abandoned at 4-5 years of age, when many of them develop health problems requiring expensive veterinary care. It's very hard on the older ferret, and on ferret rescue, when pets are discarded this way. I cringe when I hear the stories and sadly I hear too many of them.

When ferrets are maligned, we ferret lovers are quick to come to their defense. And we should correct anyone misrepresenting these sweet creatures as posing an undue risk to people or the environment. Compared to other domesticated pets, especially dogs and cats, the ferrets' record is stellar! But these delicate animals do suffer in the hands of the ignorant and uninformed. So I urge you to be the good ferret ambassadors you are, but to remember that though they are your perfect pet, they may not be the perfect pet for others.

Jeanne Carley