It started with a perky ferret dressed up as General Patton. “All of a sudden I thought, ‘It could be fun to do a movie-themed calendar’,” says Jeanne Carley, ferret activist and artist. And so goes the story of Carley’s annual Ferret Calendar, a labor of love she’s produced tirelessly for more than 15 years.
This year’s calendar, which took four years to produce, features ferrets reenacting great movie moments, from films including Ghostbusters, Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Carey spent time photographing the individual elements of each image (ferrets and backgrounds) separately, eventually putting the pieces together digitally. (That includes coloring “blue” and “green” ferrets for scenes from Aladdin and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.) How does she do it? With patience – and a lot of hard work.
“It was a really hard issue for me,” Carley shares. “Trying to illustrate a whole film with a single picture – and using a ferret – is not easy! And they’re hard to photograph. You can’t say, ‘Sit’ to a ferret. Well, you can say it, but they won’t do anything!”
For nearly two decades, Carley has produced colorful annual calendars filled with playful images of her favorite furry friends. She spends years conceiving, photographing and producing each annual calendar, carefully selecting the themes, colors and even animals. First asked to head the project by a friend in the early 1990s, Carley has never looked back. Now, she prints and sells 18,000 to 20,000 of her calendars each year.
Carley says because of ferrets’ inability to understand humans the way a dog or cat can, she needs to “set the stage for something really fun to happen” each time she snaps an image. “The main thing is trying to get the ferret’s attention with a snack or a noisemaker,” she shares. “You don’t know what kind of expressions you’ll get.”
Surprisingly, none of the ferrets belong to Carley herself; instead, she uses animals belonging to fans from all across the country. “I’ve had people write to me from Texas asking to be in the calendar, or telling me a ferret in the calendar looks just like their pet at home,” says the California resident. “I try to include as many different colors of ferrets as I can: chocolate, sable, silver, albino black. The fur color is important to the story, too.”
So why ferrets? Beyond her love for the animals – “they are the happiest little creatures,” she shares – it’s the intense emotions that owners feel toward their tiny pets. “Ferret people are just as devoted, if not more so, than any pet lover you can imagine,” Carley says. “And ferrets themselves are engaging and love to play. It’s really hard to have a bad day when this little thing is running off with your sock…and bouncing with joy as it does.”