The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

September 14, 2013

It's magic: Lost ferret reunited with owner after two weeks

BY MARY WICOFF mwicoff@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — WESTVILLE — The case of the magician’s disappearing ferret has a happy ending.

Prometheus, a 4-year-old ferret, is back home in St. Louis after escaping during the Renaissance Festival at Ellsworth Park on Aug. 24.

Amazingly, he somehow ended up in Westville and eventually at the home of Hannah Lomax, 21, who had been to the festival and saw the “lost” signs.

“I’m extremely grateful,” owner Matthew Olson of St. Louis said this week. “I can’t express how much it means to be reunited. I was heartbroken.”

The saga began the evening of Aug. 24 when Olson — a magician who performs as Dmitri the Mage — left his tent to go to dinner. His two trained ferrets, Prometheus and Aries, somehow got out of their cage during that time, and Prometheus escaped under the tent wall, perhaps going in search of his owner.

When the pet didn’t return Sunday, Olson posted signs. A couple of vendors walking through the woods found animal remains, which could have been a ferret.

“I had pretty much given up hope at that point,” he said, suspecting the worst.

Prometheus was on the loose for a week, and somehow made his way to Westville. The following Saturday, he ended up in the flower garden at the home of Jeanette and Terry Lomax.

Jeanette noticed the ferret when her dogs were barking at it, and called Hannah, her daughter. Lomax said the animal was very lethargic, and she took it to her home, and gave it sugar water.

Coincidentally, Lomax had been to the festival and wondered if the ferret was the one who had escaped. She got on the Renaissance Festival website, and e-mailed the director, who contacted Olson.

He and Lomax exchanged e-mails and photos, and he was sure the found animal was Prometheus. Lomax took care of the ferret for a week, until Olson could make arrangements to pick it up.

She fed it ferret food, and, she said, “By the end of the week, he was up and running around.”

Her cats were afraid of the ferret, but she enjoyed having the animal in her home for a week. Prometheus would burrow under her bed covers.

“If I could afford one, I’d buy one,” she said. However, she added, “They’re a lot more work than I thought.”

This isn’t the first time the family has found household pets in their yard, she said, adding they found a guinea pig one time.

When Lomax contacted Olson, she thought she might be wasting his time. “I felt like such an idiot trying to get hold of this guy,” she recalled. “I couldn’t imagine a ferret getting from Ellsworth to Westville.”

But it did turn out to be the magician’s Houdini-like ferret, who also was identified by a tattoo.

Lomax and Olson agreed to meet in Tilton last week.

Olson brought Aries along. When the ferrets met, he said, “The two of them were sniffing each other and happy to be reunited.”

As for the ferret-owner reunion, Olson said, “He was all kisses and hugs when he saw me.”

Magicians tend to get attached to their animals because they handle them every day, he said. “On a personal level, you connect with them as much as they connect with you.”

Olson acquired both ferrets from a rescue group about three years ago; they were about 1 year old at the time. Ferrets are very smart, he said, and they’re escape artists, as well.

Olson uses ferrets instead of rabbits in his act because he wants to be accurate in his portrayal of the Russian, Dmitri the Mage. During the Renaissance, rabbits were considered food, not pets, he said. Ferrets were a common pet during that time and were used to control the snake and rat populations.

Olson has been performing professionally for 26 years and has been doing Renaissance festivals the past 12 years. This was his second year at the Danville event. He also uses two doves in his acts.

As a reward, Lomax will receive a chain mail bracelet made by another vendor from the festival.