Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Simple Gifts

When I was little I vaguely remember my father telling me a story about someone in his family (it could have been him) rescuing nine baby opossums after the mother had been hit by a car. They raised the babies by hand and released them when they were old enough to fend for themselves - or became too gross to look at I guess. I immediately thought about this story at 5:45a this morning when my dear girls brought me a gift after finishing their breakfast.

My feeding process is pretty simple:

* Send the dogs downstairs to wait at the backdoor while I go to the kitchen to get their breakfast;
* Turn on all the lights out in the backyard and hand out the girls' portions on the deck;
* Roxy heads to the right and Seka heads to the left to eat;
* I close the door and go back upstairs to wash up and check on the cats;
* Finally, I go back downstairs and wait for the girls to appear on the deck to let me know they are done with breakfast and are ready to come back in.

This morning the routine started out the same as it always did, but when I came back down to wait on the girls to finish up I noticed they were both on the deck, but they didn't have their noses right on the glass like they typically do. The timing also seemed pretty quick to me, especially for Seka who takes FOREVER to eat anything, but I just thought I gave her a smaller portion than expected.

As I went over to the door Roxy got more excited. She was play bowing and bouncing all over the place. I know that she likes to see me, but this was a little over the top. I'm not sure what made me glance down before I walked outside, but thank goodness I did or else I would have stepped on my very own opossum rug courtesy of the pups.

What happened is a mystery to me. The opossum wasn't in that particular spot when I sent them outside to eat and I don't monitor them the whole time they are out there. I'm not sure what I would have done if I did anyway. But they either chased the varmint up to the door where it proceeded to play dead or Roxy picked it up like her favorite squeaky toy and brought it to the door where she dropped it for me to see and it killed over in an Oscar-worthy performance. I'm thinking it was scenario 2. If Seka wasn't lame, I'd give her credit for the grab, but I'm not sure she felt up to it, plus not very much interrupts her breakfast/dinner time.

So the darn thing is right at the door. The dogs are looking at me like "don't you like it?" I can tell it is still alive and "playin' possum," so all I can think of is if I open this door it will wake up and run in the house and we'll have a rabid opossum lose in our house at 5:30a.

I enlist the help of my husband to keep an eye on the "prize" while I go around to the side of the house to call the girls to gate and walk them through the garage. Thank goodness my girls are good off leash and know when I mean business - even in the early morning hours when I'm parading around in the dark in nothing but a t-shirt. (kudos Jen)

After 20 minutes of inspection and a photo op through the door (I certainly didn't want the camera to scare him and then have him charge me), our girls' catch decided the coast was clear and wandered off to opossum town. Maybe he learned his lesson. I know I will do some significant inspection of the deck prior to opening the door from now on when it is dark out.

I'm not sure if my father's story was true or not. My dad always had a way of pulling my leg, while leaving me with a little bit of hope that the story was true. This could be one of those cases. It's hard to think anyone could have sympathy for our North America's only marsupial. But while Kev and I stood at the door this morning looking at this nasty little creature play dead on our deck, all I could think of was that I was happy he/she/it didn't resemble road kill or leave nine orphaned babies on my doorstep for me to care for.


Jan said...

Wow, I've heard the saying "playing possum" all my life, and I guess it never really hit home till now. Now I know that this little animals actually DO this.

VERY interesting read today, Heather! Thanks for sharing.

deep6jonah said...

Opossums play dead as soon as they are threatened, so the likelihood is that the girls startled the critter, it went into play dead mode, one of the girls picked it up and brought it to the door to show mom. Had you poked it it would have continued to play dead until it decided there was no more threat. Great story.

Angela said...

Sounds like a stellar performance by the opossum - glad he didn't come in the house!

Trina said...

A very similar thing happened to me as a teenager..except the opossum was a skunk and it wasn't playing anything. it was cornered by 2 hound dogs at the sliding glass door at 5AM. That does NOT come out of brick easily.

gyeong said...

You had better luck than I. The last possum to come in my yard was when I was watching a half dozen greyhounds. A couple with high prey drive. Playing dead was not the right choice. They were playing tug-o-war with it by the time I got into the yard. Eek!

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Mine pummeled a possum once with their muzzles. I think playing dead saved it. I also saved one our of our pool in CA once. Fun critters.


IHateToast said...

mine killed a flying fox and are excited about the possums; however, the possums here are cute and fluffy little things. i am doing what i can to keep them alive. i don't enjoy guts.

ours don't play possum either. they're scrappy fighters.

can't believe you didn't make pie.

Bethanie & Chris said...

This is entertaining. I don't think it would have succeeded in playing dead at my house. Our pups would have annoyed it to death.

Scott said...

Yuck. Don't get me wrong, I don't wish any harm on opossums, but they don't strike me as cute.

Fortunately I've not had any first hand experience with them, and I hope I don't [ever]. ::knock on wood::

Glad the little guy was okay, and glad no Greys (or humans) were harmed in the process.