Playing Possum?

      I’m not sure what made me look out the window at that moment.  I don’t remember; perhaps I heard a sound, or maybe it was just on impulse, but peek through the blinds I did.  There was an odd white lump in the road.  My first thought was, ‘My God, the neighbor’s dog.’  Our neighbor has one of those small Pomeranian type dogs.  Had our neighbor’s dog escaped and been hit by a car?

      I ran to the den to fetch my husband.  I was already in my night gown, and though he was also in pajamas, it seemed less inappropriate for him to go out to the road in pajamas than I in my gown.  I told him that there was an animal in the road and asked him to see if it was the neighbor’s dog.

      With urgency he rushed outside to investigate. It was not her dog.  It was an opossum and her brood.  My husband hurried to fetch a towel and some gloves to pick her and the babies up.  I watched in horror as a car drove by in his absence, flattening one of the tiny babies.  Sadly two of her babies were dead on the scene, one was badly injured, another was on the road but unharmed, the rest were still in her marsupial pouch.  The mother seemed to be dead, but I mused that she could just be ‘playing possum’. We weren’t sure what to do with the poor little things.  We put them all in a box on our porch while we thought about their fate.

      My maternal instincts told me that we should bottle feed the little babies and raise them until they could be returned to the wild.  Tiny opossums are so cute; like helpless little kittens.  Unfortunately in just a couple of months they would become giant, rat-like creatures with long claws and sharp teeth.  I knew that if we called animal control they would simply euthanize the rodents.  That didn’t sit well with me.  I discussed with my husband, simply taking them to the woods and giving them to God.  At least there they would become food to some hungry predator and their deaths would not be in vain.  We decided to sleep on it.

      In the morning we discovered that rigor mortice had set in on the poor mother.  Apparently she was not ‘playing possum’.  Now we knew the babies were orphans.  The husband hit the internet to find out how we were supposed to care for the cute little things.  Did you know that baby opossums cannot excrete waste on their own?  Just as well; mom’s pouch would get quite gross if they did.  The mother licks at their genitals until they pee/poop and she ingests the waste.  Yuck, I’m not doing that!  The idea of giving them to God didn’t sound as cruel at this point; circle of life and all.  The website recommends rubbing them with a Q-tip and wiping the waste away with a rag.

      Yah OK, we still could not do that.  We were able to find an animal rehabilitation shelter two hours from our home that takes care of opossums who have been orphaned.  So now the cute little critters are being cared for by a professional staff trained to care for such helpless creatures.  The next time you run over, or see an opossum on the road, she might very well have between six and twelve helpless babies in her pouch and there are rescue centers all over who would be willing to care for the orphans.

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Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice job! I’m glad we didn’t have to feed ’em to the hawks (or get arrested for littering a park). …

    • I’m glad I didn’t have to lick their butts.


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