The whining in the backyard was unusual. That particular, distinctive sound means that Luna has trapped a cat under the couch or in the cat tree and wants it to continue playing with her. It was disconcerting to hear the whimpering in the yard. Since I am a vigilant guard and the cats can’t escape, I knew there was another critter out there with my dog.
Luna wouldn’t come to my increasingly firm calls, so I marched over to one of the hanging bird feeders, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her back to the house — literally, as she was unwilling to leave the small, curled animal that lay there. iPhone’s flashlight app on, I revisited the scene and found an opossum, curled up and breathing heavily.
Opossums are odd little creatures, with sharply pointed, ghostly faces. If they aren’t pretending to be dead, they have a beady little stare. Their short legs make them seem to glide silently along the ground. I’ve only seen a couple of them in my yard in the seven years I’ve been here, but there could be many living secret lives in the brush and hedges. I imagine them, silently watching us go about our business, waiting for a chance to come nibble on fallen bird seed.
I love wildlife as long as I don’t have to encounter it personally, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Is the phrase ‘playing possum’ based on reality or is it a myth? At any rate, I didn’t want to handle the animal whether it was injured, safe, sleeping, whatever. A bird who has stunned itself after crashing into the sunroom window, I will pick up. But something with teeth, no. Even if it is a comatose possum. So left it alone, I did.
This morning the little animal was gone. No trail of blood, no poor mangled corpse left behind by a predatory bird. He must have been feigning sleep for me, beating it as soon as the coast was clear.
I did some quick research on opossums this morning. It seems that they don’t play dead to fool a predator, so much as they are paralyzed by fear and thus appear to be dead. It’s tough being a possum.
Playing Possum: it’s true! Click here: Playing Possum
And it’s tough being my dog when you’ve messed with an opossum. To avoid a possible flea outbreak, Luna was dosed with Advantix and we’ll be going to the vet this afternoon for a check up. Her rabies vaccine is up-to-date, and I don’t know if that is much of a concern with possums, but I’m not taking a chance of having a sick dog.