Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Playing (o)Possum

Sunday mornings are usually pretty quiet around here. If Andrew and I both sleep in, we usually have an extended cuddle session with the dogs, then Andrew makes breakfast while I check Facebook and Ravelry and inform him of What Happened while we were sleeping.

*This* Sunday, I got up a little earlier because we had a somewhat busy day planned. I got myself a glass of juice, and sat down at my computer. A little while later, Andrew got up and started making breakfast. Business as usual.

As Andrew was dishing breakfast, Niki was acting... twitchy. Suspicious. He was grousing at something under the stainless steel rack in the kitchen. I took a glance, and all I saw were dust puppies. (A "dust puppy" is like a tumbleweed, but made of dog fur.) I told Niki that none of his toys were under there, and thanked him for his diligence.

[SIDE NOTE: Lest you think I *never* clean my house, I sweep almost every day, and dust puppies are just a reality of having two double-coated dogs.]

Andrew and I sat down in front of the TV to enjoy our eggs and (decaf) coffee, and 10 minutes into the episode of Dexter we were watching, Niki was still grousing and growling.

"I looked and I didn't see anything. Could you please go take a look?" I asked Andrew.

Andrew agreed, I paused the DVD, and kept working on the beautiful cup of decaf he had made for me. (I miss coffee so, so, SO much.)

I hear Andrew blow the dust puppy out of the way, pause, send the dogs behind the dog gate, and then the following conversation transpired:

Andrew: Um, Jasmin?
Jasmin: What?
Andrew: There's a... [long and thoughtful pause]... possum in our kitchen.
Jasmin: Are you joking?
Andrew: No. There is a possum in our kitchen.
Jasmin: Are you serious?
Andrew: Yes. There is a possum in our kitchen.
Jasmin: Are you messing with me?
Andrew: No. Come look.

You have to understand, sometimes, he messes with me. And seriously, who would BELIEVE that there was a possum in their kitchen? So, I moseyed over to the kitchen, did as much of a chaturanga as one can manage at 19 weeks pregnant, and this is what I saw:

Dog toy? Home invader? Who can tell.

I looked again, because it wasn't very clear. 

That is NOT just dog fur.

As I looked into the face of evil and terror, I might have yelled something like "OHMYGOD. THERE IS A POSSUM IN OUR KITCHEN!" I also may have jumped up on a chair, mouse-in-the-house style. (Are you as impressed with my bravery as I am?)

Andrew and I briefly brainstormed on how to deal with our home invader, while I intermittently praised Niki for being such a GOOD DOG and finding the nasty little thing. Andrew dreamed up a plan about how to get it out of the house and I summarily dismissed it, since all I could imagine was him getting mauled and killed by this monster, and in a few years, having to explain to SharkBean that she lost her father to a vicious opossum.

(At some point, I also clarified to Andrew that we have opossums in our area, not possums.)

I decided to call Animal Control, since they seem to cover this type of thing, and I got an answering machine. I left a slightly panicked message, which ended with, "I look forward to speaking with you very, very soon. VERY, very soon."

I assumed, since it was a holiday weekend, that they might not be in the office. I called 311 (non-emergency), and that call went a lot like this:

Me: Hello, there's an opossum in my kitchen. Is this the right place to call?
311 operator: In your kitchen?
Me: Yes, under my stainless steel rack.
311 operator: Hang up and call 911.
Me: 911? This is an appropriate 911 call?
311 operator: YES. Hang up NOW and call 911.

So, I called 911. Apparently, this was her first opossum in the house call. She connected me to a real, live person at Animal Control who told us we were the VERY NEXT pickup on their list. Animal Control also told us to keep an eye on the opossum, because should it get loose in the house, they wouldn't be going on a search-and-rescue mission hunting it down.

I assured her that there was nothing more compelling to watch in our house than the opossum. Mom took the dogs over to her house, so that they wouldn't continue to antagonize the Wild and Vicious animal in the house, and we held Opossum Watch 2011 in our very own kitchen.

So, for the next hour, we watched the opossum. Andrew named him (presumably "him", I didn't do an anatomical scan) "Bandit", and then insisted I look up information about opossums while we waited. He also declared them "cute" and informed me that we should buy SharkBean a stuffed opossum.

Then, the paranoia kicked in. We're working through season 5 of Dexter, and one of the antagonists is an animal control person.

"What if we're inviting a Boyd Fowler into the house?!" I might have freaked out.

Andrew and I decided it was worth the risk, since I had also declared that we needed to abandon the house. (I made the same declaration when I found out that we have black widow spiders in our garage. Which apparently, we had at the last house, too, Andrew just never told me.)

I was pleasantly surprised when Officer Rick (my new, personal hero) showed up, smiling, and was as friendly as could be. He told us that the opossum was likely much more afraid of us than we were of him, to which I responded, from my perch on the chair, "I seriously doubt that."

Officer Rick assessed that we had an adolescent opossum, and then talked Andrew through how to safely extract one from the house, should we have another uninvited visitor. I may have told Officer Rick that I loved him forever.

Bandit was a little skittish, and got tangled in the phone cord that lives under the stainless steel racks. Gentle as a lamb, Officer Rick untangled Bandit in a flash, and then lowered Bandit- who was the size of a HOUSECAT - into a cage.

Officer Rick also assisted in the photo-op.
After a short discussion of what Bandit's fate was, it turns out, that unless there is a suspicion of rabies (there was not), they just release opossums back into the wild. Since our neighborhood lacks wilderness, and I didn't think any of our neighbors would appreciate the gift of an opossum in any of *their* yards, Officer Rick offered to release Bandit at the perk ponds nearby.

[SIDE NOTE: Apparently, this is NOT Animal Control policy. They trap the critter, and it's up to you, the homeowner, to find a place to release it. I think it was the terror in my voice that may have changed his mind. Maybe it was telling him that I loved him forever. Who can tell?]

Officer Rick shared a fair amount of opossum facts with us, including:

- Mama opossums have 13 nipples, and incidently, have litters of 13.
- A litter of 13 means that there are 13 MORE opossums running around our neighborhood.
- Opossums love fruit that falls off of trees. Especially apples and tangerines, which we have in plentiful supply.

As he was on his way out, Officer Rick took a look at Bandit, and said, "You said you have dogs, right?"

"Yes..." I answered, not freaking out because our dogs are current on their vaccinations, and Bandit showed no signs of rabies. (We also thoroughly checked the dogs for bites, scratches, etc.)

"Do they play with stuffed toys?" Officer Rick asked.


"Hm. It looks like this little guy has been mouthed at. See how he looks a little wet?" Officer Rick pointed out.

That is one moist opossum.

After assuring us that Niki would be fine, just have horrifically stinky breath, Niki went from being the hero of the day, to being QUITE POSSIBLY Bandit's escort into the house, QUITE POSSIBLY bringing a playing-(o)possum-Bandit through the dog door like any other dog toy. Any other stinky, interactive, mouth-full-of-terrifying teeth dog toy.

It's like finding out that a heroic firefighter caused the fire. Doubly so if that heroic firefighter may have given you nose kisses after CHEWING ON AN OPOSSUM.

Oh, and once the dogs came back? Niki was incredibly unhappy that we had his new toy removed. I might have told him he has the meanest mom in the world, and then asked Andrew to brush the opossum funk off of Niki's teeth.

Funny enough, the last two mornings have felt so much better, since there HASN'T been an opossum in the house. It makes a dead rat seem trivial by comparison.

You have got to love relativism.


  1. Dogs are AWESOME! And like you, I'm really brave about many things - - from the safety of standing in my chair.

    These are the moments to remember when the docs and midwives and the like tell you "go home and get plenty of rest and try to avoid stress." You can laugh in their faces at that point - trust me they are used to it!

  2. I often miss having dogs. We've been a cat household since my college days, before that it was Springer Spaniels. You never know what a birding dog is going to drag into the house, whether it's furry or feathery. One of them used to walk around the house with the family hamster in her mouth. Thankfully, Springers are trained to have very soft jaws (so they don't put holes in dinner).

    Of course, a hamster is a lot different than an opossum. Kudos to Andrew for keeping it together. I think a stuffie opossum toy might be a very *cute* reminder ;)

  3. Nobody can tell it like you, Jasmin! I guffawed all the way through.

    I had one once near midnight, walking around my patio trying to figure out how to get into my metal birdseed can. Nope. No can do. Sorry. But at least it was outside!

  4. Your stories are always interesting, but I definitely laughed through this.

    See, if you had cats, you'd get mice, birds, rats or some kind of insect and play with it in front of you. Trust me, it happened last week, and I live on the 2nd floor of an apartment building with only balcony access for the felines.

  5. Coffee and caffeine in moderation are completely fine when you are pregnant especially in the second and third trimester.

    Live it up!

  6. We used to get possums in my parents house in NC. It's illegal to dispose of wildlife, but my dad didn't want to bother calling animal control so he'd sit in the basement with a trap made out of a box and a stick, in the dark, until the possum came out and he'd trap it.

    Then he and my Mom would sneakily drive out and find a place to drop the guy. Only they were so nervous they didn't drive far enough. And he kept coming back. I'm still not sure if my dad didn't go far enough on purpose...it did provide him with quite a bit of entertainment.

    I personally was very glad to have moved out by that time.

  7. Great possum account! I grew up on a farm in Virginia and we had a hen house. Every now and then you'd find a possum sitting in one of the roosts eating an egg. Scared me "youknowwhat"-less every time! It's the beady eyes that scare me most.

  8. Did you manage to score some fiber to spin?? ;-) And I love the expression 'dust puppy' -- now added to our vernacular given we also have a double coated dog and know exactly of which you speak.

  9. I am suddenly incredibly glad our dog has never done anything remotely like playing with other animals.

    I am also incredibly jealous that Andrew didn't tell you about the spider- my SO gleefully ran up to my apartment to tell me about the giant black widow downstairs, and then tried to convince me to let him keep it, put it in a jar and show everyone his "conquest" (he killed it with raid). He knows perfectly well that I'm terrified of bugs, and I'm even worse about spiders (as in, I go into hysterics/panic attacks over teeny ones).

  10. After reading your tweets about this story I chuckled. Then saw the photos of Bandit IN THE HOUSE and realized I would have been a screaming lunatic myself and you were incredibly brave! I'm also happy it didn't bite Niki when he played with it. Bandit probably outweighs my dog, but she would probably have tried to do the same thing. :)

  11. Very awesome story and one to tell Sharkbean later.

    BTW, I agree with Megan and I only avoided coffee my first trimester cause the smell drove me to nausea...after that stage I had my cup a day and was very happy. My little Podling (now Mr. Benton) was very happy to get the coffee in utuero and would quiet down the gymnastics so I could pay attention in my morning meetings after I had a cup.

  12. Yikes! That might be a bit more than I can handle - pregnant or not!

  13. And you got pictures too? You are one brave soul!

  14. OMG!!!!!! how funny is that! LOL
    funny cuz it wasn't at my house.....and here in Georgia, we do call 'em possums!



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