Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wild Life

Today marks the end of National Wildlife Week. Therefore, I thought it timely to relate a rather heart-stopping wildlife adventure Edward escorted me on last Spring.

It was a year ago this month, a perfectly ordinary evening at the end of a perfectly ordinary week. The Songwriter had just returned from out of town and was in the process of bringing in his bags. I was preparing dinner and had opened the back door for Edward and Apple to go outside for a run in the garden whilst the Songwriter unloaded the car. The dogs ran out but, per usual, immediately ran back in so as not to miss out on any homecoming activities of potential grand interest. Both sat down just behind me as I stood chopping carrots at the kitchen counter, the three of us forming a classic contented picture of quiet domesticity.

All of a sudden our quiet was shattered as I heard the Songwriter scream out in piercing notes of a most unnatural pitch. I wheeled around to see Edward, sitting calmly at my feet, holding on to an extremely large opossum, its horrid, hairless tail reaching almost to the floor. I asked no question, I made no sound. I simply threw carrots into the air and ran like a girl for the door. Edward, of course, sensed a game was afoot and had no intention of being left out of the fun. He followed me full stop, but not before setting down his magnificent prize in the middle of the kitchen floor. Apple retreated fast on Edward’s heels, leaving the Songwriter all alone, holding his bags and staring down in horror at the full grown opossum lying supine at his feet.

Now the wonderful thing about a possum is that he is genetically programmed to play dead whenever he is in a precarious situation, and that was just what our dreadful little friend was doing now - on his side like a corpse in my kitchen. As I paced the back garden chanting ohnoohnoohno like a mantra with Edward following my every step as if to ask, what? what? what?.... man and beast were left together in paralyzed silence for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, the door flew open and I saw the Songwriter sprinting for the back of the garden. In the darkness, I couldn’t see what he was doing and wondered briefly if he had jumped the fence and was making for the airport on foot. But no, soon he came running back, muttering unintelligibly, with a shovel in one hand and a bucket in the other. His unknown, and hastily crafted, plan did not bear thinking about.

Upon his return to the kitchen he could see that our creepy wee visitor, realizing that his clever genetic coping mechanism had once again rescued him from certain disaster, was now sitting bolt upright, comfortably surveying his new circumstance. Fortunately, one nudge with the aforementioned shovel, and he flopped over “dead” once more which rendered him, most mercifully for all concerned, quite easy to maneuver into the bucket and out to the car where, luckily for him, he was taken on a short drive and eventually set free in a densely wooded park where, no doubt, he lives happily to this very day.

Given the unrealistic calm they both exhibited during this harrowing encounter, I do believe neither Edward nor Apple realized exactly what they had. Edward has several large stuffed toys that he frequently carries around, the same size and roughly the same colour as our hairy little houseguest. I truly think he simply walked out onto the porch in the dark, and picked up the opossum who was lying limp in the overwhelming presence of a large dog, and carried him inside as one of his stuffed toys.

Needless to say, it was a wildlife encounter none of us shall ever forget and one I fervently hope will never occur again.

Painting above: Noah's Ark by Francis Hamel

Note: It seems as if the opossum has neglected to travel to other parts of the globe and therefore some of you are unaware of exactly what he looks like. I thought this photo might be of help.