22 May, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are Part II, or Maggie Finds a Friend

My mom hates it when I take the dog out for a walk late at night, because you never know what you'll encounter. I never would have done it in my old neighborhood in Chicago--heck, I was often hassled during the daytime there. But here, where I encounter junior high kids walking their dogs at 10 o'clock at night, I'm not going to worry about it too much.

So a few nights ago, I put Maggie in the back yard without even bothering to turn the porch light on. There was enough light from the moon, and the street lamp, and the neighbor's security light across the alley to more or less make my way around the yard without tripping over anything. So I let her out and followed behind her. She immediately spotted something underneath the lilacs. With tail wagging, she was dancing around whatever it was, trying to get in for a good sniff. I figured it was a mouse or a rabbit--we are overrun with rabbits in the 'hood, bunnies who are so fearless they sometimes quietly sit and watch us as we walk by within feet of them.

I sighed and went back inside to flip on the light switch, which is through the door and six steps up. When I came back out, Maggie was gone. I called her and called her, but there was no response.

Now, I was a little bit worried. I didn't smell skunk when we came outside, but that didn't mean much, since my sinuses are completely stuffed this week from allergies and I have to practically be on top of something before I can smell it.

It was now deathly quiet. No cars, no wind rustling through the trees, and I couldn't even hear Maggie's tags jingling. There was only one place she could be, behind the garage, where the light from the porch doesn't reach.

So I carefully made my way back there, calling her the whole time, and found her at the far side of the garage, at the gate to the alley, ears perked and staring straight up at this:

The opossum was only a foot or so above her head. It was as still and silent as Maggie was.

"Jeezus, Maggie, get over here," I said. I'm such a city girl. Although I would spot them fairly regularly in the wee hours of the morning in the back alleys of Chicago, my general knowledge of 'possums amounted to "they hang from their tails or something, don't they?" I had certainly never been this close to one.

Thank God, Maggie actually came when I called her, her tail wagging and a big cheesy dog grin on her face. I hustled her back inside and of course got Ted as I grabbed the camera. When we went back out, the 'possum was still there, still as stone. That's apparently what they do when they feel threatened--er--play possum, that is. Thanks to Wikipedia, I later learned this about them:

When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum," mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. The lips are drawn back, teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. The physiological response is involuntary, rather than a conscious act. Their stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away. The animal will regain consciousness after a period of minutes or hours and escape. Many injured opossums have been killed by well-meaning people who find a catatonic animal and assume the worst.
The article went on to say that they're nocturnal, solitary, and nomadic, and not really a problem unless cornered. And no, the adults do not hang from their tails, although the wee ones will, briefly, do so. Bummer.

(Of course, now I'm wondering what new visitors Google will bring to my page because I used "anal glands". Um, twice.)

So, because it was playing possum, I actually got to step up within a few feet of it to take its picture. (In the photo above I was crouched down so I could get a picture from Maggie's perspective.)

"Hey beautiful," I said softly. "Let me just snap this and you can go on your merry way."

Ted laughed from behind me. "I doubt they get called beautiful very often."

Probably not. This little guy was drooling and he had snot hanging from his nose. But heck, that's just his nature. And he did have such luxurious-looking fur. I ran around to the alley side to get this picture:

Of course, now more than ever, Mom does not want me taking Maggie out after dark.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you got such good pics!!! Maggie must have been in dog heaven chasing him.

We had a possum that took up residency in our basement last winter. We didn't know he was down there and Mom put a bunch of d-con down there to get rid of the mice (country...) and the possum ate it all...it didn't kill him...but I had to pay my nephew $40 to clean up the poop-tastic explosion his anal glands made from one end of the baesement to the other. There...now anal glands is on your blog THREE times.

Joanne said...

Anal glands. Hee hee. That makes five times now! Come on Google rankings!

Joanne said...

I just took Maggie out for last call; it was around 3:00 a.m. (we're such night owls here), and I swear she was looking for the 'possum. She ran straight for the lilac, sniffed around, and made a beeline for the fence behind the garage that the critter was sitting on the other day. 'Possums are gypsies, so I hope, for this one's sake, he's already moved along.

BTW, Jean, you're lucky you have nephews in such close proximity for the truly icky jobs. My nephew is all the way down in Texas.

kingstreetfarm said...

Hee hee! He's so ugly he's cute! Glad that Maggie didn't get friendly with something less safe though!

Ethan@OneProjectCloser said...

I think possums are creepy. It's funny to read about their "luxurious-looking fur".

Jen said...

At our old old house in the country, Puppy brought us home a possum once. Dead. He was so happy. We have 2 possoms that live in a tree in our back yard here. We warned them not to fall out. Puppy knows they are there.
Those are good pics.

Amalie said...

Everywhere I've ever lived had a resident possum-- my grandmother used to feed hers...And a friend of mine had a possibly rabid one living in her house, which she discovered when it was sleeping in her dresser drawer. It's sometimes hard to tell when they're rabid, because of the normal foaming at the mouth, but this one was aggressive, which is kind of unusual.

My dog has been known to kill them on occasion...And didn't I hear something about a company that was marketing "animal friendly" furs made out of possum-- as though they aren't really animals!?!

Frankly, it's the big long rat tails that get to me.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about the possum . . he's cute, I've had them in my house, nice fur, etc. Doesn't anyone think Joanne walking Maggie in the week hours of the morning is wrong? I mean Maggie goes out for "last call" around midnight or so, I think these later night or early morning walks aren't necessary, except Joanne likes the peace and quiet. I'm just waiting for them to encounter one of the many skunks in the "hood." Then we will see how much fun it is and running for the cameras then!! Hummmm . . I guess We can always put a cot in the garage for Joanne as she sure as hell isn't coming into the house after meeting skunks. . .Maggie either!!
Evil Momlady

Joanne said...

Humph. Sorry I ever showed you how to use the Internet, Mom--now back to the sewing room with you! :-)

Don't anyone pay attention to the crazy woman...it only encourages her.

Anonymous said...

I really love animals, so you'll have to give me a pass on this comment: Am I the only one who thinks Possum's little "finger" claws are the Cutest. Things. Ever?

(glances around)

Okay, party of one. I thought so.

Lady Quilter said...

Ah . . . so now I'm the "Crazy Woman" . . is that a step up or down from "Evil Momlady" a tag Joanne and her brother gave me during their teen years. :) :) Oh well, I guess it's better than being ignored? :)

Lady Quilter said...

Tonia, I really do think possums are kinda cute--and I love those little finger claws, too.

Here's a video someone took of a possum they raised.

Joanne said...

Oops! That last one was me. I forgot to sign my mom out.