Opossum – dead or alive?


By Vicki Scott

It was morning and I was still half asleep when went stumbling through the house into the early morning darkness. There was just light enough to see where I was going but dark enough to need the headlights on my car shining. Our property is fenced in to give our dogs boundaries, so I have to open the gate to get out of the yard. When I looked toward the gate, I saw what almost looked like a clump of grass on the inside of the gate of our fence in front of that center rod that is pulled out to open the gate.
When I moved closer, our dog Sandy was watching and wagging her tail. Sandy is half border collie but looks suspiciously like a yellow lab. Her mother was a full-blooded border collie, and I guess her father was a traveling salesman. All I know is she is a good dog and will go “Cujo” on any critter that tries to get in the fence. Sandy and Reba – a border collie that looks like a border collie – make a good team when unwanted vermin trespass on their side of the fence and have left us many critters presents.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw an opossum next to a tree in the front yard. I thought it was another dead gift and kept on doing what I was doing. My husband Alan asked me later that evening if I saw the opossum, and I told him I did. He said that he went outside to dispose of the treasure without the dogs knowing (we don’t like to hurt their feelings). When Alan arrived at the tree, there was no opossum. He checked around the whole yard only to find that our gift might not have been dead. It was just playing dead and apparently went home when it was done. I arrived at the gate, and the opossum at the tree was my first thought. It looked like either another opossum or the same one coming to play previously. It looked swollen at first, but I guess it was the way it was laying.
As I neared the animal, this clump of grass flipped over, and its tail hit the fence. I thought I was going to have to check myself. Alan was inside in bed and I knew he was awake. I almost went to get him, but I thought that if I could get in my car and back up to the gate, maybe that would stir up the opossum to move out of my way.
I cranked my car, backed up to the gate, left the motor running and got out to check for any sign of life. Sandy is watching me the whole time with a “What are you doing? You don’t like my present?” look. I petted her and thanked her while trying to figure out how to get passed the opossum. I did not want to risk it jumping at me while I am trying to open the gate. The whole situation was making me late for my next adventure at George Wallace Senior Center.
Being as quiet as I could, I finally creeped around the stagnant clump of grass and opened the gate outward instead of inward, being careful not to disturb my dead gift.Upon backing up, a thought arose – “What if it is alive and I run over it and kill it?” I did not want to do that since I saw a post on Facebook about how useful it was to have opossums in your yard. I eased back and did not feel a bump, so I breathed a sigh of relief. I carefully went back and closed the gate, leaving the opossum where it was.
I shared my experience at work, and when I had a chance, I called Alan to find out if he saw our gift. He said he did not, so that opossum was alive and playing again! I guess we have a new pet! I think I will name it Opie. I thought about Play Dead Fred, but Alan’s sidecar buddy is named Fred, so Opie it is. He might, however, need to play dead under the tree instead of in front of the gate.

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