Sunday, April 25, 2010

Playing Possum

The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
Bert: Meh
Sam: Meh
The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
Bert: Meh
Sam: Meh
Bert and Sam was sleeping on the floor, and I’ve left the back door open so they can come and go as they please, and I can sleep in.
The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
Whatever it is, it isn’t human because Bert isn’t reacting. If it isn’t human, by and large it isn’t very dangerous. But also, Lucas isn’t barking nonstop, like he does at snakes, but just barking, then stopping, then barking some more. Sam isn’t reacting so I’m also guessing it isn’t prey.
The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
I get up and call Luke but he doesn’t come so I know it’s something rather than nothing. I put some boots on and then watch as Lucas carries a large furry mass about ten feet, drops it, and barks at it.

Possum.

“Playing Possum” is the colloquial for playing dead, and I suspect this one is doing just that. The body language suggests that this animal isn’t really dead, and honestly, I cannot believe it is in one piece. Bert and Sam are unusually mortiferous when it comes to small mammals. This is the first survivor I have seen in a decade. But it isn’t pretty. The animal has a very serious cut over one eye. There isn’t any way a small mammal can be treated here, in my home, and talking someone from South Georgia into treating a possum would be rather difficult. I take a shovel and carry it out beside the pond and leave it. If it is really alive, maybe it will recover, and if it isn’t then nature will have Her way anyway. I’m not happy with this, but I cannot figure out how to do things differently.

Sam kills things. It’s what he does. There isn’t a way to dress it up and make it sound any better. Sam’s focus when it comes to creatures in the back yard is incredibly narrow. I think I could talk Bert out of it if Sam wasn’t around, but when it comes right down to it, of the two Elder Mutts, Bert enjoys it a lot more than Sam. To Sam it’s business. To Sam it is what he is supposed to do. He kills things and never looks at them again. He doesn’t play with dead things. Sam is disinterested in the dead, but Bert likes to carry them around until I take them away from hm and toss them over the fence.

I cannot figure out where Lucas stands on this. So far he seems perfectly content to watch from a distance. Sam made his first kill when he was much younger than Luke. The Loki Mutts barks at snakes whereas Sam shakes them to death. All I can figure with this one is Bert got there first, Lucas went in to take the possum away from Bert, Sam was more interested in keeping Luke away from Bert than killing. I have no idea, really. But this was a mistake all around. I should have never let an injured animal out of my sight. I should have put a bullet to it, or I should have tried to found someone who could have treated the animal. I go out to where I left the possum and sure enough, it is gone.
Hunting for an injured possum right before a thunder storm in South Georgia isn’t the most insane thing I’ve ever done, but you know, it creeps up into the top fifty with a good set of legs. Can they carry rabies? That’s a thought that will stop ya. The dogs have been vaccinated but I haven’t. I look over the pond and there is an older woman leading a child of twelve or so by the hand, they’ve espied something near the holding pond on my neighbor’s land.

I cut back through the house to watch and it is not pretty. The possum is out in the open, dazed and confused, and the child wants to rescue it. The woman isn’t letting her get close, but the kid is beginning to wail. Someone in a pick-up shows up and the kid really starts screaming. This is yours Mike. You knew better than to leave an injured animal like that. Dammit.
The woman drags the creaming kid away and the man in the truck waits until they’re back at my neighbor’s house before he shoots the possum. It’s a quick end, and I’m grateful as hell he did it clean. One shot in the head and it is over, and I’m off the hook for any future suffering.

The dogs dislike gunfire and they come in all excited about the return of the possum. Sam has good vision, and he knows the possum was out there. Lucas just knows Sam is excited about something, and Bert just knows if the other two fogs are cranked he ought to bark at the people, just because they are there. Bert’s default is to bark at people, because he knows I like him to let me know when humans are around. Now they’re all crowded around the window with me, watching the guy load the possum with a shovel, just like I did, and toss it in the back of the truck. He’s dead, Jim.

I watch the storm move in with a sense that I’ve failed here. The odds of me being able to find someone to help heal a possum are slim, but I didn’t try, and that is what bothered me. Barring that, I should have gotten the .22 out and just ended it. I don’t like my judgment in this one, and I wonder what the hell I was thinking. The rain falls lightly on the roof, and I hope the mulch pile is getting some rain. After almost a decade here, a small mammal actually survived Sam, and walked off from it, sort of.

I’m still unsure what I should have done.

Take Care,
Mike

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