Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wild Week of Joy and Sorrow: Part Two

This post doing double duty, finishing my tale of two wildlife encounters, and fulfilling the #52 Snapshots of Life challenge for this week - "mother".

Yesterday began with the usual routine. Toby ate breakfast while I made coffee. He had his plaque-removing biscuit while I poured my first cup. Then he waited at the back door to go out.

Before I could take my first sip Toby was barking frantically. When he didn't stop right away, I knew I had to investigate.

What I found broke my heart. A small opossum had collapsed on the ground just on our side of a six inch hole at the bottom of the fence.  I couldn't see her injury and didn't need to to know she was badly hurt. Her ear twitched once as she made a brave effort to snarl, but she could only weakly lift her upper lip. Toby must have heard "Emergency!" in my tone of voice, because he sat instantly upon command in spite of his excitement. Getting him inside took only a few seconds. 

I grabbed my phone and ran to the computer to begin searching for local wildlife rehabilitators.  I tried different numbers but got no answer for several frustrating minutes. Finally I reached a raptor expert, who gave me the number for the opossum rehabilitator. I left two voicemails, hoping for a quick response.

I returned to the opossum with two beach towels and a laundry basket, having retrieved a pair of heavy gardening gloves. One towel went into the bottom of the basket. I draped the other as gently as possible over her. Sliding my gloved hands under the furry body while keeping the towel over her head, I lifted her into the laundry basket. She was still breathing but hadn't struggled at all. I knew then that she was in a very bad way; a wild animal will fight as hard as it can, especially when in pain. If it can.

I fought back tears as I dialed my daughter's work number at our vet's clinic. Thirty minutes had passed. I explained the situation. My daughter called the emergency animal clinic. They would euthanize the opossum for me if I brought her there. Or, I could wait for 15 minutes for Animal Control to open. They would come to the house and euthanize her. 

I still hoped to hear from the wildlife rehabber, so I opted to wait. I sat by the little animal and softly stroked her fur, telling her it would be okay. She was silent, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest. Then her breathing changed. It became ragged and irregular. Seconds later she was gone. Out of pain and peaceful.


At peace.
 The next task was to see if she was a mother. A rehabber can save the babies if they are grown enough. Opossums are marsupials. The fetuses crawl into the mothers pouch and finish developing there, just as joeys do with their kangaroo mothers. 

I gathered my courage. Taking several deep calming breaths, I carefully turned the little creature over. She had been attacked in the abdominal area. Nothing could have saved her. Her wounds were too severe. She was a mother, but her babies were smaller than a jelly bean. No one could save them either. I snapped a photo with my phone. I had never seen inside an opossum pouch, and even though I was crying I knew that later I'd want to learn more about what I was seeing.


Tiny babies, too small to save.
 This post is dedicated to wildlife mothers. This opossum mother fought hard to live for her babies. She courageously crept through the fence to the safety of our yard. 

I'm sorry this post is so sad, but telling the story illustrates how powerful the will to live and protect offspring can be. I'd like to end on a happier note, with a photo of an opossum mother and her adorable, out-of-pouch babies. These babies spent 2-3 months in their mother's pouch and will ride on her back for several more weeks. 
Photo Credit: Museum of Life and Science
Thank you to Amber Partin of Great Neck Veterinary Clinic and Pearl Beamer of Sacred Friends Wildlife Rehabilitation for helping me with their advice and moral support.



9 comments:

  1. that is so sad but at least she was comforted in last minutes.

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    1. Thank you, I felt so helpless. It was really all that could be done.

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  2. How sweet of you to be there for her. I know most people wouldn't have done the same thing. The photo of the babies is fascinating, have never seen that before. I came across an already deceased young possum in my yard the other day. Not sure what happened to him... poor little guy. I have some great old photos of possums I came across the other day I need to share. (And by the way, your comment on the blue nail polish did not offend me - you were absolutely correct!)

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    1. I'm so glad you found the photo of the babies interesting. I almost didn't include it because I was afraid some people would think it was gross, but decided it was a unique opportunity I want to share. I'm looking forward to seeing your opossum photos too. They're such cool creatures.

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  3. That is very sad but at least you were there to keep her company and in comfort at the end
    Loves and licky kisses
    Princess Leah xxx

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  4. EVERY BREATHING BEING IS PRECIOUS AND YOU ARE SUCH A LOVING PERSON TO BE WITH HER TO THE END...I'M SURE SHE CALMED DOWN JUST A BIT FROM YOU SOOTHING TOUCH AND LEFT THIS WORLD IN JUST A BIT OF PEACE.
    HUGS MADI AND MOM

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  5. Thank you for caring for this sweetheart in her time of need. Although I'm sure she was scared and in pain, you comforted her and that means so much. I love your kind heart!

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