8.11.2011

playing opossum

Our home backs up to a farm.  We have many farm cats, strays and litters of kittens that wonder through our yard.  Since this spring we have caught and hauled to the shelter 7 cats.  We are fortunate that our neighbor has a daughter-in-law who works at the no-kill shelter here and can find homes for many of these cats.

Several weeks ago, while my family was here visiting, 2 cute gray kittens wondered onto our porch.  We tried in vane to catch the little buggers, but failed miserably.  However, I do believe we succeeded in entertaining our neighbors as they watched 3 grown women and 6 kids scurry around the yard, calling here kitty-kitty and making kissy noises.  Eventually, Ginger with her mad hunting-dog skills, pinned and almost ate one of the kittens.  Fortunately for the kitten, Ginger can hunt, but she is not at all quiet about it.  The kitten was rescued, fed and taken in by one of my sisters.

Since that time we have been trying to catch the second kitten.  Sadly however, we have only caught the 2 barn cats that live behind us and 1 really stupid and stinky opossum.  The opossum, has been caught 3 times.  I think he must have a fondness for kitten food.  Either that or he loves the new all night diner we have installed, all you can eat, free accommodations and you are released without charge come morning.  Perhaps he is not so stupid?

Last night we set the cage up with a full plate of kitty food and went to bed.  I wasn't really shocked to find that once again we had caught the opossum.  What did shock me was that in his anxiety filled state he had attempted to chew through the metal cage.  His attempt, while being unsuccessful at releasing him did managed to entangle him.  Somehow, this really stinky and filthy opossum managed to get his lower jaw up under the lower cage wire.  Not only was his jaw wedged up under the wire but his canine teeth were hooked over the wire above preventing him from untangling himself.  When I found him his jaw was cut and bloody.  He was one really stinky pissed off opossum.

At first I thought maybe if I opened the cage door he would be able to untangle himself and waddle away.  This only got me an eye roll worthy of any high school student, from an opossum no less.  Okay, so he was really stuck.

Adding to the disaster was Ginger.  Ginger found the entire event incredibly interesting and almost knocked over the fence trying to "help" free the opossum.  I drug the trap filled with the stinky opossum over to the back of the yard.  Now Ginger thought this was GREAT!  A new game called: Let's chase Kristin while she drags the cage!  Did I mention it was 6 am?  If my neighbors were wondering about us before I can only imagine what the HOA will say now.

Once the cage was situated in the back yard, I tried helping the opossum.  I opened the trap and with the really long stick I tried pushing the lower jaw of the opossum back through the wire opening.  The only thing preventing the opossum from being free was his canine teeth.  I could not get the teeth unhooked and the jaw pushed back simultaneously.  I am not sure, but at this point I believe the opossum actually sighed at me!  I am sure that the look he gave me clearly said, "Please, I beg you.  Stop helping."  So I left.

I sent John a brief text that said, "Caught opossum again.  Jaw stuck in trap.  Will either bleed to death or die of starvation."  I can only image the look on his face when he read this.  Priceless.  As you can probably guess he called right back.  He suggested I get gloves and a pair of channel locks and bend the cage wires to help free the opossum.  Now I ask you what wife, in her right mind would say, "okay" to this. I explained to John that the opossum did not want my help.  He didn't by it.

Clearly not in my right mind, I trudged outside.  With my cell phone on speaker, my channel locks, my canvas gloves and a rag wrapped around my nose and mouth I headed out to free the opossum.  By now I am sure my neighbors were on the phone to the animal control.  "Hello?  Yes, my neighbor is trying to kill a opossum in her back yard with a pair of channel locks."

As I approached the cage the opossum, now laying on his side, clearly exhausted, was trying to will his jaw loose.  I set the phone down, and tried to bend the wires on the trap.  I talked to Stinky the Opossum (Did I mention he stunk)  while I tried to free him.  He did not look comforted.  Let me just say those cages are strong!   I was able to bend the bars slightly around the opossum's jaw but due to his position and the swelling in his jaw I was unable to get the wires holding his jaw.  I tried smaller pliers and still the space was so tight that did not have enough room to maneuver the wire away from his teeth.

 After 5 minutes Stinky and I had to have a serious talk.  I told Stinky that he was either going to have to wait until John got home or I was going to have to extract his tooth.  From the loud hissing sound that came from the cage, clearly he did not like his choices.  I sympathized with the little fellow but hey, life is full of tough choices.  I took the pliers and pulled.  A small piece of tooth broke free but it still was not enough to free Stinky.

 Now he was really pissed!  He hissed, clawed at the cage, whipped his tale and had that crazy opossum look in his eyes.  Okay, now I was getting freaked out!  I had visions of this rabid opossum breaking free and chasing me through the neighbors yard.  I looked at Stinky and he looked at me and I told him, "Hey, Don't get sassy with me.  I am trying to help you here. Oh, and by the way if I do free you please do not come after me. Okay?'


With one last pull Stinky's tooth was extracted and he was freed.  True to his word he did not chase after me.  He did not move at all.  He just sat in the trap looking completely terrified.  2 hours later I went out on the deck to peer over at Stinky.   I was not about to go anywhere near that cage now that it was open. I watched as a humiliated and battered Stinky waddle away into the drainage ditch.  I can only hope that this has taught Stinky one very valuable lesson. Never bite off more than you can chew, or you may loose a tooth.



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