I know what people say

The Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) is ugly, it’s a scavenger, it looks like an overgrown rat.

Perhaps they say other things, these people, but it all boils down to the same problem: The opossum seems not to have a great many friends, at least not as many as, say, the fox or hawk.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) standing behind a tree looking at me (2008_12_19_002635)

For me, though, I’m hugely in love with opossums.

Cute as the day is long, I’ve watched them these many years grow from tiny lumps held in mommy’s pouch to adults so large that few would believe it to be an opossum.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) walking around outside the patio fence (2008_12_19_002638)

I’ve saved a handful of babies spilling from the marsupial pouch after their mother was hit by a car.

I’ve screamed and laughed as a baby no larger than my fist scampered across my foot as it made its way from one end of the patio to the other, and as another equally small baby crossed the patio before returning to a buffet of goodies I left out.

I’ve watched adolescents grow into teenagers and into adults, each generation still visiting so long as they live.

I’ve smiled many times as I spoke silly things to the latest one to climb my tree and wait for nightfall or a dog to pass or a car to drive away or me to go back inside.

I’ve surprised more than my share who didn’t hear me heading for the door and certainly didn’t realize I was coming outside.

I’ve watched with wonder as they climb down trunks headfirst, a gift few animals have.

I’ve chastised myself and later snickered at myself for standing beneath a tree when an opossum fell out of it and on me, one I would have seen had I checked the tree before I leaned against it.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) standing outside the patio fence (2008_12_19_002616)

I know they don’t see well, but by golly they can hear and smell with the sense of a great predator.

I’ve tested that theory and enjoyed the game of seeing how close I could get without causing fear, a game punctuated with standing still and moving slowly and making no noise, a game I always lose but love nonetheless.

I used a stick once to reach through the fence and pet one while it cleaned up the cat food left by the neighborhood felines.

It never flinched.

It stood there and let me pet it while it crunched away at kibble.

No, I wouldn’t have chanced my hand in the encounter—these are wild animals—but sharing that brief moment of contact-by-proxy touched me and thrilled me and left me wheeling with glee.

I’d hardly call them ugly.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) giving me a sideways glance (2008_12_19_002627)

There’s just something about the innocent manner in which they turn their heads away to look at me indirectly…

2 thoughts on “I know what people say”

  1. I love opossums too! I think they are cute, unique and very misunderstood! It is a sad shame that many fear this animal and hate them because of the appearance or whatever the reason may be. Animals need our help!! Thank you for your love and compassion toward these animals.

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