Animals can be a bit of a paradox. Certain animals you want to keep around. Others, you would rather not see. Depending on the day, that is how I feel about our dog Polly. Some days, I just want to have her next to me and rub her back. Other days, I want her to go play in traffic.
Tonight, Polly was around to “help” me do some late night chores – by “help” I mean that she was at my feet whether I wanted her to be there or not.
I keep a pair of outside shoes in the garage. These never make it into the house. I sauntered from our kitchen with our recycling bin to take to the much larger recycling bin on the side of our house, and into the garage, to put on said outside shoes, to make the journey to said much larger recycling bin.
Of course, Polly followed.
I pitched the recycling, walked through the exterior door of the garage, and noticed that Polly was no longer with me. I couldn’t decide whether to leave her in the back yard (I was enjoying the break from her excessive need for attention) or find out why she was not with me. I chose the latter, and went out from the garage to see if I could find her in the back yard.
She stood perfectly still, looking, not at me, but towards the fence along the far side of the yard. “Tis odd” I muttered to no one in particular. I called her, she turned her head to acknowledge me, but remained still. Now, she has never been accused of being overly compliant, but generally, when faced with the choice of coming inside with a human, or staying outside by herself for an undetermined amount of time, she almost always goes for what’s behind door number one. She moved just enough that I could see what had captured her attention.
Why look, it is a critter from the category of “animals you don’t want to see”. I’m not entirely sure what it is that drew this opossum into my domain (perhaps the aroma of the compost pile just 10 yards away, but I’m not an opossum and can’t really be expected to know all the desires of an opossum’s mind) but I was fairly certain I was not interested in his/her (didn’t take the time to look) presence in my yard. From the looks of things, it seemed the critter was not too keen on my having interrupted his/her (again, I didn’t take the time to look) late night lurking. Exhibit A below:
So now, what to do? I could kill it, but then I would have to figure out what to do with the body – I have small children who use that yard and I’m not so sure they would respond well to seeing a carcass in their play area; or I could bury it, but it didn’t seem wise to spend that amount of time to dig a whole for such a small creature; and I for sure was not going to carry its lifeless body down the street to the wooded area for disposal because I’m not sure that would have brought any joy to my neighbors or passersby.
Polly, showing a good deal of restraint, stood right by my side. I considered another option – what would the dog do? I looked at the critter, looked at her, then said the magic word: GO! Off she went! She tore after the opossum, and with both amazing braking ability and little noise, stopped mere inches from the critter’s face. I was both fearful and mesmerized by the possibilities of what could happen. Here is the encounter:
As you can see, the critter was not pleased to meet another member of the animal kingdom. Polly took that personally, and dove at the opossum’s body. Some hissing and some growling took place, and again the tension between fear and mesmerizing in my mind arose. Then I got to thinking: I have no idea what manner of filth is in that critter, and I’m not interested in taking Polly to the vet because she was bitten by the critter and on the verge of death, because how could I explain to my bride (who sometimes likes Polly, but rarely likes foolishness, and never likes wasting money) and my children (who mostly adore Polly) that Polly is dead because Daddy had to try a dumb experiment? So, I called off the dog – I think that is the first time I’ve ever been able to use that phrase in a literal sense – and she came back to me with a mixture of pride and thankfulness in her eyes. If she could have spoken , I’m sure she would have said “I would have done it for you, but thanks for not making me finish the job”.
For those of you who might wonder about the brief physical encounter, Polly neither inflicted nor received any wounds. She is fine, fast asleep and snoring on the floor, though unlikely to follow me again anytime soon. As for the opossum, he/she (again, I didn’t take the time to look) survived its encounter, and has likely moved on to less hostile environments. At least Polly hopes so.