The following is a true story. By the time this is posted, I will have added a photo. For now, the story is more important:
Early in our camping experience last summer, my granddaughter and I heard my Jack Russell Terrier barking and came upon a baby opossum peeking out from behind our generator bin. It was frightened and clearly a bit young to be wandering around on its own.
I called the dog off and she scampered out of sight. (I say “she” because Nature makes females a bit more sturdy and independent early on. I will never know her true gender but my guess is an educated one.)
She appeared once more that day around our log splitter. This uncharacteristic sighting made me snap a photo and assume “something” had happened to her mother. When I told my husband, he said he had seen a dead baby opossum in the nearby bushes, the day before. Seems my “guess” had more legitimacy after that.
It was Sunday, and we were hours from leaving for home. I had learned from other lessons of interfering with Nature, that my human instinct to “get involved” was not always wise for either the wild animal or for my heart. I felt I just HAD to give her a chance. She had survived, so far, and although I could not take responsibility for her, I didn’t have to all-together turn my back.
Just before I left, I took a large handful of dry dog food and piled it, undercover, near the generator bin. With a heavy heart, I went home.
The next week, the dog food and opossum were gone.
I thought of her often throughout the summer. I also accepted the “not knowing” of what happened to her a mixed blessing.
Around the middle of October, my dog came strutting back to my campsite with a prize catch. My heart sank! He had caught and killed a juvenile opossum. It was from under the place where I had, months before, left the dog food. Even this moment, my heart is racing and my stomach is turning at the telling of an “almost” triumphant tale.
I have little doubt that the opossum was the orphan I had met in June. She HAD survived but had not learned enough to continue to survive.
This winter’s harshness has made me consider her violent end a possible blessing against the option of freezing or starving. Without a mother, her instincts may not have well prepared her.
The moral of this story, that I hold on to, is that I HAD cared. That I HAD tried to help. I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) have done more and that I really need to let go of the heart-sickening guilt I keep revisiting.
There would be those who would say, “You didn’t care or do enough.”
I would beg to differ.
The sick feeling in my stomach while writing this is still there.
I also had asked myself a number of questions. Here’s a few:
Can I find her in time?
Is her mother temporarily trapped in a dumpster and might she return?
How could I safely capture and transport her in the same car as my dog?
Would I really be offering her a better life by interfering?
Would my husband’s opinions on my decision matter?
Is there a law against bringing wild animals into a day care setting?
Would the Animal Hospital accept her?
How terrified would she be in all this?
Yes…I DID care deeply but I knew that caring didn’t give me the “right” to affect absolute changes nor did it protect me from possibly doing more harm than good.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I hope in telling this story, “little opossum’s”, AND my dilemma, speaks to you.
Don’t forget…I also may be wrong in my conclusion that every sighting of an opossum was the SAME opossum. And that my friends, is where hope lives.