I do not normally celebrate the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico. But this year, the Universe decided to include me.
I’ve previously written about the circus I like to call my backyard. I’ve talked about the wild rumpus before. Rest assured that it continues.
If there isn’t a pint-sized human running through my backyard with a Batman cape or a sword, it’s not a typical day. And that small superhero is usually being chased by my far larger dog (who I’ve also talked about—but here’s one for the newbies). Said dog is barking tenaciously and loudly, warning said child that he must WALK—not run—through this herding dog’s domain. And may I remind you—these pint-sized humans are not those I created. Mine are far bigger humans now, with the body hair and deep voices to prove it.
Following the herding dog is generally one of a cabal of senior persons—namely my old male neighbors from up and down the block. They’re typically trying to calm the crazy dog with Milk Bones (which I don’t give her), rawhide (which I don’t give her) or table scraps (yes, you guessed it—which I don’t give her). All while yelling loudly for her to “stop barking” and “calm down.”
While happy that the Universe is making sure I never feel lonely, this circus can sometimes get out of hand. Say, on a working day, perhaps. And this week, the Universe decided to gift me an unwanted addition to the ruckus. A very quiet unwanted addition. So quiet, I believe it was dead in my window well for a day or two before one of the little humans discovered it.
Penelope Possum, as we shall call her, showed up a bit early for Day of the Dead this week. And, of course, she was a possum. Had she been a raccoon, a skunk, or a groundhog, I would have been able to definitively call the situation as I saw it—“dead.” But because possums play dead when scared, I was left with a conundrum. And because I am not a fan of coming in close proximity with wild critters like possums, I was hesitant to test my “dead” theory.
I went where I always go when I need solid opinions—to the local Facebook moms group. As I explained my situation and asked for help in who to call, the answers came fast and furious. I believe they ranged from “my Uncle Ned” to Animal Control. And my favorite—the woman who asked me to take a picture of poor Penny. Huh? I later realized she fancied herself a possum expert. She thought she could tell from the pic if Penny was alive or dead.
While my online friends discussed the possum situation at length (“Get a plank and see if it walks out.” “If it’s alive, it will drool.”), Penny was generating great interest amongst the pint-sized male humans and their far larger senior counterparts.
As I awaited a “Critter Detective” to haul away poor Penny (the only good online suggestion I got), the senior cabal held a pow-wow just over my window well, the little ones listening with rapt attention. “You know possums play dead, right? I mean, you could reach in there to grab him and he might just bite off a finger!” As I heard another neighbor respond with a story of his ill-fated cousin in that very situation many moons ago, I sighed, heading into the house to put on a jacket. When I came out, the older gents informed me—while holding a large stick—that they had prodded Penelope and she was—in their expert opinion—truly dead. The tiny men concurred, nodding solemnly.
Sheesh. Everybody is a possum expert nowadays.
I nearly hugged the Critter Detective when he finally showed up. I felt bad for poor Penny but was glad to see her go to a final resting place other than my window well. And for future reference, I am told a possum playing dead generally either freezes on all fours or lies on its back with its feet in the air. Penny, alas, was on her side.
The tiny tots who discovered her talked of having a ceremony for Penelope. We haven’t yet. If we do, I guess November 2 is our day. Tradition dictates survivors place the favorite foods of the deceased at the grave site. So if you see any pint-sized humans bringing slugs, snails, frogs or small rodents my way . . . well, you’ll know why.
It’s just another day in my backyard circus.