It took 15 years, but I officially became a Kentucky girl last week. This was so deigned by my friend Candice, who is from a holler in Pike County, so I trust her judgment completely.
My graduation started at midnight last Wednesday. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time outside in our yard in the middle of the night on account of our poor little dog, Fitz, who’s been having some health problems that have resulted in potty issues.
So, when he didn’t come in when I called, I went out searching for him, afraid coyotes might be lurking around. I saw Fitz in the distance busying himself by our giant weeping willow. As I got closer, I discovered he was busy because he was eating something. Eating something big.
Not to overwhelm you with backstory here, but the night before, our dog Tilly had also eaten something: six chicken wing bones that she’d dug out of the kitchen trash. These six chicken wing bones landed her at the vet for the night so they could make sure the bones didn’t splinter and puncture something.
So, I was on high alert for what could happen if the wrong things were consumed. I’m assuming whatever giant thing Fitz had in front of him fell into that category.
Now. If I’m being honest here, and I am, my first instinct was to prance quickly inside and get my brave husband William to handle this. But when I leaped into the house, I discovered he was fast, fast asleep and could not be roused. So I had to have a little conversation with myself. Was I dog mom? Or was I an effing dog mom?
I grabbed a dried chicken treat, triple-bagged some Kroger bags, and ran back outside.
By this point, Fitz was deep into his meal; as I approached, I heard crunching. But when I got within a few feet of him, Fitz knew what I was after. He picked up his dinner and started running away from me.
That’s when I saw that his meal had a tail. A long, bald one. That was presumably a nauseating shade of pink.
Now, readers, I did not grow up in the land of the opossum. If I’m honest here, and I have every intention of being, I didn’t quite believe they were real when I was a kid. I mean, a marsupial that hung from the trees by its tail and hissed when confronted? Sounded like something from “The Princess Bride.” Or at least Australia.
So when I started seeing possums dead on the side of the road when I moved to Kentucky, I was both fascinated and aghast. Holy wow, these things were not only real, I was now living among them.
Up until last Wednesday, I had managed very successfully to avoid a possum encounter.
But now there was one in my dog’s mouth.
“Here, Fitzi, Fitzi, Fitzi,” I called out lamely.
I wagged the chicken treat in front of him with one hand, the Kroger bags flapping in the other. It was either luck or my dog just really likes chicken, but Fitz dropped the possum in favor of the treat.
I pounced on what I hoped, what I so intensely hoped, was a carcass.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh please, please, god,” I screamed between clenched teeth, wrapping the possum in the bags.
The body was warm, readers. So very warm. And when I picked up the bundle, it was heavy. So very heavy.
Apparently, the freshly dead are.
I ran what felt like a mile to get to the garbage can, keeping the mass at arm’s length. I’m not ashamed to admit, I screamed through clenched teeth the entire time. And I didn’t only yell the name of a deity along the way.
The next day, I went walking with my friend Candice, who is a vet, and she told me heartwarming stories about possums. Namely, that they eat a lot of ticks and aren’t vicious. That she’d once helped one who’d been hit by a car die more humanely by feeding it some of her grandmother’s medicine.
I listened for a while before interrupting her.
“I’m glad to know they are good little beings,” I said. “But can I be honest with you? Getting that possum away from Fitz is the bravest thing I think I have ever done.”
So that’s when Candice told me I was now officially part of the Kentucky club.
As I mentioned, this capture happened on a Wednesday. In our subdivision, we get garbage pickup on Tuesdays. So that possum, which William later wrapped in a more substantial bag, sat in the trash for six long days under, as you all know, some pretty hot sun.
By the time I dragged the trash to the street yesterday, that bin was ripe. I mean, ripe, a fact I relayed to William when he got home from work.
“I feel so badly for the trashman,” I said. “I actually contemplated sticking an apology note on top of the bin to acknowledge what he’s doing for us.”
That’s when William turned to me.
“So you thought about saying you’re sorry for having stinky trash?”
“I mean, I thought about it.”
“You may be a Kentucky girl, but your roots are Canadian through and through.”