Wildlife I’ve Met: A Partial List

A family of o'possums moved in under our patio deck. There was new construction in the distance, making a frightening roar that must have terrified wildlife. The destruction of habitat and triple digit temperatures were likely factors as well.

I first noticed the mother ‘possum one night when I looked out onto the patio. I noticed a gray, spiky-haired creature there, deeply hissing then displaying a pointy-toothed pseudo smile. Head lowered, eyes seemingly glowing red, it was like a scene from The Amityville Horror. I was okay with this. In my wandering wild-child childhood of sorts, casual caretakers allowed wily wildlife inside our home – adding to the existing chaos. 
“Is the dog chasing that squirrel again? Why can’t we have any peace around here?”
“I don’t know. Now where are those children?”

My cat Alaska gave the mother ‘possum mellow consideration. Our dog Sugarbear was not aware of its presence, being asleep under the bed at the time. I was afraid he might have gone one-on-one with the little creature. I could imagine a nasty confrontation, and didn’t want my puppy punctured by a 'possum, which might have rabies or something. The mother ‘possum became frightened and ran into the darkness. At least it hadn’t run into the apartment.

'Possum patrol, night two. I must check the patio. Where's that flashlight? I wonder if 'possums like Tender Vittles?

We are once again in close proximity with a 'possum. As I was working at my computer last night, a young 'possum discreetly entered through the open patio door. As I later entered the bathroom, I met the creature for the first time. Startled, I quickly backed out and closed the bathroom door. I gathered my wits and went back in to check things out. The tiny animal was standing next to the toilet, giving me a soulful, fearful look. He/she (I didn’t check) was very cute. It seems that nature is ingenious in this way, in making babies cute - or most anyway.

The question was: how to get the creature out of the apartment without being bitten, or without psychologically scarring the little one? I thought of throwing a towel over it, grabbing it and quickly hustling it outside, but imagined that it would go totally wild and make horrible wild animal noises like some demon from hell. I really wasn't up for that.

Though not a compulsive internet poster of photos, I briefly considered taking its picture, but then thought not. What the little creature needed was not marsupial paparazzi, not a flash of light in its eyes. I was hesitant to flush the toilet as well, as it might have become airborne from fright. I tried to lure it out of the bathroom with a trail of Tender Vittles, to no avail. I eventually turned on the bathtub faucet and the startled animal made a mad dash for the living room. It was very cute, seemingly uncoordinated, doing a waddle/run type of thing.

In the living room I found it in a corner next to a bookcase, and I couldn’t get it out. I didn’t want to nudge it or harass it with the broom. I penned it up there for the night, or so I thought. We could not find it this morning, but have a feeling that it will turn up.

It's been a couple of days since the most recent 'possum incident. The ‘possum family seems to have deserted the patio. It seems that the local wildlife community has not sent a search party for their strayed little one. Yesterday I had a brainstorm, suddenly thinking Aha! The closets!  It was a perfect place for the little animal to settle in. My sliding closet door is left slightly open, so it likely slipped in there!

I assume that by day the 'possum sleeps in the deep recesses of miscellaneous belongings, or hides elsewhere. Then, by night, it likely runs around the apartment, eats pet food, and drinks a little water, before going back to bed in its cozy closeted den. Perhaps it has been migrating from area to area, as our laid-back house pets look on. Perhaps the dog, cat and ‘possum even developed a bond of some kind, playing cool little animal games, chasing each other around during the night, while talking and laughing hysterically about Homo Sapiens, in squeaky little animal voices.

But seriously, this situation was beginning to make me kind of nervous. What if one day this adolescent monster ‘possum comes lumbering out of the closet, with an attitude?


In the middle of the night I awoke to the distinctive sound of rustling plastic in our bedroom closet. Sugarbear barked once. I got up and turned on the light. I looked into the closet and didn’t notice anything leaping into my face, crawling around, or otherwise moving. I went back to bed. Later we’ll make an effort to relocate the little creature ourselves, as I don't really want to call Animal Control in on this. Again - I don't relish the thought of a rapidly growing marsupial living in my bedroom.

Oh well, I had been meaning to clean out that closet anyway.


We’d searched a bedroom closet in vain for the baby ‘possum. That was several days ago, and it seems that we were shortsighted in our search. The baby has turned up again, and appeared happily settled in, bright eyed though not bushy-tailed. Apparently living on cat food, it looked a little bigger as well. (My family would have been proud!)

At first we’d seen the little one peeking around a gray suit jacket in a closet, but it vanished. I then found it living in an old army jacket pocket. We should have thought of that sooner! Of course, it was seeking a warm, comfy pouch, like its mother’s!

Now came the time to release the animal back into its semi-bucolic familiar territory of fields, trees and intermittent housing tracts. I opened the cat carrier and it emerged, walked slowly, then ran away through the deep grass and brush.

"It's the door, the door is cracked, that's how things get in."  – from Semi Deep Thoughts

Dogs Who've Owned Me: A Partial List

The puppy was abandoned on our property, or had wandered there. We first heard his pathetic cries under our bedroom window at three AM one morning and so did our two cats. I believe that the cats anticipated an interesting cat toy, but that wasn’t to be the case. What they got was a hyperactive 'playmate', whose shocking behavior they found totally unprecedented.

We grew attached to Wolfman while contemplating finding him a home. Not being able to face taking him to the pound, we kept him. Initially a loving creature, he evolved into lawsuit material. I began to notice those Yellow Pages attorney's ads reading "We specialize in DOG BITES! Have YOU been Bitten? Do you KNOW someone who has been BITTEN?"

Wolfman bit people, or at least tried to. Adults, children, and the hands that fed him were at risk. He also took exception to some of the faces he saw on televisions or computer screens. His instincts regarding such were however spot-on. He went hyper when he saw Hannibal Lector or Geraldo Rivera. At the veterinarian's office, he’d been known to go ballistic over a cat poster; at home he regularly tried to attack my animal-themed wall calendar.

Wolfman was dominant and un-socialized I thought, and I had a feeling that a dog obedience class wouldn’t make much difference. He seemed to be confused about size and the dog breed hierarchy. He didn’t understand that terriers should probably not attack larger dogs.

He attacked a German Shepherd. Wolfman lunged at the creature and went for the throat. It happened so quickly that the German Shepherd seemed confused. First he’d seen a white blur, now there was a small creature dangling from his neck. He simply shook his head as if trying to dislodge a large insect. We disengaged the doggies. Neither dog was hurt.

Perhaps Wolfman had an 'abuse excuse' for his behavior. We initially believed that he may have been harassed by children as a puppy. But after reading up on his terrier/whatever mix, we realized that his aggression was somewhat normal, especially towards children.

Wolfman was with us for several years, then was diagnosed with an essentially untreatable and painful disease of the spine and had to be euthanized. We were heartbroken, but grateful for his presence, and for the fact that he’d made us appreciate dogs all over again.

Thanks to Wolfman, we were motivated to adopt a dog from the local shelter, a bichon frisse mix with an angelic disposition. Sugarbear was neither a yapper nor an ankle biter, loved everyone, and was a great lap dog. Not a great watchdog, he’d bark at shadows on the wall. We accepted this trade-off. He was playful, funny, and intelligent. We fell totally in love with him.

In retrospect, I however wonder if the implications of a dog's name might affect it's identity/behavior? Perhaps we should not have named him 'Wolfman', perhaps unwittingly creating a rough and tough image for him to live up to . . . Nah!

Habitats: The House That Landlord Built

We moved in.

The rented log cabin home was near the mother-lode mining town of Ione, California. At the time we didn’t realize that the landlord was somewhat insane, had built the home and outbuilding mostly by himself and didn’t believe in that whole ‘building compliance’ thing. The place sucked electricity like a monster. I later imagined Dear Disgruntled Landlord one day storming county offices with an arsenal of weapons, in a protest of those silly building permit regulations.

Located on a gravel road off a secondary highway, the acreage was gorgeous and isolated. Deer and turkey roamed our yard. A pair of hawks circled the stream near our deck and nested nearby. A pair of geese inhabited the pond by the driveway. One day while on a walk I noticed a white bobcat casually crossing the road behind me. It didn't seem to be interested in me, only seemingly intent upon crossing the narrow road and getting back into cover.

We discovered we’d inherited a group of semi-feral cats. The unfinished, unsealed basement allowed creatures easy access to stairs that led to a bedroom – thus contributing to both the tame inside and wild outside cacophony of Strange And Mysterious Noises At Night (SAMNANs).

A notorious, allegedly haunted prison was located nearby. I happened to drive past it almost daily.The Romanesque Revival architecture was impressive. Locals referred to it simply as ‘the prison’. Hmm … it didn’t look like any active prison I’d ever seen. Wait, it was an empty prison. Sort of. My mind was imprinted with a vague concept of prison: scary places that scary people often broke out of. In reality I apparently needed to be worried about spirits and infamous ghosts-on-the-run instead. This added fuel to the fire of my occasional solitary nights listening to SAMNANs in The House That Landlord Built.

It was a sparkling November night. The woodstove was burning. Candles were lit. The cabernet sauvignon rocked. Against starlight and moonlight felines climbed the framed glass panes around the A-frame’s cathedral ceiling. There were shadows on the deck...wildlife making hand puppets no doubt! Well, it took more to scare this camper – such as Jehovah’s Witnesses wielding pamphlets.

I awoke in bed at 3 AM to the sounds of cats running, fighting and mating in the stairwell. Growls and howls morphed into a scratchy humanistic voice which got louder and closer, emanating from the other side of the bedroom door. “The papers are signed…do the work…the papers are signed…do the work!” I couldn’t get my mind around it. I must have passed out.

“Did you hear that brouhaha last night?” I asked Significant Other.
“Some weird-ass voice on the stairwell, talking about legal papers and work of some kind.”
“Oh! Was Landlord bothering us again? He shows up and he wants me to fix his house! This place is fucked up. He’s insane. So is his fundamentalist girlfriend.”
“Yeah. It’s funny, it didn’t look fucked up when we first saw it. But we’re not exactly engineers. One word: Disclosure Statement!”
“That's for homeowners, not renters.”
"Oh, yeah, right."

We moved out.