Yesterday afternoon, I logged into Facebook (professional way of saying I’ve actually been logged into Facebook at work since 2015) and saw this picture on my wife’s wall with the caption “First I smelled it, then I saw it. HOW?!?!?!”
It took me a moment to be sure what it was. Was it a racoon? A lemur? A monkey? ORRRRRR a possum?
The next question was: are we sure this is dead? But if it smelled bad then it was undoubtedly dead.
The NEXT question, then, is HOW?!?!?!, as my wife put it. How did a possum end up seemingly slung over my backyard fence dead? I’ve seen possums walk across the tops of fences three or four times. They are very deft creatures to be admired, even though they are extraordinarily repulsive. Certainly it must have been walking across the top of the fence. Then what? It slipped and fell in just the right position to be stuck? Look how it’s little nasty feet can’t quite reach the cross bar. That would mean that it slowly died on my fence unbeknownst to me. I showed my backyard to a realtor on Monday and neither of us noticed this. Was it there struggling for it’s life? It certainly wasn’t making any noise, if so. I’ve never heard a possum make any noise other than a hiss.
A second theory, because possums are so deft, is that it had a little marsupial heart attack and sort of jumped up and around into this position flat dead on the spot. I prefer this theory to the slow death one.
Another theory seems very far fetched, but is it really? We have new neighbors on the other side of that fence. I know absolutely nothing about them other than they look like college kids. What kind of people are they? Dunno. Are they the kind of people who would shoot a possum and sling it over our fence? Dunno. But it seems nearly as plausible as he other two theories.
Final theory, raccoon assassin.
So it’s about thirty minutes until quitting time and I’m running scenarios in my head about how to deal with this tragic possum situation. I’ve removed a possum from my backyard before, but it was dead in a garden and mostly decomposed. Shovel, bag, trash can, done. But this was a radically different scenario. This was one was fresh. It would smell foul enough to gag a person. It would be more than bones and fur. I concocted two plans.
- Put on gloves. Put a bag in a utility bucket. Use a shovel to poke the carcass off the fence onto the ground. Shovel the carcass into the bag, tie, put in trash bin. But see, this has a flaw. That possum is slung exactly half way over the fence. To poke it over the fence could easily become dragging it over the fence for which the shovel is ill-equipped.
- Put on gloves. Lift the bag up to the back-end of the possum and GRAB the body with the bag until it DROPS into the bottom of the bag. Put in the trash bin. Now, I know everybody knows the difference between poking or patting a person and GRABBING them around the waist. I gentle pat is something friends do, but grabbing around the waist is a very intimate gesture reserved for romantic partners or lifting a baby. So the idea of grabbing this carcass around the waist even with gloves and a bag is a huge barrier for me.
And so I brought in a couple of coworkers to look at the picture and problem-solve with me. This is how the decision was ultimately made. One of the guys says this. “Ok, is the possum bloated? Because if it is and you handle it, the bloated gas could be released from the body into your face or mouth and you don’t know if that possum is carrying a disease. You need to call animal control.” And this next part is what created some insecurity about the whole plan. “And when you call, tell them you’re afraid for the safety of your kids and pets.”
To which I responded, “But my kids are 16 and 18.”
And this is said emphatically, “They. Don’t. Need. To know that.”
So, at that point, because of the gas, I resolved to call in the animal control. But that was not going to be a simple operation for me: the mywifesaysimcomplicated guy. I have two things I have to address here. 1.) Real men remove dead animals from their property, and I have done it before. 2.) If I have to mention I’m concerned about the safety of my children, then it seems like there’s a possibility that they won’t come out under every circumstance. Like they might say, “Ok, sir, you’re telling me, that your pets are indoor and your kids are basically adults, and you’re a grown-ass man, and you’re asking us to send a person (who happens to be a woman half your size) to retrieve a smallish possum which is already hanging neatly on the fence for you?
And so I called my wife. I said, “Hey, so you need to call animal control.”
She says, “Hmmm. Can you do that?”
I say, “Weeeellll, I think it would be better if you do. It would be better if a woman calls.”
She says, “Babe. I don’t want to. Please just call.”
Nothin’ doin’. So I look up “animal control norman” on my Google Maps app and what comes up is “City of Norman Animal Welfare”. I read about it. It’s about strays and adoptions. It says nothing about removing dead animals. But I call anyway, and I absolutely have to begin the conversation this way.
“Hello, yes, I’ah I am not sure if I’ve dialed the right place, but I’ve got a dead possum situation. I’ve removed possums before, so…but this one is really peculiar. It’s hanging over the fence…so that’s a little weird, right? I mean, I just don’t feel like I should be messing with it.”
“Sir, you want the animal control dispatch. I’ll forward you to the dispatcher.”
She forwards me.
“Yes, animal control dispatch, how can I help you?”
I was out of wind and ego and worry by this point, so I simply said, “Can you pick up a dead possum?”
“Please give me your address. Will you be at the residence?”
“Well, my wife will.”
“We’ll be right out.”
Simple as that. None of my fears were realized. Just “address please, on our way”. No overt or implied judgement.
I let my wife know that they would be over soon and that she needed to be there to let them into the backyard. When I got home she explained that the woman who came out speculated that it’s little feet may have gotten stuck on the fence. She’d seen a cat hanging dead just like that earlier in the week. I shuddered at the thought.
I enjoy the look on people’s face when I say that I’ve actually eaten possum. I found it to be delicious, relative to it’s repulsiveness. And so when my wife said she couldn’t eat the leftover roast chuck roast for dinner thinking about the dead possum, I had enough concern for her not to mention that the texture of chuck roast is very similar to possum roast. That might have been the last chuck roast I cook in our house.
And now I will leave you with one last image. My wife said, “Oh, and when she removed the possum, it left a big wet spot on the fence.”