Editor’s Notes on recent Possum Posting

Due to several protests over our recent icky opossum posting, the Editor has decided to issue the following clarifications. Specifically, we wish to address the concerns of a friend who shall remained nameless. Our friend, who shall remained nameless, had apparently laid down some new sod in her back yard. She then had to do battle with not one, but SEVEN, opossums who had the misfortune of wanting some fresh grub, i.e., snails and slugs, and had peeled back the sod to get to the grub underneath. To her credit, our friend, who shall remained nameless, relocated these seven unfortunate possums seven different times to seven different locations far far away from her sod.

While we are not advocating adopting an opossum as a household pet (see #1 below), trapping and relocating them is really not very necessary.

1) Opossums are wild animals. Wild animals belong out in the wild. Opossums are also solitary animals. Cuddling is not a top priority for them. There have been many accounts of people rescuing and adopting them as household pets. However, please note that they are not dogs or cats, and generally do not make good “pets”. They are also nocturnal, and unless you keep vampirish hours, it is unlikely that you will be awake enough to enjoy their presence.

2) An opossum is a gardener’s best friend. Possums’ favorite delicacies are snails and slugs, which could easily devour all your vegetables in one night. They also eat insects, cockroaches!!!!, roof rats, and even snakes. They will also clear out carrion and any over-ripe fruit that you haven’t gotten to yet.

3) When trapped or threatened, they may emit a foul-smelling odor. This is part of their defense mechanism. This may or may not accompany the “playing possum” to get you to leave it alone. The foul-smelling odor is mild compared to, say, a skunk. Most people think skunks are cute. This is probably due to the Pepé Le Pew cartoon series in which a French skunk foolishly chased after a poor terrified house cat. Several opossum cartoon characters (Pogo, Banjo, Pistol Packin’) had been in circulation, however, none had ever made it “big” to stardom as Pepé the skunk.

4) Opossums have poor hearing and eyesight, and rely mostly on their keen sense of smell. As most other mammals, they are also lazy. They would much prefer a bowl of kitty krunchies to having to dig for slugs. (Actually, they don’t really dig.) If you prefer that they leave your garden alone, a small bowl of cat/dog food placed near your preferred exit would attract them and send them on their way after feasting.

5) They are not territorial, but they do have a territory. If you decide to vacate opossums elsewhere, keep in mind that other predators will move in. These include raccoons, skunks, and rats…

The National Opossum Society has a great website that has more information on these fascinating animals. The Opossum Society of the United States is also a great website. Note that the “Virginia” opossum isn’t really about possums in Virginia…that’s just what the American opossum is called.

Interesting Dog Facts

  • Dogs are mentioned 14 times in the Bible, but domestic cats are not mentioned at all.
  • Humans have kept dogs as pets for over 12,000 years.
  • A 50,000 year old cave painting in Europe seems to show a dog-like animal hunting with men.
  • The oldest breed of dog is the Saluki.
  • Pekingese dogs were sacred to the emperors of China for more than 2,000 years. They are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world.
  • There are 701 types of pure breed dogs. (Although this is disputed by many.)
  • The breed Lundehune has 6 toes and can close its ears.
  • Greyhounds are the fastest dogs on earth, with speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. The average dog can run up to  nineteen miles per hour when running at full speed.
  • The world’s smallest dog is the Chihuahua, which means “tiny dog in the sky”.
  • Among purebreds, supposedly the “smartest” dogs are the Border Collie, Poodle and Golden Retriever; the “dumbest” dog is the Afghan.
  • Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic – a Newfoundland, a Pomeranian, and a Pekingese.
  • A dog, named Laika, was the first in space in 1957.
  • Bingo is the name of the dog on the Cracker Jack box.
  • Gidget is the name of the Taco Bell dog.
  • The average dog has 42 permanent teeth.
  • Dogs’ only sweat glands are between their paw pads.  They cannot lose heat rapidly by perspiring from head to toe like people do. Instead the dogs sweat by panting, which removes body heat by evaporation from the surface of the tongue.
  • Dogs also pant when they are nervous or excited.
  • The longer a dog’s nose, the more effective it’s internal cooling system.
  • Dogs have about 100 different facial expressions, most of them made with the ears.
  • A dog’s smell is estimated at 1 million times better than humans.
  • Scientists have discovered that dogs can smell the presence of autism in children
  • Using their swiveling ears like radar dishes, experiments have shown that dogs can locate the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second.
  • Like human babies, Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot in their skull which closes with age.
  • Like humans, obesity is the #1 health problem among dogs.
  • It has been established that people who own pets live longer, have less stress, and have fewer heart attacks.