My Little Opossum

I’m doing a bit of pet sitting for a friend’s two precious dogs. When taking them outside for the final go the other evening, all hell broke loose in the form of an opossum, which one dog cornered and the other killed.

Or so I thought.

(Sidebar – neither dog was injured or bitten and while I was shaking and nearly hysterical, they were grooming themselves and looking utterly smug and satisfied with their accomplishments.)

We finally got the dogs inside and, armed with various plastic bags, brooms, and dustpans, Carter and I went out to assess the damages.

He shone his flashlight on the poor little creature which, as soon as I began to reach for it, opened its eyes.

“Better leave it, babe,” he said. “It might be playing dead.”

“Why would it be playing dead?!”

“Babe, it’s an opossum. That’s what they do.”

Did anyone else have a mother that accused them of “playing opossum” when they pretended to be asleep to avoid getting up for school? Of course you did. I did too.

Apparently, I never took my mother seriously when she said this and filed it away into the “Silly Mom Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About” folder.

We decided to wait until morning. If the opossum was still there, we would dispose of it. If not, well, we would have saved me from death by opossum fight.

The next morning, imagine my horror to discover that the opossum had vanished. I mean, I’m glad the little guy made it. I’m also, however, glad that Carter actually listened to his mother with regard to opossums.

Because, let’s be honest, if I had picked up that “dead” opossum, well, you know… Although, Carter thinks it would have gone more like this…

He has far more confidence in me and my precision tackling skills than he should. We all know I’m far more useful as a receiver. (Har har har)

It’s a real shame because, if left to my own devices, I would have just done this…

What did we learn? Opossums do, in fact, “play opossum.” This has several implications, chief of which is that, no, your mother was not full of shit. At least not about everything. This means that, in all likelihood, she was right about other things, too, like your first boyfriend. Okay, who are we kidding – your first through eighth boyfriends.


  1. I had always thought that was just a funny saying, too. Until I saw a “dead” opossum jump up in the middle of the street and run away. Scared the crap out of me.

  2. Mama was right; life IS like a box of chocolates!

  3. Ok I never got the saying because we never see possums here in my part of the world

  4. Our dogs had an encounter with a possum at the compost bin a few midnights ago, and I thought the critter was dead but then I remembered about playing possum. I was afraid it would wake up while I was moving it to the other side of the fence and picked it up forklift-style with 2 sticks, dropping it twice. No response when dropped. But gone in the morning. At which time Wikipedia informed me that the playing dead state is an involuntary response, they can’t wake up until it times out, 30 min or up to 4 hrs. There is a similar but much more short-lived phenomenon in a strain of goats called fainting goats.

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