Mingling With Marsupials and Other Reasons You Might Not Want a Dog Door

Image via @PossumEveryHour on Twitter

Living with three dogs and a cat is never boring. Like kids, they keep you on your toes. Like kids, silence and serenity sometime equate chaos and calamity.

Let me tell you about the Legend of Gene…Gene the adolescent possum.

One evening, like hundreds of evenings before, we were having a lights out, Netflix and chill night. (Only not THAT kind of Netflix and chill, but a legitimate lights out, pjs on, snacks in belly movie night.) It was just myself and my younger daughter at home. And of course all three dogs and our cat.

Like all dogs, ours want to hang out with us and be within a few feet of us at all time. So I didn’t notice Zoey in my peripheral vision, sleeping on the floor near my recliner. Something caught my attention, though, and I saw what I thought was a pair of socks near her on the floor. This was not an atypical scene so nothing registered as being off to me. Only something was off and I think subconsciously I knew these weren’t socks. Socks don’t come in “extra furry” material. Socks aren’t living, breathing things.

I didn’t have my contacts in and as I am blind as a bat (let’s just throw another critter in this madcap tale) I couldn’t quite discern what this small lump of fur was. Tentatively and with dread I asked Amelia… “Amelia…what IS THAT on the floor by Zoey?,” my voice escalating in pitch until I was screaming.

It took about a nanosecond for us to both realize that it was an animal.

And then I screamed again.


Our dog Zoey had nonchalantly brought in a live adolescent (I assumed, by the size) possum. I grew up in the country on a 140-acre farm so I am somewhat familiar with critters. We also may live in the suburbs, but we live within a few miles of a river AND two parks that span more than 3,000 acres. The critters are plentiful.

The possum looked dazed and confused and a little soggy with dog saliva so I knew it was probably playing dead to protect itself. Now what to do?

I chased the dogs downstairs and they scurried. Zoey’s body language and brown soulful dog eyes had that I AM IN BIG TROUBLE MY HUMAN MOM IS MAD AT ME look of remorse. I grabbed a laundry basket, the universal catch a critter on the fly cage, and ran back up the three stairs into our joined kitchen and den area.

Now that the dogs were out of the picture, the possum moved in that nonchalant kind of way that possums do, fluid but frantic. I screamed. Amelia screamed. I’m sure the possum was silently screaming. The dogs barked from downstairs. I have no idea where the cat was but he was choosing to avoid the chaos.

The possum bolted behind the couch. I gingerly pulled the couch out from the wall prepared for the possum to, I don’t know, lunge at me with a pocket knife or something? Who knows. Honestly you would think I was dealing with a live rattler instead of a small traumatized marsupial who just wanted to get away from these crazy humans with their long legs and loud voices and these predatorial canines with a hankering for possum.

Amelia was filming me with her phone while I yelled “DO NOT POST THIS” in between “Oh God…OMG…Oh God.” Gene zipped across the room to hide as best he could in plain sight under our breakfast bar. He backed into the corner by the bar stools which gave me a great vantage point to grab a broom and coax him into the laundry basket. Meanwhile we had also propped our front door open. I corralled him and like an expert possum cowgirl I shooshed him out from the breakfast bar, into the entry way and out the front door. He scurried down the porch steps on to the lawn, took a few seconds to glance back, his beady little eyes reflecting our front porch light, and ran into the darkness of the neighborhood.

Gene returned a couple of times through the dog door and the dogs alerted us each time but this time he avoided getting caught. It turns out he was attracted to the dog food we had out in the dogs’ bowls and that I had in our utility room. I’m not sure if Zoey had actually caught him outside and brought him in that first night he played dead in the den or not but, he was definitely coming in the house through our dog door. His attraction to the dog food was so strong he felt it was worth the risk of becoming a dog chew toy.

Months went by and we realized we hadn’t had a Gene sighting. And you know what? We kind of missed that little possum. I hope he is doing well. I bet he still has a fondness for dog food. But not dogs. Or screaming middle aged women. Or teenage girls.

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