April 2017: One Lucky Pooch

~by Virginia Rhys-Anson, OFS

Pixie is one lucky pooch. That opossum could easily have caused eons of pain. A citified toy poodle would be no match for such a nature-wise creature, and especially one with a reputation for having one dickens of a mean streak.

A hint of moonlight illuminated as I escorted Pixie out back to relieve herself before bedtime. Her business done, Pooch got sidetracked, becoming quite curious about a small gray “boulder” in the yard. Now I have no recollection of decorating the yard with a boulder. But, oh, that it would have been a boulder.

The saying goes that curiosity killed the cat. On that particular night, curiosity could well have killed the dog. For that boulder, once my mind unraveled its confusion, looked suspiciously like an opossum. Fortunately, an opossum playing possum.

Opossums are not exactly noted for being the most congenial creatures in God’s menagerie. In fact, they can be down right cantankerous. Yet Pixie was oblivious to this little fact. Either that, or curiosity blinded her common sense. Despite her likely desire, a new playmate this critter would not become.

Now in Pixie’s defense, she had never encountered an opossum before. Or, for that matter, any animal that would merely lie seemingly lifeless on the ground. A cat or squirrel has the sense to run from a miniature canine. Pixie giving chase. But not the opossum. Oh no. It preferred to mimic a stone.

Pixie, fool dog that she was, sniffed head, sniffed rear, sniffed middle trying to work out just what this lump was. It smelled alive, but sure didn’t act it. Meanwhile, I, standing back about ten feet, knew how out right mean a riled opossum can get. Panic gripped while heart skipped an intermittent beat, as mind played out a gruesome scene should opossum choose to retaliate teeny poodle’s attention.

Of course, my mandate to come was completely ignored. That is the trouble with a smart breed dog. It can arbitrarily choose to not listen. Fearing that my efforts to retrieve pooch could startle opossum to an animated state, my command was rendered at maybe quarter volume. Have you ever tried to sound alpha-ish barking a command at quarter volume? Doesn’t work so well. Somehow “come” loses a good bit of its intended authority. Not that Pixie allowed me much authority to begin with.

Nevertheless, Pixie continued to ignore my frantic plea. Opossum remained frozen. Pixie continued to investigate pert near every inch of this critter, as I envisioned it waking and taking a well-aimed, quite forceful swipe at my pup. Sometimes smallish dogs are too brave for their own good. Yet Pixie sniffed on and on.

Afraid for my own safety as well, I cautiously inched closer to the unfolding scene, closing my distance by about half. Pixie still cloaked herself with selective hearing—or selective non hearing if the precise wording be desired.

My now half shout after half shout still did not deter the miniature explorer as Pixie, who can hear the rustle of a food wrapper from a distant corner of the house, chose conveniently not to hear a voice that was a mere five feet from her. She just plain paid no attention.

Finally, worried that opossum’s patience could imminently run out, I let out the most assertive command to come that I could muster, volume be darned. Pooch sauntered a bit toward me, while I could see her little brain calculating just one more sniff. Not waiting for that one last sniff, I dared a dart toward opossum, snatched up Pixie, and made for the house in short order.

Once inside, I peered out the window. Just that quickly, opossum had disappeared. Apparently it did not perceive a poodle likely half its size to be much of a threat. Luckily for Pixie. I am sure to this day that she has no clue as to the potential danger of her curiosity. Thereafter, her nightly pottying became a more cautious affair with the two of us being tethered at a leash. If dog’s had guardian angels, Pixie’s would have been working overtime. Yep, one lucky pooch.


Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.


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