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Rich: Rescuing 'possums does have a good side

POSTED: July 11, 2008 5:01 a.m.
You may recall past columns where I wrote of my friend, Stevie, who rescues distressed 'possums and then influenced me to do the same when I found an injured 'possum on my front porch.

I wrote of that experience, noting how sweet the 'possum was and how Stevie and I should start a nonprofit for the preservation of 'possum.

For what it's worth now, I was kidding.

But a producer of a big London television show read the article and rang me up. "We'd like to come to America and film you and your friend on a 'possum rescue," he chirped in that beautiful clipped accent of the Brits.

My mouth dropped, I pulled the receiver from my ear and gawked unbelievingly at it. Finally, I found words. "You're joking, right?"

"No," he replied quite seriously. "We believe it would be quite entertaining. Quite charming, really."

When Stevie learned of the offer, she said, quite puzzled, "But how could we do that? We never know when we're going to find a 'possum to rescue."

I rolled my eyes. "I was joking. We are not starting a nonprofit for the preservation of 'possums."

That is probably how I turned to kitten rescue. It seemed more natural. Dixie Dew and I were walking one evening when she discovered a half-starved kitten in a drain pipe. The little thing was pitiful, having been dumped and left to die. I'm not a cat person, but I went home, got food and returned to feed it. Then next, its sister showed up, and I wound up with two starving kittens. For weeks, I fed and nursed them back to health. When I was out of town, I sent someone in my place.

From Stevie, I had learned about feral cats - those that are wild and can't be tamed to the human touch. Of course, I sought her advice on what to do. She is, after all, the protector of any rejected and dejected animals.

"I keep tellin' y'all that you're asking for heartache," her husband tells us. He's right. We're always getting our hearts hurt over their pain. When they rescued a hawk that had been impaled on something and then he died after days of veterinary care, the family cried all day.

"Should I leave them in the drain pipe?" I asked.

"No!" she exclaimed. "They need a home. They can't live like that."

I made numerous calls asking folks to take them in, but no takers. I was getting ready to go out of town for a week, and I was really worrying how they would survive. We had bonded, and these kittens gradually allowed my touch, letting me pick them up for a few seconds.

To make a long, winding story short - though you didn't think I was capable of curtailing a story - I brought them to my house to live outside.

"You'll need to earn your room and board by killing snakes and rats," I instructed them.

It has not been easy. One scratched me and caused a troublesome sore that became cat scratch fever. I have to diligently divide yard time between them and a disgruntled Dixie Dew who wants them to return to the drain pipe. When I'm gone, I have to arrange for caretakers. And, on top of that, spaying is expensive. I called one humane society to see how much it would cost to fix two rescued cats - which, by the way, I had kept out of a shelter even though I'm not a cat person - and was told, "Sorry. We only offer low-cost spaying for low income families."

"Will it be cheaper to just bring you all the kittens they have?" She didn't think that was funny. Neither do I.

That's why I'm leaving cat rescue and going back to 'possums.

'Possums are much easier.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter at


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