Part of being a responsible dog owner is letting them go for a walk before the family heads to bed, or for a quick bathroom break outside in the garden. Sometimes doing so is more memorable than anticipated! A dog sometimes surprises a wild animal on the prowl under the cover of darkness; this happened to my sister last night.
We were out for dinner with my sister and her husband and afterwards both returned home to care for our dogs. My sister told me that Tilly, her sweet Havanese, was let out into the garden to relieve herself upon their return. She appeared to be super excited, gasping for air and barking. My sister Sue got a flashlight and was amazed to see a tiny opossum the size of a small brick down by their deck.
Tilly did not bother it and kept her distance around eighteen inches away and proceeded to do what dogs do best by marking her territory with a pee and a poop! This morning Tilly was keen on checking out their property for this strange animal but the opossum was gone. I am sure that for days Tilly will rush outside sniffing and investigating with her memory on high alert.
My sister sent the picture to me this morning. This is the second time I have been sent a picture of them in our community. Today we had a chat wondering what the difference is between an opossum and a possum.
I found this wonderful site called Bob in Oz. He explains what it is really like living in Australia; he also happens to explain our question beautifully, http://www.bobinoz.com/blog/4013/possums-and-opossums-australia-and-america-all-explained.
After reading his post I searched “opossum in Toronto” online. Here is a wonderful link written by Sarah B. Hood giving more detail on this funny looking creature,http://www.yongestreetmedia.ca/features/opossum0713.aspx.
We also have raccoons that show up in our tall honey locust trees every year like clockwork! I think that over the summer the mother raccoon has two litters, as the families we see have young at various ages. Under the cover of darkness they go across our neighbour’s lawn, which activates their motion-sensor security lights. I actually think that the raccoons have this figured out, and get grubs from that lawn in nice lighting before heading up our tree.
We rarely see them on our lawn which I think is due to the smell of dogs being around. There is a crook in the tree branch where they sleep with full bellies and are long gone by sunrise.
Abby has a sixth sense about these things. Despite her selective senior hearing (she always happens to hear the word “cookie” miraculously!), she always bolts out the door with her hackles up when the creatures are present. She barks fiercely to alert the raccoon clan; as she is onto their tree house locale. They simply look down at her not worried, and blink a few times.
I have written a prior post about dogs getting skunked. In my opinion, this always seems to happen under the cover of darkness when dog owners are heading to bed, http://dogstwentyfourseven.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/dog-and-skunks-helpful-tips/. I have a few other stories on stinky dogs, too, and shampooing if you are interested all linked on my main page under the topic Stinky Dogs.
I remember one of my friends Rob telling me how his mild-mannered Golden Retriever took on a bear at his cottage one evening. Cailey held her guard as the bear was inspecting a garbage container. Since then, a bear proof garbage container has been purchased to discourage the bear’s return for take-out. She was not hurt, but Rob was astounded that his dog did not avoid such a wild animal.
This post would not be complete without a mention of dogs and porcupines greeting after dusk. This to me is the worst case scenario. I wrote about a friend’s dog named Mo who was on the receiving end of far too many quills previously,http://dogstwentyfourseven.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/what-a-pair/. The picture of her face covered still gives me the shivers!
There is not much we can do to avoid these chance meetings in the dark. Follow your instincts if you hear unusual animal noises outside, watch your dog’s behaviour and note if they seem on high alert. Keep a tight hand on your leash for evening strolls; I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I have been yanked suddenly as a dog leaps towards a cat crossing a road or hiding under a car.
A month ago a mother raccoon decided to cross the road ahead of me, not alone, but followed by five babies! Needless to say my wrist was yanked and sore the next day.
Check your gardens for signs of visiting wildlife. Evidence might be another animal’s poop left behind or that the grass has been dug up. Keep your garbage well hidden in containers that clever raccoons or bears cannot open. Keep your dog away from any wildlife at all times. Use a flashlight to scan your garden if you think you have a visitor. It might be an opossum!
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