by G. Jack Urso
When I first moved into my home 21 years ago, my predelection for feeding stray cats also attracted an array of rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and possums. I have rescued and found homes for many of the stray cats. The raccoons and rabbits were delightful. Mother raccoons would proudly bring their new offspring for feeding time. I even loved the skunks with their cat-like habits and who were fairly polite and beautiful in their own way.
One of the backyard raccoons, largely moved on since their habitat was plowed under.
The possums, however, I had an affinity for. Though most people regard them as a bit ugly, I found them to be courteous and shy, but also fearless in their own way — never aggressive but refusing to move from a feeder even if a raccoon or stray cat was waiting to eat. With incredibly short life spans of about two years, I have seen ten generations come and go.
Home for these possums and some of the cats is under my enclosed front porch. A small hole on the side provides access. My mother, when she was alive and living with me, blocked up the hole with a rock, but I removed it. It is little bother to provide some refuge from the weather and from human development. The rabbits and raccoons disappeared when their nearby habitat was plowed under for a lawn, so this was small recompense for centuries of their ancestors having lived in the area and called it their own.
I take pictures and know the ones who feed on back porch. One was a delightful little guy who began feeding while quite young, barely larger than a couple hands long. In the winter, I shoveled the snow away from the hole so he could get out and eat. I placed a bowl of dry food by the hole, his human-like hands pulling the bowl inside out of the elements. I've done this for over 20 years for many generations of his great-grandparents.
I continued to feed him and watched his growth as he matured into a strong healthy adult. After a year and a half, I knew he was getting old and this would likely be his last spring, his last summer.
On the last day of March this year, I found the old guy dead on my front lawn. He looked like he was hit by a car overnight and crawled his way up on the lawn towards his home in the hole under my front porch that was his home. I found him dead on the lawn near the small patch of gravel in the middle of picture below.
How much like so many of us, like me, is this possum I wondered, just trying to get through life with a bit of kindness from others.
His last thoughts were to get where he was always safe and warm. He was probably born there. So, I buried him just a foot away from his home and covered it with rocks.
Me casa es su casa. You made it home little buddy. You made it home.
Save me a place.