Last weekend when we were up by Big Pine Creek checking out the wedding site, we spent a couple of hours wading in the creek. Thomas, our part-border collie, part-Siberian Husky, surprised me by getting fully into the water and enjoying some creek time himself. He’s never been a big fan of water. I took him to the beach in Oregon as a puppy and he spent most of his time running away from incoming waves. So I expected him to stay mostly on the shore of the creek. But I underestimated his willingness to extend himself when there are objects to be herded. He herds us; we were in the water; therefore he needed to enter the water. Simple.
Unfortunately, Thomas is not remotely graceful, and walking in water is not like walking on the ground, so he managed to slightly injure his back leg. It’s been getting better all week — I think he just pulled something — but this has meant that I’ve had to leave him behind on my morning walks to the ponds. Despite his lack of agility, he’s not a stupid dog, and he has come to associate me picking up my camera with an expedition (Same thing with the tripod.) His disappointment on the first day the camera did not produce a walk was palpable.
I’m pretty sure, though, that if he’d been along this morning, I wouldn’t have had what passes in Indiana for a wildlife encounter. I’d been walking along the shrubs next to the path looking for butterflies, and I came to the little trail that leads to the ponds. I bounded down it more quickly than usual, and suddenly this came out from the underbrush, nearly colliding with my ankles:
The possum gave me a distinct “What the hell are you” kind of look; the animal was clearly as surprised as I was. We both froze. I took a photo. Then we stared at each other for a few more seconds. As a human being, I’m used to scaring wildlife away. But it was clear to me that this possum intended to stand its ground. Remembering that they can be aggressive when they feel threatened, and occasionally rabid, my mind hearkened back to all the years I’ve spent walking about in bear country, yelling “Hey, bear” around each blind corner. And it frankly never occurred to me to yell “Hey possum!” here in Indiana, and anyway, that was the dog’s job. Visions of the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail flashed through my mind. I envisioned a painful, extended death from rabies. Ultimately, the specter of people saying “All those years of hiking in bear country, and it was a rabid possum that got her” was enough.
I stepped off.
I lost a game of chicken with a possum.
I blame the dog.