Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Not for the weak in stomach are going to have to bear with me here...but there is a lesson in all of this and it's about what we wildlife rehabbers have to endure. This is going to be a story about how we have to handle situations with people not just animals.

The other day I got a call from the center director asking me if I could take some possums. I told him to tell the guy to call me.

Many of us do what we do for the love of animals. Many of us prefer to be with animals over people. For me, after working in the corporate jungle all day long, coming home to wildlife gives me the opportunity to "get away" from the "tit for tat" and back stabbing of my own species.

I love nothing better than to sign off my PC (if I am working virtually) or to come home and listen for the silence, attending just to my animals. No TV, no radio, no talking.

Babies especially make me smile. Their little grunts, spitting, squeaking, and noises that have no definition remind me about how precious life is. little evening utopia gets all out of sorts when the phone rings and on the other line is a caller "freaking out". In this instances, it was a very confused man, about to bury a animal hit by a car ; (because his wife was screaming at him to dispose of it), only to realize it has babies underneath that he thinks are still alive.

OK....I have to breath deep, and take some serious patience pills and well.....a stiff drink before they arrive (just kidding of course). The caller proceeds to tell me that it's a dead mother with a filled pouch. The center told him to take the babies out and bring the babies to me. The proposition of this man touching these animals were out of the question. It is not unusual to have many brave wildlife lovers remove babies from a mother pouch and bring them to us in all stages. I asked him if they were pink or had hair. He said they were furry (thank goodness). The conversation progressed and the man got more and more hysterical as I gave him direction to my home. He could not bear to pull them out of her, so like most people, I ask them to put the dead mother in the box covered in a towel and to come right to me. He did...but................... it was 39 frigging degrees and he insisted on bringing in back of his open bed truck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I told him before he left the house to have the box in the cab with him in the truck with the heat going.

He was too afraid that this dead mother (who was dead now for 24 hours) and her babies would ATTACK HIS NECK! (No joke here). Now I have heard it all. He arrived and all of them were STONE COLD. I maintained my composure although I wanted to attack him neck now - or more likely his throat!
I don't know why he flipped the mother over so all the babies were exposed for the 20 minute car ride in freezing air flow but I was literally sick when I saw them with sadness. They were all white like little ghosts. None of them had good vitals, and I could not find any movement. Most of what I saw was the lifeless bodies looking like little frozen statues. This was not about playing possum...these little ones were minutes for being gone.

I finally said to him...they are so cold...I don't know if any of them are alive, I knew I had seconds to decide, are they dead or should I try to revive them. Now he's freaking out...pacing, saying,......oh my...oh my.....oh my.....until I finally said....PLEASE BE QUIET while I assess their potential to survive.

Now...usually, the first thing I do is get them to fill out surrender paperwork and send them on their way, but I had seconds to act and to try to resuscitate the few that were hidden under the mother. I told him he would have to be quiet for 10 minutes and just hang out with me for a few minutes, while I pulled them off the mother.

Immediately, my basement turned into a trauma unit, as I started a warm water bath in the sink, had the space heater blowing warm air, juggled them between the flannel bags and a heating pad, all the time rubbing them between my hands and trading off between the 8 that looked the least dead not the most alive. . I proceeded to breathing into their little faces, alternated moving them in a rolling motion between my palms to get circulation back into their lifeless bodies and sitting them on a heating, back in the bath, etc.

Finally, after 15 minutes of working on them, this guys starting to tear up realizing he probably killed the lot of them. I was able to sent him on his way and told him to let himself out. I was not trying to make him feel bad, but my priority were the animals at that point.

For the next two hours, I was able to revive 6 of them. After they started to respond and get come color back from their ghostly whiteness, I started to warm them from the inside with warm fluids through a feeding tube (possums don't suckle, they swallow the nipple so I put the tube into right below their rubs and put 2 cc into each of them), until I was able to finally upgrade their fluids to pedialyte.

It was a long night. I did not expect any of them to be alive in the morning.

Out of the lot, 6 made it and are doing great. We have a little bit of pneumonia, but nothing too bad so far. Here is the crazy part, 4 of the 6 are the meanest little buggers I have ever had in rehab. I wonder if this is what happens in cryogenics (spelling?)...freeze someone and thaw them out, second time around they are meaner than a snake?

All around 5 weeks old, feisty and cute as can be. Big ears, little bodies and black fur. Apparently they all have a strong will to live - good thing because they needed it!

As far as the guy...well I owe him a call back on the status of the animals. I know he's probably feeling pretty bad by now, but maybe I will let him stew for another few days (ops...did I really say that!).

All is good here in possumville!

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