Cannibals for Dinner
Some of my husband’s friends think he has the best wife ever because I do not complain when he goes on his “boys only” expeditions. They have no idea what I put that poor man through. Yes, he has expensive hobbies that claim a great deal of his time. He owns a boat and goes flats fishing with that sport’s myriad demands of time and expense. He has a 40-foot RV in which he takes to the road periodically. He engages in competition shooting—and I thought fishing was expensive until I learned how much ammunition costs. As varied as his pastimes are, he deserves whatever respite he can get from our hectic home life.
My job is my hobby and it can be quite consuming at times. When I worked at the animal shelter for stray dogs and cats, I often brought home the dregs that no one else wanted. My specialty was the ten-plus-year-old labs that had been dumped by their owners when they were no longer that cute ball of puppy energy. This was not an entirely altruistic venture on my part. I do not have the patience for puppies; I love the lazy older dogs. I have provided “Hospice” care for more senior dogs than I care to remember. I fear the good folks at Pet Haven Cemetery in Punta Gorda must believe I am some sort of compassionate serial killer because I am out there so often having my beloved pets cremated, crying my eyes out each time.
Now I work with wildlife. I still bring them home, but they do not stay quite as long. I bring home the critical cases that need around the clock monitoring. I occasionally pick up an injured animal after hours and triage it at home before taking it to Peace River Wildlife Center in the morning. I do some home care for baby mammals that have to be fed every few hours around the clock. Even though most of these animals will be released eventually, I still get the dregs that have no other options.
I recently came home after the end of a busy day at PRWC with two juvenile Virginia opossums that have been in rehab since being found on a dead mother a few months ago. North America’s only marsupial is slow growing and has very specific medical and dietary needs. Most of the babies we raise do well and are able to be released. A few get infections from continuing to nurse on a dead mother if not found and removed from her pouch quickly enough, but they respond to antibiotics and antifungal medications. Since their immune system is so different from most mammals, they have a longer protocol for treatment. They also have some unusual manifestations of illness and stress—they sometimes chew on each other’s tails and ears.
Since these unhealthy individuals need to be on medications for an extended period of time and have to be isolated from others of their same species, they tend to take up a disproportionate amount of room. Habitats that can hold up to 10 juvenile opossums, have to be used for only one. We only have so much room and so many cages at PRWC. Fortunately, I have a few soft release cages on my property at home. So quite often, the cannibals come home with me.
As soon as their infections are cleared up and their effected body parts are healed, they will be released. So while I am constantly collecting an odd assortment of offbeat animals, my little island of misfits is not turning into a hoarding situation. Whenever my husband needs some time to get away from the chaos at home, who am I to say no? After all, he never brings cannibals home for dinner like I do.
by–Robin Jenkins, DVM