Baby Possum

A Possum Named Zero

I adored my job at the museum. In addition to all the museum’s design work, I loved hanging out with and helping the animal staff. Because the museum had such an extensive animal collection, we were often the recipients of lost, abandoned, or wounded animals.

One day a shoebox — well-poked with pencil-sized holes — arrived at the animal staff front door. Inside was a goose egg, and curled up next to the egg was a tiny opossum no bigger than the egg. Rather than part the unlikely pair, we put the egg and possum in a warm spot, kept the possum supplied with grubs and cat food (their natural fodder, along with cigarette butts and anything else they come across: in retrospect, I’m surprised the possum never tried to eat the egg) while we waited for a gosling to hatch.

Eventually our goose egg was fit only for Templeton and was thrown out, but the possum was becoming quite the attraction, particularly with some of the children’s educational classes, who were delighted with the slow-moving, even-tempered creature and her curling prehensile tail. For convenience, we called the possum Goose Egg, which was later shortened to Zero.

Most of the animals brought to the front door of the museum were raised and released. I remember a tiny squirrel (which we kept in a birdcage) and numerous birds and turtles. Some animals were permanently injured in some way or couldn’t be rehabilitated; we had a blind screech owl which had been hit by a car, as well as a reticulated python and a bobcat that people had tried to raise as pets. Some animals died before they could be healed; I remember a hummingbird in particular.

But a few we kept: an incessantly cheerful bluebird, some quail hatched from eggs, a few local fish specimens, and an arthritic raccoon, among others. Zero was one who stayed.

Photo by rniches

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