She entered my life on April 15th, 2007.
That's the day Karen and I met up with Dede - a great friend and fellow transport volunteer who helped get Possum to South Carolina from Texas. There were several drivers along the route - each and every one of them fell in love with this petite Aussie. This huge transport was put together by a Transport Guru - "Kim K" - and her hard work led to yet another life saved.
When I walked up to Dede's truck - before I even saw Possum - Dede told me something that I had no idea would ring so true.
She said to me, "Chris - this pup's YOURS".
I looked into the truck and saw this tiny fox-faced dog - mostly white but with some patches of red merle - and sure enough - I fell in love! She lay curled on Dede's seat, head straight ahead as if concentrating on something or reflecting on the miles she had traveled. As soon as she caught scent of my hand though, she 'turned inside out' with joy.
It wasn't ME - this is how she had been all along the transport route - and this is why everyone had fallen so for her.
She didn't take to the leash well at all, wanting to continuously spin in tight circles, and it took a considerable amount of strength for Karen to hold onto her. It wasn't safe for her to get lose - this wasn't your typical dog - or even your typical Aussie by any stretch. Possum is a 'white' - a 'lethal white' - blind, deaf and rescued from death when only a puppy.
Karen held her tightly until we loaded up into the van. I sat in the back seat with Possum next to me for the duration of the ride home, petting her as she lie there quietly and seemingly at peace. Her fur was incredibly soft! Her features were tiny and seemingly frail.
What wasn't there to fall in love with? She seemed perfect!
Once home, Karen carried Possum up the steps to the house, and she was 'introduced' to Gabriel and Ambrr through closed doors. They were as interested in her as she seemed agitated with them. I kept her in my room, which would be her 'kennel' for the rest of her life. I would become her 'kennel mate' of sorts and we would develop a relationship unique to my life.
As we got to know Possum a little better, we understood that she displayed a great deal of fear, distrust, and uncertainty. The spinning she did, we would later learn, was associated with CCD (Canine Compulsive Disorder), and stress (or anger) would trigger an acceleration of the spinning.
What we didn't realize then was that this behavior had been part of Possum's life for such a long, long time that it was engrained now and would prove to be nearly impossible to alter.
And there were other things.
I couldn't just put food in a bowl and let her eat. She'd spin around so violently that the food would go flying across the room! We were to learn that, while in Texas, she'd end up missing out on meals because the other dogs were quick to 'clean up' what she sent flying about.
For a few weeks, I would feed her out of my hand while hanging onto her collar. It would take FOREVER for her to eat, but at least she was EATING! After some weeks, I was able to feed her by holding firmly to her bowl while she ate from it - a process that took even longer! Several times, she would have to pause, stiffin up, and try to spin - most probably assuring no one else was in her space and trying to eat her food.
Such was life with this little precious girl from Texas!
Eventually, things got better - to some degree.
The spinning slowed for the most part, and became much less apparent MOST of the time. Even with medication, it never completely stopped. She eventually was able to ALMOST relax while eating - except for those few times she'd continue to stiffin up, tense up and show agitation and/or fear.
Eventually she growled less and ate more and even learned to PLAY!
She and Gabriel would chase each other and play throughout the living room - hopping like some maniac bunnies (a sight to behold for sure), leaping toward one another - and most of the time totally missing each other completely!
Two blind pups at play is just too memorable for words!
Possum would learn other things too - like touch commands.
One touch on her rump - and she'd sit.
Another on her chest and she'd lie down.
Once lying down, a firm touch on her shoulders meant 'stay' though that was her least favorite trick!
She learned to walk on lead too - with the help of the Gentle Leader Harness and the wisdom shared with us by Abbey - a local dog trainer.
Possum LOVED to go for walks! At first she wasn't so astounding. She'd have to bump into me along the way - just to make sure I was there and wasn't in her way I suppose. But after a while, she'd walk along side me as if she could see everything there was to look at along the road. Possum was also deaf, so the noise of the passing vehicles didn't alarm her - but the scent of the exhaust seemed to aggravate her now and then!
If ever you've been to a dog show of any kind and there's been an agility course on site, you've probably enjoyed watching dogs of all breeds and sizes 'go through the paces' of the course. Well, if you weren't around to see Possum on the agility course - 'you ain't seen nothin yet'!
Abbey suggested I introduce her to some of the course, and I reluctantly did. I was shocked at how well she did! First time at the tunnel and she went through it slick as can be! Second time, however, she got in the very middle (at the bend) and laid down! I had to crawl partially into the thing to coax her out - which was even more the sight that day than watching a blind dog perform agility, I'm sure!
The tire left her perplexed. You could tell. She had to be wondering just who thought THIS one up! But where she excelled was at the teeter-totter! She loved it! First two times over it, I stopped her just past the middle of the board so it could settle in position, and then walked her down and onto the ground. She nearly dragged me back to the other end! She sincerely seemed to love it!
Luckily Dede took pictures of Possum on the course or NO one would believe it!
And there was the 'Best Trick' winnings!
She was dressed up once in her Annie Oakley outfit (thanks to Karen's persuasion), and won 'Best Dressed'. Showed off her touch commands and won a prize for that too! She and Gabriel both seemed to cash in on the prizes at these events, and rightfully so!
Blind deaf white Aussies just have a way of touching everyone around them!
One day when Karen and I had Possum, Gabriel and Ambrr at the beach, a young gal came up to me and asked just what kind of dog Possum was. I gave her a short-version answer, and pretty soon she was explaining to her friends that 'those two white dogs are blind and deaf'.
Possum (and Gabe) had perhaps just helped save a life by drawing attention, compassion and curiosity!
There are so many things to say about this pup, but there isn't the time right now or the space here to do her justice. I'm working on an avenue whereby her stories CAN be told - a collection of short stories depicting what I THINK she had in her tiny fox-faced head while we were together.
Sometimes things change in life, and sometimes these changes aren't so good.
That's the short version of how her life changed - thereby changing mine forever: she regressed.
Her fear intensified. Her growling intensified. Lashing out at others intensified. Over all - except for moments of joy - her saddness and uncertainty was taking over. She wasn't safe for others to be near. She was unpredictable - untrusted by even me.
She couldn't attend the events any longer. She was able to spend less and less time out of 'our room'. Her spinning increased as her demeanor seemed to be dwindling. We were losing her, and more importantly, she seemed to know it.
I made an appointment with a local vet, and on Saturday - November 15th, 2008 we were on the way to a lasting heartache.
Possum was to be put to sleep.
Early that Saturday morning, I gave her a shower, (which she NEVER liked), she ate some special treats Karen provided, she got some good brushings, numerous pettings, she played with her favorite toy without having to share, did some spinning without harassment from Karen or me, and basically had the whole house to herself!
She got excited once the leash was fastened. That's one thing about her that didn't change. She was excited to be heading downstairs. She was more than happy to get into the van. She seemed happier than she had been in a long, long time.
That sure didn't make it any easier.
Karen drove the van while I sat in the back seat with Possum, as she lay there quietly and seemingly at peace. I stroked her fur - pristine white with red merle patches - the softest fur I've ever felt before or since.
At the vet's office, Possum began to 'shine' as she had often before - delighted (as usual) in the scent of humans! Someone stopped and petted her and asked her why she was there. That's when the tears became a little too much to hold back - for me or for Karen.
We were led to a small room off the main waiting room where Possum was given a shot to relax her a bit. Once up on the table, she lay there quietly, her head cradled in my arm and Karen and I petting and stroking her as we softly cried our regrets in having to say this goodbye.
She's home now - buried in the yard where Jude would soon follow.
She's at peace.
No more fear - no more stress - no more having to share her treats with Gabriel , no more having to 'survive' the shower - and no more aggravation by 'that darn CAT'!
This is the Pup called Possum.
The love I feel for her will last a lifetime.
She was mine, all right - from that very moment I saw her in Dede's truck!
Not in the true sense of course - but certainly in the emotional sense.
We had known her for just over a year and a half. She had been in our lives for exactly 1 year and 7 months, yet she was the foster who taught us the most, cost Karen the most, CAUSED the most, changed the most, LEARNED the most, achieved the most, and gave ME the most kennel-mate memories.
I guess what makes me happiest about Possum is that she finally got to LIVE. She finally got to be that happy pup she so deserved to be - and she finally got to become everything she could have been!
Like every other animal, Possum deserved happiness. She deserved love and deserved to enjoy living. And like every lucky animal out there - she was able to do just that for a time. She smiled. She was happy.
Until her regression took those gifts from her, Possum lived her life to the fullest. She went to educational events and turned heads everywhere she went. She demonstrated how a blind/deaf dog could be happily living the chance they each deserve.
Other pups will follow Possum on this, (or a similar), trail.
More fortunate pups will accomplish things that Possum never was able to accomplish. But that's different. Another blind and deaf pup with all sorts of strikes already against her will NEVER out-accomplish this one!
Not in my book, that is.
There will never be another Possum - with all her good and with all her bad - there just will never be another one like her.
What she never could have imagined could be - became possible...and plausible for her and for me.
That's the title of the book-in-progress: Plausible Possum.
Possum, I'll see YOU at the book signings!
- Christy -