Diary of a Puzzle

by Emma Cash

Puzzle liked curling up in her blanket







Cuddles were important to make Puzzle feel safe and secure,
"wilding up" would come later







Puzzle seemed very proud of herself when she finally got to the top of the branch


Puzzle arrived one dark and stormy night in April.

She came to us after we received a call from Wildlife Victoria asking if we had room for another inmate, "itís a back rider Brushtail Possum" was the description.

Now, for those that don't know, back riders are juvenile possums weighing anything from about 200 grams to about 500 grams - big enough to ride on their mums back.

The back rider arrived wrapped up in a towel and we waited for the customary scream which usually accompanies the peeved off occupant when unwrapped from their cosy abode.

No scream was emitted and when we looked closer this back rider was actually an adult female, so instead of waiting for a scream we waited for the "Iím going to kill anyone and everyone who goes near me".... still nothing.

We rewrapped her up in a snug towel and carried her onto a heat pad only to have a gorgeous little face poke out of the towels and start to lick fingers. Hmmm this is either one very dazed possum or something really isn't right!

Twenty four hours later "Puzzle's" true nature (and problems) started to show.

An adult female about 500 grams lighter than she should be, severe urine scolding (and acidic smelling urine) around the backside and a prolapse. Oh and she didn't know what foliage was and really not too sure on fruit and her paws and claws didn't look like they had ever been used to climb tree.

Due to her nature/body condition/eating habits we think she was raised by a member of public (we hope and not a carer) and then either dumped or escaped when she got too big.

After many emails to a number of carers asking for advise on how to get her to eat something which wasn't bread or biscuits we came up with a nutrigel/honey paste which was spread over a fruit mix.

Puzzle's weight continued to fluctuate so down to the vets we went (for the second time), with the suggestion of adding critical care to the diet. It was not a hit, she hated it so much that choking seemed to be the best form of defence! We decided to stick with the fruit mix.

Mum played main rehabber of Puzzle and Puzzle just adored her! She would come out for a snuggle and while she was so underweight we decided to let Puzzle be babied and we would deal with the wilding her up later.

Mum taught her to climb and run and she would often be found proudly sitting on top of her cage having just scaled a massive tree limb mum had brought inside for her.

Then, after a few days, she started to go downhill.

At first it was a head tilt, then it was gagging on food, anything from a gum leaf to a piece of apple. There was also mild loss of co-ordination and finally the inability to work out how to pick up the food and transfer it to her mouth.

It was time to say good-bye.

She had a good few weeks but unfortunately it just wasn't to be.

Our local vet thinks that maybe her kidneys or liver had been compromised which can lead to neurological symptoms and then finally complete body shut down.

If only they could talk, what a story she may have told, instead she was our Puzzle which we couldnít solve.

Rest in Peace, little girl.

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Click here for species inforamtion on the Brushtail Possum