My cat named Nyeh Nyeh wakes me up at two in the morning. I still want to sleep, but she keeps calling. I open my eyes to see she has another mouse in her mouth. She catches mice outside sometimes and brings them in through the window to show me. I step out of bed and take it from her, only to discover the mouse is no mouse at all, but a baby opossum.
The opossum is shaking. It has an injured front leg and is scared. I lock Nyeh Nyeh in my bedroom and take the opossum into the bathroom. I wrap him in a small towel and hold him in my lap for a while to calm him down. Then I set the towel in the sink to get an empty shoe box in the closet of the guest room. I return to the bathroom and lay the towel inside the bottom of the shoe box and poke holes in the lid for the opossum to breathe.
He is hiding beneath the towel when I check on him the next morning. He is breathing okay and no longer shaking. I name him Charlie before driving to the pet store to buy some milk powder and medicine for the cut on his leg.
Charlie is very weak and not eating well at first, but he starts to drink a little milk after a day or two in the house. I give it to him four times a day and he gets better, eating more and moving around in his shoe box.
I transfer Charlie to a cat cage and place it in my shower. Every time I enter the bathroom, he slowly crawls out of his cage to see me. I think he knows food is coming.
After a month or two, Charlie is healthy and getting bigger. I start to train him so one day he can go back to nature, but I also have grown to love him and would like to learn more about this amazing animal.
I bring him outside and put him on the branch of a tree to climb. I want him to know the smell, sound, feeling of the air and sun and outdoors. He never seems comfortable, though, and prefers to say inside.
Sometimes I give him a bath. He never likes it and poos in the tub, but he’s so beautiful with his hair all puffy and shiny afterwards that I’ll let him crawl around on the bed and watch a movie with me.
Seven months after Nyeh Nyeh brought Charlie through the window, I take them both to Portland, Oregon to work on a house I am fixing up there. It’s a fifteen hour drive from my home in Los Angeles and Nyeh Nyeh cries the whole way, whereas Charlie is totally still.
Charlie can feel the different air right away, the sound and smell of the rain. I think he likes the cold weather more than in Southern California. He sits on my lap and listens to the rain outside on the porch for hours at a time.
I make Charlie a nest in the second floor bathroom, keeping the door open for him to come and go. When I wake up in the morning I often find him sleeping under my bed.
One night I cook dinner for my new neighbors. They want to meet Charlie so I bring him down to the living room on the first floor. He’s instantly the life of the party.
After my guests leave hours later, I cannot find Charlie. I look everywhere downstairs but no luck. I finally find him asleep in his nest in the second floor bathroom. I am very surprised he can climb the wooden staircase with his short legs all by himself back up to his room.
Charlie likes to eat grapes. I have given him so many different foods but grapes are his favorite. He likes cat food almost as much. After he eats, he cleans his face with his front paws and loves to play with his favorite towel.
Charlie has become so playful around the house in Portland he even follows Nyeh Nyeh around whenever they are in the same room together. She’s old and set in her ways and doesn’t seem as interested in becoming friends as he is.
I train Charlie to come to me when called over time. He will climb up my legs, sit on my lap for a little while, then climb down and do it again. It’s my way of giving him some exercise at night, when he’s full of energy after sleeping all day.
One night while we are sitting outside on the porch, doing his exercises, I pet Charlie’s stomach and discover that he has a pouch, like a kangaroo. I search the Internet and learn an opossum is a marsupial. I then put my finger in the pouch and am totally surprised Charlie has a small nipple inside. My boy Charlie is actually my girl Charlie. Thankfully, the name works either way.
During a trip home to Los Angeles, where my husband, Patrick, is still living and taking care of our business, a friend surprises us with a Rottweiler puppy. She’s definitely a girl, a beautiful big little girl, so I name her Peach.
A few months later, Patrick brings Peach to Portland for the first time. Nyeh Nyeh stays in the attic and Charlie stays in the basement since Peach is still a rowdy pup and I’m afraid of what could happen.
One day while Peach is still here an electrician, Derek, comes to work on the house and meets Charlie while repairing old wires in the basement. He asks me if he can hold her. I watch him fall in love with her on the spot. He sits with her again over the next few days while finishing his job.
I learn that Derek lives on a beautiful nine acre property in the woods and begin to think Charlie might be happier there than hiding from Peach in the basement. When he tells me he has two gentle older dogs and a teenage daughter who never met an animal she didn’t love, I already know Charlie has found a permanent home.
When Patrick and I bring Charlie to Derek’s house, we see he has prepared an entire room downstairs just like he would for a new child coming home from the hospital. He’s spread newspapers on the floor and built a giant nest of blankets in the corner. As much as I will miss her, I know Charlie will be thrilled to live here.
It’s been more than a year now and Derek still sends me pictures sometimes. Charlie eating her grapes, playing with his daughter and her friends. There’s even one of Charlie resting on Derek’s chest with one of his dogs, a Great Dane, lying right alongside them.
Nyeh Nyeh has since passed on and Peach is now a hundred pounds plus with us here in Los Angeles. I haven’t been back to Portland in a while, but Derek has made me promise to visit as soon as I return. He says I’m special, Charlie’s Angel, which is sweet but, honest, sort of strange if you really think about it.