When a wild animal is rescued, the goal is usually rehabilitation, so they can be released back into the wild where they belong. However, one orphaned opossum, Opie, had different plans for the woman who had rehabilitated him.
Sheri Kassalias is an opossum rehabilitator (and dog rescuer). She nursed three baby opposums back to health. Two lost their mother to a car accident, while the third was orphaned due to a dog attack. While two of the opposums happily went back to the wild once they were big and strong enough, Opie just wasn’t interested.
“Opie was so sweet he demanded to be held. He climbed up my sleeve,” Kassalias told The Dodo.
Another rescuer confirmed to Kassalias that Opie was exhibiting cat-like behavior, such as licking and grooming. She told Kassalias that she had two choices. She would have to cut off all contact with Opie so that he could assimilate back into the wild, or she could become Opie’s permanent “fur parent.”
You can probably guess what happened next. Kassalias couldn’t bear to say goodbye to Opie any more than he could to her, and the two have been inseparable for two years now.
Opie lives in South Carolina with Kassalias and her husband and their other pets, a 14-year-old pit bull, an elderly Boston terrier, a 25-year-old tortoise named Bubba and a foster dog.
Opie earns his keep, too. He and Kassalias travel to schools and other institutions to educate people about opposums, which are North America’s only marsupials.
Opossums only have an average lifespan of about two years, and Opie recently celebrated his second birthday. He is showing signs of slowing down. However, Kassalias is determined to make the most of it.
“Regardless of how much time I have left with him, I know I have done absolutely everything in my power,” she says. “If his longevity was based on love, he would live to be 100.”