He is perhaps the only nocturnal gliding possum being kept for a pet in Oceanside — besides his brother — but he went missing last month and ran into quite a bit of mischief trying to get back home.
On Aug. 17, Oceanside resident Linda DiGrazia’s daughter was in her backyard cleaning the cage of their pet sugar gliders, James and Panda — which look like flying squirrels and are considered by some to be an exotic animal — when James saw a moth and pounced out of his pouch to chase it, running up a tree. After 15 hours stading on the roof trying to talk him down — “I think the neighbors thought I was talking to God,” she noted — DiGrazia said James would not come, as he preferred swinging around from branch to branch.
“He was just having a good time, like a kid in Adventureland,” she added. After three days of sleeping outside with her daughter, DiGrazia said they lost sight of James. She added that his brother Panda was barely eating and her daughter was heartbroken. So, DiGrazia, worried James would not last out there in his own version of the wild, posted on an Oceanside community Facebook group seeking help — she even set up a hotline for people to call.
James was missing until Aug. 24, at around 1 a.m., when Marlene Haut, who lives on Knight Street, was sleeping in her bed when she rolled over and saw James crawling in to join her for slumber.
“I cannot believe it happened,” Haut said. “Everyone says I am brave for sticking around but I didn’t want it roaming around my house, so I had to catch it!”
She said she was startled, jumping up and immediately trying to put a trash bin over it. However, James was too fast, so Haut called her neighbor Paul Levine, a veterinary technician.
“I don’t see sugar gliders very often,” he laughed. Levine thought it was a baby squirrel at first. He came over to Haut’s to help her chase James around the house until they cut up bananas and lured James into a blanket where they kept him while they figured out who he belonged to.
“I think it’s just amazing James made it into someone’s house without getting eaten for three days,” Levine said. “He’s a very lucky little guy.”
They ran into neighbor Debby Sicherman Relkin, who recalled DiGrazia’s Facebook post and immediately called her asking, “Are you the woman who lost her sugar baby?”
DiGrazia ran over in her pajamas to meet with her neighbors and finally reunite James with his family.
“The people in Oceanside, especially on the Facebook page, were amazing,” DiGrazia said. “James was traumatized but so happy to be back.”
She noted that both James and Panda are between one and two years old, came from Parrots of the World in Rockville Centre and are legal to own as pets. DiGrazia said sugar gliders are not really exotic animals but it is rare for them to be kept as pets. She is currently building a larger home for them in her shed.