My raccoon story …

December 12, 2012

Ok, I imagine I’ll do a fuller account of this in my Sunday column, given that Rocky here has effectively blown a hole in what is one of my busiest weeks of the year and I can’t afford to waste material, but here’s the short version of last night’s encounter with the racconn.

It actually sort of started Monday evening, about 7 p.m. when I went out to see what our three little terriers — Paris, Dublin and Audi — were going crazy on. I walked out with a penlight inspection flashlight, expecting to find either nothing at all or, at worst, an obnoxious neighborhood cat, who figured out that dogs couldn’t get through the fence, teasing them.

But when I shone the light into the low branches of a tree just beyond the fence — to show the girls there was nothing there — I saw this guy, no more than six feet from my head. I rounded up the dogs and took them inside (not as easy as it sounds considering how excited they were) and went back out expecting to find him gone. He wasn’t so, I tried to scare him off by rattling the fence, and when that didn’t work, I poked at him with the handle of a rake. Gently at first, then more insistently.

At one point he rolled over so he was hanging from a branch upside down like a sloth. I noticed that at this point he was actually over our yard, and that if he let go he’d be on the ground in our dog habitat. That wasn’t an acceptable option, so I turned the rake around, supporting him with the tines, and sort of scooted him back over the fence. After some negotiation, he dropped off and ran off into the darkness. Never — I thought — to be seen again. We let the dogs out and the rest of the evening passed uneventfully.

So now on Tuesday evening, we didn’t give the raccoon any thought at all. Just hooked up the dogs around 5:45 p.m. and took them on about an hour-long walk. When we got home, inside our fence, we let them out of their harnesses and they started running around the yard. They were, perhaps understandably, interested in the spot where the raccoon had been the night before. But we went inside. KAren was ahead of me, she walked through the sunroom, into the house proper, to disarm our alarm while I turned to return the dogs’ harnesses to their place atop the bookshelf in the above photo.

That’s when I saw him again. The photo — taken some seconds later — is a pretty accurate representation of what I saw. Looks cute, doesn’t he?

Nevertheless I screamed. (As RGIII would say, “like a man, of course.”) Yet I had the presence of mind to immediately close the dog door.

Karen came to see what was going on. She seemed to me curiously calm.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

Well, what I was going to do was to call the agency responsible for removing raccoon home invaders from your house. Which is … well, not the police. And not Animal Control either. According to the lady on the other end of the 311 call, even if they cared about raccoons, they wouldn’t come in your house to get one.

Karen suggested I pick him up, using a heavy duty beach towel, a strategy that would have worked had the muscled-up little beast not been Clyde Fraizer-quick and equipped with a little razor for a mouth. (I was worried about those prehistoric, prehensile claws. I didn’t think the mouth was a problem.)

Anyway, he bit me. I screamed again. (Again, like a man.)

Lookit lookit lookit all the blood. Fingers bleed. (I still don’t know how bad this wound is, not very I don’t think, but I haven’t inspected it. I held it behind me while Karen wrapped it up.)

The raccoon took the opportunity to run across a few open feet of concrete floor to wedge himself between a sofa and a wall. He was effectively trapped there, but we were more interested in moving him that he was in moving.

And so we called in reinforcements, namely my neighbor Larry, who always seems to know what to do in situations like this one. But Larry didn’t know what to do.

But he came equipped with a rake and a large green garbage can and a pair of thick heavy gloves. I swapped out my beach towel for a tarp. All we needed to do was to get the raccoon into the garbage can.

Which only took about 30 minutes. We flushed the raccoon from his hiding place and he scrambled along the walls, behind our TV and stereo and findly ended up in a large closet we use to store CDs, DVDs, dog food and other miscellaneous junk that I don’t want to remind Karen that we have.

We cornered him on a shelf, and — by prodding and poking him with a variety of golf clubs and other instruments (actually it was a cut-down, left-handed seven iron I sometimes hit at the range when I’m bored that finally did the trick) we finally convinced him that the only reasonable option left him was to move into the garbage can we’d lain on its side to receive him. He started that way, and we tilted it up and he slid gently into the bottom. Larry carried him out to the front porch, where we covered the can with my tarp, placed a folding chair on that and a large rock atop that.

At which point Karen offered that he was probably hungry, and suggested that we give him some food. So we took everything off the top of the garbage can while she poured in a cup of the dog’s dry food. Which was probably what he’d come for after all. Then we left him there, to wait for the Animal Control people in the morning.

Come the morning after, I’m sorry I got bit more for his sake than my own. Animal Control did come and pick him up, but only because of the bite. Had I been able to avoid it, we could have simply released him. (Somewhere far, far away. Like maybe the Heights.) But now he need to be “tested.” I wish I hadn’t had to turn him in.

But I’m not stupid and I know that although the chances are extremely rare he was rabid — there’s only been one documented case of a rabid raccoon in Arkansas in the past century — I know he has to be checked out. I’m hoping I get off with a tetanus shot. I’m afraid He won’t be so lucky.

And I’ve also altered my opinion after seeing him in the morning. At first I thought he was sick — but now I think I simply mistook his arrogance for listlessness. Maybe he wasn’t groggy, maybe he just didn’t see any reason to be afraid of me, or to pay me any heed at all. I suspect he might even have been a pet that someone dumped in omne of our nearby parks. He was fat and sleek and probably pretty young — he didn’t seem quite feral.

I hope he wasn’t someone’s abandoned pet.

The takeaway here is that from now on we need to make sure our dog door is closed when we take the girls for their walk. And that maybe it’s not a bad idea to have one of those catch poles around. I bet if I had one I’d never have occasion to use it — it’s probably the best insurance against home invading critters.

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