Sunday, December 7, 2008

Raccoon Tales...

I've been putting cat food (hard and soft) on the front porch for Tiki (the cat that has lived outdoors at this house longer than we've lived indoors in it). She also has a warm, cushy catnap place (looks like a bright pink box) on the front porch, which she has never used (to my knowledge), but at least she has everything she NEEDS for inclement winter days. The box is located near the air vent coming from the dryer, so there are even times when she could hunker down and get toasty warm. But she hasn't taken advantage of the situation, except to enjoy the food. I give her canned food morning and night and the dispenser of dry food is out there all the time, day and night.

There you have it: a very long introduction to what I'm about to tell you!

Jackie went outside to get the newspaper this morning while the sky was still pitch black and reported back that the biggest raccoon she has ever seen in her life was on the porch, enjoying the dry cat food from the dispenser. When it saw her, it scuttled off the porch and to the nearest tree about ten feet away, but had no intention whatsoever of going away much farther than that.

It waited while she picked up the newspaper. She told it that it should probably leave now, so it went a little bit up the tree but dropped back down the moment she opened the door to go in, so she picked up the cat food dispenser and brought it in.

Said I to her, "*awwwwwww* The poor thing was hungry, Jackie!" Said she: "Well, as long as you don't mind feeding raccoons right along with Tiki, that's fine. It's your dime." I thanked her of thinking of my (rare, spare) dimes... but my heart remained with the raccoon!

Probably not many of you know this, but I raised an orphaned baby raccoon from June 1979 until he was old enough to release that fall. (At least, the kid who brought it to me said it was orphaned, which I doubted, but by the time he brought it to me, it had been with him for two or three days and had refused to eat, so he brought it to the "animal lady with the serval kitten" in the hope I could save it. I figured there was no way to return it to its mother after so many days.)

The little raccoon was terribly sad and scared when he came to me and I thought he was going to die because he already hadn't eaten in days. But in the middle of the night the first night I had him in my care, I heard him make a high-pitched trilling sound, and I mimicked it, at which time he rushed over to the side of the pen he was in and churred all the more, very excited, as though he'd located "mama!" So I went over and churred to him some more, offered him a bottle and some kibble, and he went to town, famished.

From that moment on (when I learned how to "speak in tongues" not my own, but by inspiration) he was my little buddy, following me everywhere, as if tied to me by an invisible string. I named him Gabriel.

Deaken (my "serval son") was just about the same age, and so I introduced them to each other. They hit it off very well . Deaken even tried to "churr" the way Gabriel did, and it worked for him, too!

So for one summer I had a very strange little critter family. I have a few photos (and a Super 8 film that should be transferred to DVD, and when I find it again, it will be!) that I must dig out and put on here or on You-Tube for others to enjoy.

Gabriel used to go into Mom's flower bed and pick some of her prettiest yellow flowers to bring to the sliding glass door. *awwwww*. He'd try to climb the sturdier flora (sunflowers), too, but was too heavy to have much luck with that.

I used to take him to streams to see if I could teach him to learn to turn over rocks and find crayfish and other goodies. It didn't take much -- it's instinctive to a raccoon to do that, I discovered.

Gabriel used to delight in grabbing 2-liter plastic soda bottles (which I'd fill part way with water) and drinking from them. He'd roll onto his back and use his back legs as "lifters" to get the water to run toward the opening in the bottle so he could drink from it.

Another time Dad was working on the deck and Gabriel grabbed one of the tools he was using and carried it under the deck. Boy, Dad was hopping mad. We had to send Philip (big Phil now, Casey's and Jamie's dad) underneath the deck to retrieve it the next time he came out to visit, because we were all too big to go where Gabriel had taken the tool! But we had so much fun watching Gabe that all was quickly forgiven.

But back to this morning's raccoon tale. I filled up the dry cat food dispenser and put it back onto the porch. The memory of Gabriel fills a very warm spot in my heart and any relative of his who's in need is a friend of mine.

God bless us, every one!

Disclaimer: I do not believe in wild or exotic animals as pets for the vast majority of the pet-owning population. The rearing and maintenance of captive wildlife should be left to well-trained, knowledgable professionals. I was a professional in the field for a very long time and have seen animal care and maintenance done well and done horribly. When it's done horribly, it's usually done by ignorant people with good hearts who just don't know any better or who don't know where to find the information and the money needed to do it properly. Loving animals is one thing; being able to care for them properly, out of love alone, is quite another...

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