Dateline: June 29, 2011
Since 2007 my yard has been used by raccoons to raise their families. I provide water pools, dog food and peanuts, and in return they drive away poisonous snakes.
When I step outside with kibble, they gather around my feet to escort me down the slope to where my yard skirts a tree-lined creek. Throughout the summer into fall, the babies learn to trust me, and by early winter when they are old enough to be on their own, they continue to return. And, as Mother Nature intends, they bring their babies to my yard the following spring.ince 2007 my yard has been used by raccoons to raise their families. I provide water pools, dog food and peanuts, and in return they drive away poisonous snakes.
The cycle continues.
I met Helen the summer of 2011. When I approached, her siblings ran for the woods, but she did not. I soon realized she was both blind and deaf. I could slide food right under her nose, but she had no idea I was there. Her nose, however, was in perfect working order. She loved peanut butter sandwiches. I often saw her eating by the pool…alone. The size of a basketball, she would have been easy pickings for a stray dog or a fox to kill her. I had to do something.
When I called Petra at the wildlife rehabilitation center, I barely got the words ‘blind and deaf baby’ out of my mouth when she asked, “Do you have her trapped?”
Well…no. I have enough cats to know what goes into their mouths comes out their bottoms. I was not going to catch Helen until I knew I could hand her off immediately.
A live trap would not work as I would catch every member of Helen’s family before she stumbled into the trap. Petra advised me to put a blanket over Helen, sweep her up and put her into a box, then call her. Uh…too simple.
Which meant I had to put my own sweet spin on catching her.
I didn’t like the idea of throwing a blanket over Helen. I have never caught an animal that way. I prefer luring into a baited trap or cage, and slapping the door shut. It worked several times on the wildest of feral cats, so that was the route I decided to take.
I found a large box, a blanket, gloves (I’m no fool—seriously), and was making two peanut butter sandwiches when my husband called. I told him what I’d planned for the day. He made a scoffing sound. “What?” I demanded.
“It’s not going to be as simple as you make it sound,” he said. “It’s never simple with you. There’s always a bigger story.”
We agreed to disagree and hung up, with Ray saying he couldn’t wait to hear the bigger story, and me sticking my tongue out at my cell phone.
It didn’t take long before I spied Helen lunching with her family. I waited until the others returned to the woods, then grabbed the box, gloves and sandwiches, along with the lid from a plastic storage bin. I walked up to Helen and set the box on end so she would walk into it. I also said a prayer that I would be smart about trapping her. I didn’t want to frighten her. Imagine being deaf and blind, and suddenly something grabs you!
Meanwhile Helen sat in the middle of the kibble, munching happily. She always had a perpetually happy smile on her face. I hated to upset her.
I baited the box with one sandwich, then tore off a corner of the other and slipped it under her nose. She went right for it. I gave her a really small portion, but it took her like, ten minutes to eat it. Meanwhile I’m standing over her, baking in the sun, itchy from the flies buzzing around the damp kibble.
When she finished, she picked up another piece of kibble. My patience was wearing thin. I was ready for both Helen and I to get on with our lives. But then she smelled more peanut butter and headed for the box. Yay! Except she stopped to sniff the strange object. And then she backed away. Darn. But then she walked in part way. Ahhh, the power of peanut butter.
While she was eating her sandwich, I used the storage bin lid to nudge her forward, while tipping the box up on end. Helen tumbled into the bottom and before she could make a sound, I had the lid taped shut. Yep. I taped it shut using two strips of tape designed for sealing storage boxes. It had to be good tape. My husband doesn’t buy cheap stuff.I didn’t want to frighten her. Imagine being deaf and blind, and suddenly something grabs you! Click To Tweet
I called Petra who cheered, and we made plans to meet half way. I then secured Helen in the backseat of my car and off we went. She rode quietly for ten minutes. I could hear her eating her sandwich. Then…she finished.
The box in the back seat with the happy, smiling, deaf and blind baby raccoon began to rustle. I had one eye on the road and one eye on the box…not easy to do. I was thankfully on a backwoods highway with nary a car in sight. Very thankful when I turned around for a third time and saw Helen sticking her nose out of the box top.
Looked like Ray’s theory that I always had a bigger story was about to come true…which pissed me off! Yeah, I had taped the box shut. Two whole pieces! Dirty rotten cheap tape. Ray’s tape! At least I had something to blame on him.
I pulled off the highway and shook the box, thinking Helen would huddle quietly in the bottom for the rest of the drive. Nope. She ramped it up. Deaf and blind—yes. Raccoon with claws—damn skippy!
I finally flipped the box upside down, with the top against the seat, hoping Helen would quietly sit on it and I could drive and…
Nope! She dug her claws into the bottom that was now the top, reminding me of the time I thought I had a feral cat secured in a cat carrier on the seat next to me while driving to the vet…except he kept head-butting the door and actually punched it out so that he crawled out of the carrier…while I’m driving…one eye on the road, the other eye on the feral now head-butting my windshield less than two feet away.
Envisioning a reenactment, I threw my purse on top of Helen’s box, and held it down with one hand while driving at a slightly accelerated speed. As the box rocked and rolled, I tapped on it, hoping to…not scare her but…communicate. Yes! My tapping was me spelling W-A-T-E-R to Helen, reassuring her she didn’t need to panic cuz I was doing enough of that for both of us.
I prayed my exit was coming up next. It was! I then prayed Petra would be pulling into the gas station parking lot at the same time I was…and she did. Thank you, Jesus!
Petra got out of her van with paperwork. Clearly she thought I had everything under control and we could do a little business before making the transfer. I guess my wild eyes and shriek about Helen wanting out of the box NOW made Petra toss aside her paperwork to open the car door.
As Helen’s arm reached out from the hole she had chewed, Petra calmly pushed the paw back inside. She then dropped a towel into the box and scooped up my raccoon. Helen hung limp in her hands like a rag doll…not anything like the boxed maniac terrorizing me down I-69. “She has no eyes,” Petra finally said. “There is nothing there.”
Aw. I felt bad for thinking of Helen as a maniac. She didn’t have eyes!
Petra determined Helen was three months old, and was amazed she had lived that long. I wasn’t. With two kid pools and food delivery twice a day, Helen didn’t have to go far from her bed to get food and water. We have quiet neighbors. No dogs. No children. Ideal in every way to nurture a baby raccoon with birth defects.
I was teary driving home, relieved Helen would have the care she needed. Relieved there are Petra’s in this world devoted to animals in desperate need. Relieved I wouldn’t have to worry about the helpless little basketball of fluff groping her way around my yard.We have quiet neighbors. No dogs. No children. Ideal in every way to nurture a baby raccoon with birth defects. Click To Tweet
Six years later, I think of Helen often. Her brother, Huck, who is blind in one eye, greets me at the back door every morning to escort me down the slope to where my yard skirts a tree-lined creek. I worried about him being an outcast for a couple of years until he met Becky, and they had babies. Several litters in fact. An then he met Honeybear…and made more babies…who made babies.
The cycle continues.