Michelle’s Review: A heartfelt ending to a sad “Old Yeller for Raccoons” situation.
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While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed that my friend Beth had an interest in attending the Volunteer Expo on Saturday. It was conveniently taking place just down the street from our West Asheville neighborhood. My Saturday mornings tend to be quiet affairs, so I was eager to spend my early weekend hours engaged in a more worthwhile activity than cursing over the Asheville Times crossword puzzle or watching my husband read the news on his iPad. After some texting back and forth, Beth and I settled on a 10 am pickup time for the that particular morning. I would drive.
On the morning of the Expo, a sleepy Saturday morning on the leap-year 29th of February, I awoke to the constant barking of my next-door neighbors’ dog, which was disturbing the silence of my late sleeping. This was unusual, both the late sleeping and the barking. My dog Mindy was still snoozing in her crate, a miracle we did not care to interrupt. Finally, my husband got up and wandered out of the bedroom. I got up to let the dog out and she took off for the back door as I slipped into the bathroom for a shower.
I heard my husband call out for me to come see the surprise that was left for us. I followed his voice to the back door, expecting a dead animal on the deck or a toppled tree straddling the roof of our car. I looked out on a winter wonderland. It had snowed. My morning plans were ruined. I texted Beth that I did not want to drive with the potential for mid-morning death via a poorly skilled, Texas-trained-driver-related plunge off an icy hilltop resulting in inevitable tragedy. She concurred. The Expo, she explained, had been moved to a noon start. We had planned to be done by then, so we cancelled the outing.
Disgruntled, I groused about the cancelled plans. I wondered what I could do at home to bring some liveliness to my day. Looking out the back door, I thought at least our property was looking pretty with snow covering most of the destruction perpetrated by our dog.
We courteously opened the door for Mindy to run out and do her thing. This morning, she scampered out onto the deck but refused to leave the covered, snow-free area. She stood shivering at the top of the stairs then turned toward us, as if to entreat our kind natures into pardoning her from a pee in the snow. Our kind natures knew better than to fall for that, having cleaned up puppy piddle on numerous previous occasions from the floor boards of our formerly neat and tidy home. My husband gave her a sweet little boot down the stairs. She peed next to the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs, ran shivering back up to the deck and whined to be let back into the comfort of her home.
While eating breakfast, I found a message on my phone from our next-door neighbors (the ones with the early barking dog). The barking had been in conjunction with a raccoon sighting. In our driveway. It looked rabid! Animal Control had been called. Rabid Raccoon! No wonder our pup had trepidations. It was not the snow, but the gruesome smell (I’m guessing here) of diseased wildlife. We gave her a few extra treats, grateful that she prudently refrained from pursuing what ordinarily would have been a riotous, headlong chase after a poor defenseless animal.
I returned to the back door and spotted the sickly raccoon and yelled out triumphantly, “I see it!” My husband came running with the camera. We always take pictures. I have a blog to illustrate. I don’t know, off the top of my head, how a rabid raccoon might be acting that would give away its diseased nature. This guy was simply walking up my driveway, skirting the garbage and recycling cans. It was bigger than I expected but just as cute as the pictures of raccoons I had seen on the internet, touting the adorableness of the species.
I called my neighbor to ask about its rabidity. She had done the internet research re rabid wildlife. She had checked two items off on the checklist of symptoms. A nocturnal animal seen in daytime and walking in circles. I saw it walking in a straight line, but this was enough for me and everyone else in the neighborhood to agree with her conclusion. I phoned my other next-door neighbor, who had children and a dog of her own to protect. She said her children woke her up early because they were tracking the movements of a raccoon across their front lawn. Did we really think it was rabid? As proof of its derangement, I pointed out that the county was sending out its Animal Control people.
Since the crazed beast seemed to be settling in beneath our car, my husband took the dog out the front door. We saw the raccoon’s tracks from the yard next door to ours and on into our driveway. Mindy was still not sure if she wanted to go for a walk, crossing the dangerous territory of our front lawn. We assured her it was safe (dragged her ass out into the street) and off they went, man and dog, to brave the elements while I kept vigil at the back door.
I later spotted our Raging Rocky in the yard behind ours. If I hadn’t been prejudiced by the presiding neighborhood opinion, I might have believed he was somewhat normal. He was just standing there in the snow quite placidly looking around. From the safety of my own porch, I was feeling sorry for him. Potentially rabid animals have but one fate. No judge, no jury; just a cruel and undignified execution. It had been a few hours since the call to the county. My emotions suddenly morphed from pity to impatience. If they didn’t come soon, a highly contagious, dangerously diseased animal could infect the dog, cat and human population of an entire neighborhood. This threat was wandering. How on earth would they catch it if they couldn’t find it?
I charged back into my house, performed some chores and settled down with the crossword puzzle to wait for further developments. I heard some commotion out in the street. Looking out the front window, I saw a man with a crate standing with our neighbor at the entrance to our driveway. Our neighbor was pointing toward something! My husband rushed out to witness the action. In his haste, he forgot his camera. I quickly put on my shoes and grabbed my own camera. By the time I got out there, it was all over. According to my husband, the raccoon was practically sitting on the neighbors’ front steps. A pole with a loop was employed, the raccoon not putting up much of a fight as the loop was slipped over its head and tightened. It surrendered like a weary fugitive.
The county man stuffed it, head first, with its black-rimmed eyes, into the upturned crate and shut the door behind it, releasing the loop from its neck. He expressed his opinion that this raccoon most likely had distemper, diagnosed by a red spot on its nose, an affliction making its way through the local raccoon population.
I saw the county worker carry the crate to his van and stow it in the back. I expected to feel as though justice had been done as he drove off with our sad little creature. I felt relief mixed with melancholy. I felt sure my dog (and her humans) were now safe and that we all would once again be eager to visit the back yard. Yet I also felt bad for the little guy, with his striped tail and dark paws. He was sick. I stupidly wished some kindly county vet would speak to him calmly and reassuringly as the injection poked at his furry side and hastened the end of his suffering, a scene looking much like the euthanasia of our previous dog, with a few tears but minus the stunned check writing.
I’d settle for a conscientious technician with a compassionate heart and a sure hand. I picture a humane ending even though I know this scenario is improbable. Should I now keep vigil for any of our raccoon’s similarly afflicted brethren, knowing their fate if I call for their removal? I’ll just add them to my ”Beware Of” list along with the bears, ticks, Eastern rattlesnakes, and vendors selling meat out of the back of their trucks. These are the dangers I look out for when exiting the house on my way to engage in meaningful activities. After I finish the crossword puzzle.
26 DOWN: Masked woodland creature,
Guest Editor Michelle is kind to all animals, including humans. She was gentle in the editing of this wildlife story. She also has a new car. I’m booking my ride early.