The many global “Friends of LOKI” have countless stories of their own to tell. Many are not of dogs, cats, birds and the regular animal companions that we all share our lives with.
Here, submitted by Barbara Ettles Carter, in her own words, is her story about an amazing little Raccoon with whom as she says “I wouldn’t have missed that for the world!”
Charlene, as she came to be known, was a tiny raccoon being baby when she was brought back from a feline hunting trip into the bush one fall day. Born at the wrong time of the year, likely because her mother lost her spring litter of kits, she was “found” by Buster the Cat.
My husband who was digging the garden in preparation for the next year of planting called out to me to see what had arrived. There she was, scrambling around at his feet and chattering several volumes of books of stories. And there was Buster, sitting off to one side, having deposited her at my husband’s feet.
Looking around, no mother raccoon being could be seen and given that winter was approaching and this little one was way too small to survive on her own for a winter, we agreed that she would be welcome to join our family. “But only for the winter!” I admonished. “No matter how attached we get to her, she is a wild animal and belongs in the bush with the other raccoon beings being a raccoon. She is not a domestic pet!” I said as I told myself every bit as much as I was telling my husband.
We took Charlene to our vet, Brian, who gave her some shots to keep her from bringing rabies back to us since we lived in the rabies capital of Canada. “You shouldn’t keep her,” he said. “She will climb your drapes; she will eat your furniture; she will destroy your house.” I reminded Brian that the last time I had taken one of the feline beings to him for an appointment, there were two baby raccoon outside his house, eating and drinking from the dog dishes. “And where did they come from?” I asked. “I found them on the road one night; their mother had been hit by a car and there they were. What could I do? I couldn’t leave them.” “And neither can we.” I said looking straight at him. “Neither can we.”
Gradually, word got round and people began knocking on our door to see the raccoon. People began to phone to see the raccoon. My sister arrived for a visit and she was not so excited to see the raccoon. She sat on the chesterfield most of the time with her legs pulled under her, looking warily at the little raccoon being. We had to deliver coffee to her there on the chesterfield and she held the mug up high in the air, seeing that is how we had learned how to hold our coffee too with Charlene around.
We learned a lot that winter.
We built her an eight by four foot pen in the basement where she spent the nights. The days, she spent in the house with us. My husband had surgery that winter and was off work most of the time and I stayed home to look after him. As she grew – and grow she did with the nutritious food we provided – we learned that when people try to live with a raccoon, it is the person who must change more than the raccoon. To live successfully with a raccoon, a person has to begin to think like a raccoon.
She became a little argumentative about going in the pen at night. And at 40 pounds she was becoming difficult to pick up – especially with teeth that gave warnings that being picked up was not on her agenda. The solution was to give the teeth something to hang on to that was so precious she would not drop it when we urged that plump little body through the door of the pen for the night. Marshmallow cookies – the kind with the pink marshmallows on top and lots of sweet coconut – were heaven to that little raccoon being. Another piece of raccoon gold was a grape – to be rolled around in her hand and felt with her fingers until – and I swear she did- until she would smile with anticipation. Popping it in her mouth, she would hold it there and then crunch down with one bite. Her little eyes would close with delight as the sweet juices flooded her mouth. To this day, I swear she smiled! She definitely was a being.
But it wasn’t until the spring as we were preparing to release her that I understood fully how I felt about her. We wondered how much raccoons knew from instinct and how much they learned from their mother. We took her out for climbing lessons – just in case. She didn’t need them. She chose a beautiful maple tree and began her climb. We thought she would merely go up a few feet and then come down. Charlene had other ideas. Up she went – 10 feet, 25 feet, 50 feet, 75 feet, 100 feet and more. Right to the top. And there she clung to the uppermost twiggy branches, hanging on and looking ever so like a sailor in the rigging looking for land. She swung back and forth in the breeze and my heart moved to my mouth.
“Charlene, come down! Come on down right now!”
Not a whisper of her chatter as a reply and she maintained her hold. We realized we had a huge emotional attachment to our baby and we desperately wanted to bring her in for the night.
“That’s enough, Charlene, come in!” Still not a muscle moved. “I think I know what to do,” I said to my husband. “Be right back.” I went into the kitchen and came out holding forth a pink marshmallow cookie. “Look Charlene,” I called to her. “Cookie! Your favourite.” She looked down at us and began to descend. And now we learned something new – raccoons descend from trees head first. We were convinced she would fall on that precious little head but no – one foot lifted and moved and then another foot lifted from the trunk and down she came.
I gathered her up in my arms, gave her the cookie and snuggled her tightly. “I guess she doesn’t need climbing lessons,” my husband said. The next day was a beautiful blue sky day with puffy white clouds. Only little patches of snow remained on the ground and we decided to take Charlene out with us while we cleared some of the fallen branches from the garden. I looked around and she was gone. “Where’s Charlene?” I asked. “I didn’t see her lately,” said my husband. She was gone.
There were little footprints in the patches of snow going into the bush but then they disappeared in the leaves. She was gone, without a look back. And a feeling of emptiness was all that was left as I gazed into the woods. Three weeks later, an early April snowfall blanketed the land. My husband and I were doing dishes one night and he would look out the window in the back door every so often. “What are you looking at?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said.
“Hey! What was that?”
Drying my hands, I rushed to the back door to look and just as I did, I saw something disappear over the edge of the deck and under, into the space beneath. “That’s Charlene!” I shouted. “She’s back!” I opened the door and up on the deck she came. “Charlene!” said my husband. “Where have you been?”
She chattered – obviously she had been on an adventure. Despite the door being open, Charlene would only put two feet inside. And she stayed like that – half in and half out – for an hour. Finally, in she came and down to the basement she went. She would have nothing to do with the pen and hefted her big rear end up onto the woodpile, preferring that to the confinement of the cage. In a few days, after the snow had melted, off she went again.
We had been successful in returning her to her wild ways. The bush is where she preferred to be. Brian was right. She ate our furniture. She climbed the drapes. She destroyed parts of the house. But she also squirmed and chattered her way into our hearts that winter. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world!