Wednesday December 4th was my first day back on the job after 7.5 weeks away due to a shoulder injury. I knew it was going to be a very long, and probably rough day. I've been so used to getting up before 7am, napping in the afternoon, and just going to bed whenever... meaning, not having much of a routine.
I made it through the day, being up real early, no nap, an 8 hour shift and home by 10:30pm. And I found myself still with some energy to burn.
It's Wednesday and in my fashion, I toast getting over the hump of the week with a shot or two of whiskey... "Whiskey Wednesday". My drink of choice is usually 40 Creek but I recently got a bottle of White Owl Whiskey from Angie and decided to have at that especially since I saw 3 Snowy Owls on Monday. We are in the midst of another Snowy Owl invasion and I think I will toast these birds with my White Owl whenever I see one (or three).
Drink is made, I turn on the back light and peer out the window to see if any of my night time buds are around. I spot one of the Raccoons under the bird feeder closest to the house. I put my coat on, grab my drink, flashlight, camera and go out to hang out with him... if he will let me.
Flashlight on him and I took this with my cellphone.
The snack was done, he started making his way to the back of the yard. He had a real difficult time doing so with that leg and a few times he kinda rolled over, but kept heading in that direction. He stopped himself in the garden near our feeder pole and had a drink from one of the bath basins. It was a mild night and the water hadn't froze. Drink done he continued on his way, struggling along, and pulling himself with his front paws.
I knew he was hurt and despite it being pitch black outside, starting to rain and me lacking much in way of skills or equipment to do anything, I was bound and determined to help him.
Sure doesn't look pitch black out nor raining here but trust me on all I tell you.
Hobbitstee Refuge. A new friend of ours is an animal rehabber and we assisted in a fund raiser for her a few weeks ago. I was holding the cages until the next time we got down her way. As I said, cages are large, like 4' x 2' x 4' or so. The one was not folded up and the bottom tray was not attached. The cages were in the shed and I went and grabbed the one I just described. It was a struggle in the dark and trying to keep a light on the Raccoon. Funny how me by myself, holding a flashlight and camera, the Raccoon never cared; but coming at him, walking like Frankenstein as I held this cage up at waist height... nuh uh, Raccoon was like "get away from me man!" but only with some colorful language I can imagine by his growls.
I backed him up against the fence, he snarled, hissed, spit, growled and charged at me a few times. But I held my ground, stayed calm and wasn't giving up. I had to be quick when I put the cage over him, not wanting to drop it on his already wounded body. What an adventure this was! Did I mention how dark it was? And the rain was coming down good now?
It really didn't take too long before I had him in the cage. I could see a few neighbours peering out their back windows, looking down in my direction and probably wondering what I was doing. The Raccoon was really loud, might as well have been a Bear I was messing around with, and I am sure my bright LED flashlight waving around was like the Bat Signal out there.
My next move was to get something on the ground under him, so he couldn't try and dig his way out. I have a big sheet of plywood behind the shed, so I pulled that out, lifted the edge of the cage a little and slowly slid this sheet underneath. It really pissed the Raccoon off as I touched his toes. And he tried for the opening, even as small as it was. But I managed to get the sheet all the way through and out the other side. Next up was barricading the sides of the cage so he could not top it over, using 4 big cinder blocks, one on each side. I didn't want to leave him trapped out there with the rain coming down, so next was a big blue tarp that I put over his temporary home. And lastly a few bricks over top to keep the tarp from lifting or blowing away.
I double checked everything and figured he was safe for the night in there, no way he could get out, or hurt himself trying, and no way anything could try and get in at him. It was nearly midnight now and I was pretty darn wired. I posted something on Facebook to vent some of the story. I wrote a note to Angie for when she woke up so she didn't see the Facebook stuff or the contraption out back and wake me with a bunch of ???'s. Eventually I went to bed but still had a heck of a time falling asleep. Angie woke up and I told her everything. Now neither of us could sleep.
My next step was to call Toronto Wildlife Centre in the morning and ask for assistance from an expert with proper equipment to get him to their centre and hopefully some medical aid.
I wanted to wait till morning, close to when the centre opened at 9am, so I knew nothing happened over night, like Raccoon escaping. And hope from the time of my morning check on him, my call to TWC and their arrival would be a small time frame.
I checked on him shortly after 7am and he was curled up in a ball, sound asleep much like Meadow was on the bed. He looked up at me momentarily, like I disturbed him, and as I left, he put his head back down. I liked that he was calm with me and not freaking out.
And just before 9am, I called Toronto Wildlife, leaving them the most detailed message possible about the animal, how I caught him and ensured he was confined. I knew their return call would be within the hour, so I waited a bit before I checked on him again. I took a couple pics and a very short video, also observing him some more. He still remained calm with me.
Toronto Wildlife called me back, we talked for a bit and they didn't need much more info from me. They knew there was no way I could bring the Raccoon in to them, not without me getting hurt in the process and probably further injury to him.
It was a relief when they told me someone was coming down to the house to help out. I was hoping it was Andrew because I tell everyone that he's my hero. I worked with him once back in May 2012 with a very sick Great Horned Owl in the woods near us. That story revisited me back in October 2013, see here. But it wasn't Andrew coming down but someone named "Sarah". For a split second I was disappointed to not hear Andrew but the relief of help coming quickly returned and thought this would be great to see another one of their rescuers in action.
Sarah arrived on scene pretty fast. I took her around back, and worked with her to catch my trapped pal. She was loaded with leather gloves, netting, a snare and a large carrier. I followed her instructions and together we caught him. She had me lift one side of the cage up while she slid a snare underneath. It took 4 or 5 tries before she was certain she had him and out he came, not anywhere near the calm guy he was a bit ago. He was full teeth, claws and attitude at Sarah. But she kept her cool and and focus on the mission and in no time he was in the carrier.
We talked briefly before she left with him. I said how I hoped so much he could come back home one day; but she politely informed me that a lot of times it just doesn't end well in these situations. Raccoons aren't the best patients to begin with. Healing them, keeping them confined and calm, and not further injuring themselves is a very difficult task. It was nice she kept that in the back of my head but I wasn't going to give up on my hope for him.
They left, I tidied up out back and soon went to work totally exhausted and my day really only just begun.
The next day, Friday the 6h, I couldn't even think about Mr Raccoon as I had a full day with getting that little Northern Saw-whet Owl to the Owl Foundation and doing one more shift at work. Blog here.
Saturday morning I called and left a message. I missed their return call about an hour later and when I checked my voice mail, I was all twitchy, stomach turning, wondering what they were going to tell me. The voice mail said nothing about the condition of the Raccoon. And a lot of the message was very much similar to the one they left me when I inquired about my recently departed Squirrel pal "Sideways Sam". See that blog here. But the woman explained about why they wouldn't say in a voice mail, as they use discretion, unsure if the voice mail box is private or not, etc. So I get that but still I was thinking the news was going to be bad and they didn't want to leave it in a message.
I quickly called them back and kept my phone right with me until I heard from them again about 30 minutes later. I'm still holding out hope for a good answer as the phone rings. But once I answer it, and even though she didn't say it right away, I knew he wasn't coming home.
Both his back legs were broken and it happened some time ago. The bones were healing and setting in improperly. He had infection through his lower area too. So the most humane thing to do was put him to sleep.
Even as much as I knew this was the best thing for him, and a part of me was expecting this, my heart still sunk. I was overcome with sadness. Angie and I were going out shortly and I found myself just staring blankly out into the backyard. Was it because of my admiration for Raccoons? Was it because this was too soon after my little pal Sideways Sam went the same route? I dunno but it sucked, and it hurt.
I posted the outcome to social media and got a slew of heart warming comments and support.
Anyways, the support from others helped me. I knew my sadness was only temporary and that my Raccoon friend wasn't suffering anymore. I thought if I left him be out there, how long would he suffer, and how slow and painful would his death be? I try to not think of myself as a Reaper for the severely sick wildlife but more as a caregiver, stepping in when they really need help.
And despite his death, like the others I've turned in, I will still hold out hope for the next one, and so on. Where there is life, there is hope.
Rest in peace little one.