Kelly Baughman

I have always wanted a raccoon. Not a stuffed one or figurine. A real live pet raccoon. I researched the laws, found the permits I needed through the state, but much to my dismay when Christmas, my birthday, or any other occasion when a gift is appropriate has rolled around, it has been a no go. I understand why, but I don’t have to like it.
But this week, I got just what I wanted. Only I got eight of them. Santa, we have a problem.
After a long week of taking care of my newly handicapped dog and a summer gathering by the pool, I took out all of the garbage we had accumulated throughout the week. There were three large bags of trash after I cleaned out the refrigerator and the pantry in preparation for what looked like a bug out for Armageddon. I put the garbage in the cans outside the screened porch door, but I must’ve left the lid open thinking I would be back with another bag. Oops.
The next morning, I woke up and opened the door to take the dogs outside. The back porch was filled with garbage as far the eye could see. Wesley showed up around this time, and said in his calm and always even-keeled voice as he sipped his coffee while taking in the sight of our new landfill, “You better get started.”
Later that night, I heard some commotion outside so I peeked through the blinds to see what was out there. Much to my surprise, the little garbage bandits were back and they were adorable. Now most people would avoid a pack of wild animals at all costs, but I immediately ran to the refrigerator to choose a delicious snack for the little fellas. I was determined to make them my friends.
I slid the barrier into the doggie door so my pups would remain safely inside and I carefully cracked open the back door. The beautiful little critters stood at attention for a moment, looking me over, while I talked to them in my sweet voice I use only for babies and animals. I tossed out a few offerings of cheese and bread, and within minutes I was standing completely outside the house among their pack.
For the next three days like clockwork, my new buddies showed up at the door, waiting for a midnight snack. I placed a couple of bowls of water and scraps on the other side of the fence for them, but once they blew through its contents they were looking for the lady with the cheese. I fed them until their little bellies were swollen and headed inside with plans for tomorrow’s “dinner”.
Tucker, my Alaskan malamute who is usually sound asleep in bed by 10 pm, woke around midnight, and like the true old man he is, needed an overnight bathroom break. I was still awake, and upon hearing a growl and a crash, I flew to the door faster than I ever had before.
When I opened the door, Tucker had one of my little raccoon friends in his mouth, shaking him back and forth. I yelled for him to stop, and being the good dog that he is, he did. He dropped the raccoon, who was totally freaked out and rightfully so, and allowed it to back away and run under the porch (where I assume they have all been living).
I looked for bite wounds on Tucker, but whether it was his thick coat or the fact that he didn’t even give the raccoon a chance to bite, thankfully there weren’t any. I locked him inside the house and went on a search mission for the poor little guy who never saw this coming.
I found him hiding under the porch, terrified. I looked him over the best I could from a safe distance and saw that he wasn’t bleeding and didn’t appear to have any injuries other than trauma that he’ll be seeing a raccoon therapist for for the rest of his life.
I felt awful. I had basically baited this little dude to what could have been his death, and put the rest of his raccoon family and my pups at risk. It never really crossed my mind that they wouldn’t get along, mostly because I think of myself as a cross between Snow White and Ellie Mae Clampett who can tame any wild animal and make them all blissful friends. If only the world worked like it does on the big screen.
Although it breaks my heart, I know that the right thing to do is to stop feeding the raccoons and let them be wild animals where they belong. It isn’t fair to them to put them in a situation where they can be mauled by a prey driven dog, and it’s not fair to put my dogs in a situation where they can be attacked by a wild animal defending its family’s feeding grounds. I hate it when my fiancé is right.
Plus I can’t imagine the mess we would have had if the dogs had eventually made friends with them and showed them how to use the doggie door. I actually watched one of these furry bandits open a closed water bottle full of bacon grease and drink it….these things are smart….and disgusting.
In the end, the raccoon family is safe and still living under my porch, but they do their hunting in the neighbors trash cans now. Maybe someday I’ll have a pet raccoon, but I don’t think I’ll get it by leaving a trail of cheese in the woods.