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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Armchair Raccoon

I’m hesitant to indulge you with this story because, well, what will you have to look forward to? But a promise is a promise, and you have been patient, so here it is.

Many years ago, when Elaine Cat was young, Steve had a business trip to Las Vegas. We had lived there for 11 years, so we added some time and joined him to visit old friends, check out the new Excalibur Casino and hike in the Valley of Fire one more time. (Oh, and let’s be honest, we wanted to climb Atl Atl rock again, where Kirk dies in Star Trek: Generations. We’re a family of nerds.) During the trip, I called our house-sitter Sheila to see how things were going.

“I think Elaine’s really angry.”

“Elaine’s angry?”

“Yeah, she opened the pantry door and got into the cat food.”

“She can’t do that.”

“No, I think she can. When I got up a couple of days ago, there was cat food all over the kitchen floor. I cleaned it up, but she did it again last night.”

How odd, I thought, She’s never done that before. When we got home, I sealed the cat food in a large plastic bag and put it on a high shelf and made sure I closed the door tightly.

A few nights later, in the middle of the night, I awoke to a clittering and scrabbling. I thought it was Elaine playing with her imaginary friends, but she lay at my feet, ears perked. When I sat up, she skedaddled under the bed.

I tiptoed down the hall and peeked through the doorway into our family room/eating area/kitchen. The pantry door was opened.  I poked my head out further. Sitting up on the sofa, relaxed as you please, was a Halloween-masked, luxuriently-furred raccoon.

Did you ever see the commercials several years ago with two raccoons sitting on recliners, watching TV with remote controls in their paws? I swear this was a raccoon from that ad. What’s more, as I emerged from the hallway, she merely looked at me.  That was it:  one impertinent glance. How did she get in? Ah, her second glance was toward the cat door!

Now, our family has hiked and camped and rafted our way throughout the West. I have a healthy regard for wild animals, and there was no way I was going to put myself between a raccoon and its point of exit. Instead I jumped up and down, screamed and shouted and clapped my hands. (Yes, you would think this would have roused the rest of the household, but you would be wrong.)

The raccoon stood up, thought a bit (long enough for me to consider shutting the hall door, me on the other side of it) and raced down the stairs and through the cat door. Flip flap!

One raccoon sitting on your couch is pretty cute. If, however, you foresee a raccoon and five babies, it is less endearing. Every night for a month, I blocked the cat door (Poor Elaine, I thought. Truthfully, she spent the night on my feet anyway.) I kept the porch light on all night. After that, we had no more nocturnal visits from masked bravadoes.

Come spring, I wondered how the squirrels were emptying our squirrel-safe bird feeder EVERY DAY. One twilight I looked out to see our raccoon showing a couple of friends how to hold down the spring-loaded feeding tray with one hand and shovel food into her mouth with the other. She turned her head and gave me an identical sassy stare before going back to the feast.

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