So as it turns out, the mama raccoon had three babies in there. At first we thought only two, but within a week of our seeing the first brave one poke his head out there were three little raccoons clambering every which way in that tree, and poor mama raccoon chasing after one and then another. She’d give one each a good rough cursory grooming, often flipping it unceremoniously upside down, stuff it back in the hole, and go after the next.
Fun to watch, but you knew that there were just too many busy little guys for one poor mama, and that heartache was just around the corner. All I can say is I’m relieved that it wasn’t Dorrie who encountered the fallen baby, but our neighbor Nate's big lonely, underloved, eternally chained-up mastiff, Zeus.
Nate told us the next morning how he’d heard a commotion outside at five in the morning – a commotion obviously somewhat different from the one that we usually notice, which is Zeus waking up and realizing he’s lonely and underloved, or else hopelessly tangled in his chain, or whatever it is that has him up fairly often at five wailing and crying in his mournful banshee voice. Because that one doesn’t seem to bother Nate at all, the coldhearted sociopath fuck.
But I digress.
Nate came downstairs at five in the morning and Zeus was busy working over the wayward baby. I can’t blame the dog – it’s the natural order of things and all that. But it’s sad anyway. The mama was so vigilant, so patient, sleeping out in the hot sun so she could keep an eye on her kits in their hole. I’m sorry she lost one. But she didn’t let go without a fight – when Nate opened his screen door to see what was going on, she was hanging over the fence and she BIT him. Not too hard, he said, but she broke the skin and he ended up going to the emergency room and getting the full round of rabies and tetanus shots.
A day or two after that, the raccoon family disappeared. Either the babies were old enough to fend for themselves and split from the nest or else she moved them somewhere safer. We haven’t seen any of them since.
I miss watching them, although it’s a relief not to have Dorrie working herself up to that overwrought state every time she saw one of them. The tree is like some a ghost town now. Squirrels run through the branches – they never would when the raccoons were there – and Dorrie looks up sharply, then looks away, bored.
I only wish she’d bitten Nate harder.