Raccoons: Innocent, Cute Creatures of the Night…
It began on Sunday afternoon. Rain started paying close attention to a hole in the material protecting the crawlspace of the house, just outside our back door. We go back and forth between the two houses on any given day through the backyard, and on this afternoon I needed to call Rain away a few times so we could keep moving.
Rain’s interest in the hole only increased once night fell. In fact, she started pawing furiously at the ground next to the house, knocking a bucket aside. It was then that I lead her into the house, got my best flashlight, and went back out by myself.
When I shined the MagLite and struggled to peer into the hole, I saw a patch of fur about a foot away. Was it a strange cat? Was it a raccoon tail? It looked a little more like the latter but I couldn’t discern any breathing. Was it dead? Why wouldn’t it have moved when Rain barked at it? For the rest of the evening, Rain was only allowed to travel between the houses on leash, and mostly via the front instead of the backyard.
Googling “is there a raccoon under my house?” lead to results that did not sound promising. A dead raccoon would mean struggling to get it out before it hatched maggots and made a stink; a live raccoon might mean a nest which would be VERY bad news for us for quite a while. Overnight I hoped that the raccoon was alive and would move on at some point in the night.
When we woke up at 5am I took Rain out on her leash to pee, and I could instantly tell from Rain’s demeanor the critter was gone. PHEW. I texted my mother next door to tell her the good news, and she responded that Mindy had been pretty interested in a smell near their deck next door, so be careful bringing Rain over later on.
Rain and I went about business as usual for the next hour and a half. It wasn’t until I was taking Rain next door before heading to work that I remembered—about two seconds before Rain started barking furiously and disappeared under my parents’ deck.
Doesn’t look so innocent now, does he?
The next 20 minutes were filled with barks, raccoon hisses, and me frantically figuring out how to ameliorate the situation. Given how worked up Rain had gotten last winter when she cornered an opossum behind my compost bin, I knew there was no way she would voluntarily leave the raccoon. They were in the middle section of the deck—the section that is inaccessible and impossible to view due to the deck supports.
First I grabbed my parents’ garden hose and tried spraying through the deck access points next to the house. One side, and then the other, trying to untangle it for reach as quickly as I could and move the lumber and other flotsam we’ve used to keep critters out of there in the past. It was no use—the deck support was completely blocking the water spray. Every so often there’d be a lull in the barking, and I’d start worrying about what was happening. After all, I couldn’t see anything—I could just hear what was going on in that middle section of the deck.
Then, I got an idea: the deck has gaps in the top, meaning I could feasibly break things up by spraying them from overhead. Rain’s barking meant I generally knew where they were, so I pulled the hose up there and started hosing just about everywhere I could in the vicinity.
About 30 seconds later the raccoon emerged from one of the access points next to the house and started ambling through the backyard. I tracked it with the hose, thumbing the nozzle to encourage it to run, not walk, out of our yard. If that wasn’t enough, I started yelling obscenities at it, telling it I’d kill it myself if it didn’t get out of our yard NOW. Neighbor dogs inside their house heard me and started making a ruckus too. And a few seconds later, the raccoon vanished into the shrubbery.
I had no idea what condition Rain was in. I grabbed her Kong, which I had tried to use at one point to lure her out, and sweetly coaxed her out by telling her I had a Kong for her. She emerged slowly, as she had to shimmy under those deck supports—and she was muddy but appeared unscathed.
I checked her out more thoroughly inside the house and she seemed to be A-OK. She looked about the happiest I have ever seen her in her life—tongue hanging out the side of her mouth, ears perked, and raring to go. Inside, it wasn’t long before she returned to the back door and started whimpering. She wanted to go outside and do it again!
Originally I was going to leave early for work but this meant I had a late arrival that day. I called the vet before leaving Rain and moved her scheduled appointment on Saturday to that afternoon.
Arriving home that afternoon I didn’t know if Rain, post-adrenaline rush, would start showing soreness or bruising that hadn’t been noticeable in the morning. We headed to the vet where she got a thorough exam and nobody could find any raccoon damage whatsoever. Dr. R. suggested that as a herding dog, her instinct is to chase and corner instead of getting in a fight. She reported that terriers, bred to kill small animals, are a higher risk for raccoon damage. At the clinic, they had seen a small Yorkshire terrier that got a chomp in the leg and lost quite a bit of the muscle!
My brain was still pretty frazzled in the afternoon but after our appointment I decided to take Rain for a post-vet treat at Mike’s Drive-In. The nice woman who took our order asked if we wanted a pup cup or a pup cone, and minutes later Rain was slurping her ice cream. The remainder of our afternoon was uneventful, spent quietly recovering in the comfort of home.