This is the ongoing story of Heidi and friends, raccoons and the occasional opossum who frequent my backyard wildlife buffet. Everyone is welcome, old, new, & previously unmet friends alike.
It's the height of the season now, the time we all look forward to when the backyard and patio overflow each night with tiny, adorable kits. Tonight a little one that I named Desperado, Desi for short, sat on my foot, ate from my hand, and even let me pet him a number of times. I am really stoked now. On the far side of the scale, Heidi is missing and has been for some 3 nights now. Worse, she was exhibiting disturbing behavior the night preceding her disappearance. I'm hoping this is all just a misunderstanding and that she will be there at the bottom door pane tomorrow night to greet me.
Earlier when I went to the patio to check for Heidi, one of the Moms was still out there with her 3 kits from earlier. When I turned on the light and looked out of the patio door (w/glass panes top to bottom), one of the kits came right up to the door and stood looking up at me, while standing with his front feet on the door facing. At that time I took them another scoop of food and one of Widget's tiny, plush toys (made for 'toy' dogs). This one was a pink, terry octopus.
The kits and their Mom viewed the toy octopus with suspicion when I 1st offered it to them. I held it out, but there were no takers, so I just put it down on the patio floor and left. A few minutes later when I looked outside, one of the kits was sitting in front of the toy repeatedly rubbing his 2 hands back and forth, up and down on the soft, terry toy over and over again. It has been a while since we covered this characteristic of raccoon behavior. They not only have a high degree of dexterity in their 'hands' but also are drawn to anything tactile.
They love to feel and explore any new substance with their hands - or any old or new substance under water, since the addition of water makes it a whole new sensation. They will spend a lot of time exploring any new tactile sensation. This appears to be a way of training their senses to recognize items/textures in the dark, under water, buried in the dirt, etc, but it is also something from which they appear to derive considerable pleasure.
A few minutes ago I checked the patio one last time for the night. Incredibly, the mother raccoon, same one as before, was STILL out there with her 3 kits, even though they had stopped eating their kibble (apparently full) much earlier. Curious, I stepped out there to see what they were doing and why they were still hanging around. They were playing together with the toy octopus. It's a very rare treat to watch a raccoon mom playing with her kits. I was glad I had given them the toy. Widget has way too many of them and as he is now 7 or 8, no longer plays with them much.
Here are a few pics I meant to post recently. Don't think I did so. These are pics of the raccoons' toys.
Photo 1 - practice golf ball in grass about 30ft from patio. Note that I gave them this ball by placing it on the patio. They took it across the lawn while playing. I've given them some 3 of these balls this year along with a cat toy ball. A few nights ago I stepped out onto the patio to feed them and found one of these white balls a few inches from the door facing. These days the kits crowd around the patio door while waiting for me, so that's where they had the ball (not where I put it). Some weeks back when the kits were afraid of me. They used to hide behind the patio trunk/bench, so that is where the ball used to stay, along with some of the [very wet] plush toys.
Photo 2 - plush toy in grass a short distance from the ball pictured above. This is one of the old, plush, dog toys from prior years as you can see from its condition and loss of color. What I find amusing about this one is that I didn't give it to the kits. I didn't even know where it was stashed. The kits found it for themselves, or their mom showed them where it was. I doubt I will ever cease to be amazed that wild animals recognize these items as toys and will find them and play with htem tirelessly no matter how old, faded, soaked and dirty the toys become over the years. Note, btw, that this is a very small toy about 5-6in long, designed for 'toy' dogs. I find that raccoons prefer small toys, toys which are the size of their babies and/or prey. Older kits, teens and yearlings, will play with slightly larger plush toys up to about 8in long, but these very small plush toys marketed for dogs under 10lbs are perfect for raccoons of all sizes, especially kits.
Photo 3 - Another tiny plush toy. This is the tiny, 5in, blue donkey I gave them last week. It was one of Widget's toys. You can't see it all that well hidden there in the rose shrubs where the kits were hiding and playing with it in a safe place. Here again, I put it on the patio for the kits. They took it over there to their hiding spot in the rose bush. It's no bid deal that you can't see it well, because it's dirty and soaking wet from all the recent rains. I just wanted you to see that the kits had relocated it to their 'play pen'. Also, note the little tag which points to the velcro opening on the donkey's tummy, the slit where I removed the voice box. I have no idea whether kits prefer the sound effects or not. I imagine the parents prefer silence. I removed it so it wouldn't startle the kits - and so Mom won't be tempted to hide it when she tires of the noise.
These next pics are from 2 nights ago, one of the nights after Heidi went MIA. None of the pics are Wow types, but they do show the raccoons in 'action'. The patio is all yucky again. Not my work. I haven't been out there - too hot. The landscaper had cleaned it up, removed all debris, arranged things, swept/blown it clean, etc, but the raccoons need something to do while they wait, especially the kits. In case I haven't mentioned this lately, raccoons are like that friend who constantly plays with everything on your desk or in your home while talking, the friend you constantly have to take valuable items from, because they mindlessly fidget with them while talking - and end up breaking things w/o meaning to. Raccoons constantly fidget with things, twisting them one way and then another. Only the older ones like Heidi are capable of sitting still for any length of time.
There isn't anything very important out there for them to hurt. They broke a couple of clay saucers, apparently knocking them off the shelf. The bright blue debris on the patio and the wire handle are parts of a plastic bucket I bought a few years back. The heat/sun out there is highly destructive, esp to plastics. In just a few short years, the bucket had become ultra fragile (no longer useful), almost like an egg shell. Thus the raccoons busied themselves crushing it into small pieces - but, again, it was totally useless and should have been tossed already - before they made a mess out of it. Just wanted to explain the mess out there. It has been raining daily for weeks now, so it's very soggy here. All the water, wet dirt, and the green fungus/moss that grows on everything due to the rain and high humidity all make the mess look even worse.
The heat is dreadful now, so I'm not going out there for anything until September - that includes cleaning up the patio. It's so hot out now that it's even hot, sultry, humid, and yucky late at night when you would normally expect it to be cooler or at least neutral.
ABOUT THE PHOTO: The 1st pic shows an adult (the mom) far left and 2 kits, one far right and one at center. This was taken after I gave them cookie bits. The kit far right has gone off there to eat his cookie w/o the others trying to take it - which is smart because his mom is the one that takes cookies from babies. The middle kit, having finished her cookie, is watching the other. The adult raccoon, the mom, is sneaking around trying to find cookie pieces to steal from her babies. The 2nd pic is a crop of the 1st just to let you see more detail.
Here we have 2 adult raccoons snooping around the kits in search of cookie pieces. The adult on the right is the mom of these as you can see from the kit sitting behind her. The adult on the left is stepping very cautiously (while looking for cookies), because those are not her kits, and she knows she could easily get into trouble with the mom for snooping around so close to the kits. You can see that the kit also looks slightly intimidated by the presence of the adult who is not his mom.
That weird looking grey/black thing hanging down in this and prior pics is a dead, water soaked weed hanging from the adjacent pot. You can also see the handle of that bucket I mentioned along with the pieces of blue plastic. There are a couple of small bits of either cookie or frosting in the area around the kits in some of the pics. Most of the kits are still clueless (because they are so young) such that they often don't see or smell the cookies even when I toss them right up under their noses. The adults know this and thus are searching for the treats (for themselves). Desi is 'on the ball' and gets all the cookies I give him, but I typically have to toss the others 2 for them to get 1. After an adult steals the 1st one and the kit realizes he missed his cookie, then I toss him another one which he sees, grabs, and eats - most of the time.
I seem to recall a while back you mentioning that wild animals follow you around - Liz called you the Pied Piper of Wildlife. That was during a very busy time for me, and I can't recall if I ever responded. That's way cool about the moose following you and such.
I have something like that, too. Some of my friends tease me about it and call me Dr Doolittle. That's how I met Heidi, for instance. She just climbed down the back fence a few feet in front of me one afternoon. It was a spring day, and I was walking around my backyard garden after work to check out new blooms, when she just lumbered down practically at my feet. At 1st I thought she had probably failed to see me there. I figured as soon as she got to the ground and saw me, she would high tail it back to the forest - but she didn't. She just stood there on the ground a few feet in front of me, looking me over. I was afraid of her. I even tried to scare her and chase her away, but she wouldn't go. I pretended to throw things at her, but she was like, "Pe-leeze!" She just climbed 1/2 way up the fence and hung there still looking at me - and, I think, laughing at my silly antics.
Before Heidi there was Mr T the Tufted Titmouse. Did you ever read any of that thread? It was much shorter in duration than the Heidi series. Mr T started out pecking endlessly on my window, as though he thought himself a woodpecker. I kept doing things to try to stop him, but everything failed. He would literally sit at the one great room window pecking on it from sun up to sun down. I would go over to the window and bang on it with my hand from inside. He would sit on a branch a few inches away just scowling at me - even got a pic of him sitting there looking all furious.
Then one day I was out working in my garden when I heard/felt wings flapping around my head. It was Mr T. He kept doing that every time I was outside. He would sit on a branch in a small tree nearby and then swoop down to hover around my head. One day he landed on my head and started walking around up there. It was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing. His feet tickled my head. After that he kept landing on my head every time I went in the backyard to work. I even got a photo of him walking around up there and posted in the thread. It wasn't a great pic, because I had to take it myself, so I couldn't aim. Just pointed the camera at myself and clicked the button.
Then there was Kitty. She showed up at my front door with a kitten. I didn't think of her as a wild animal at the time, but later I learned that several of my neighbors had been feeding her for a while, but no one could get anywhere near her. I was sitting on my front porch one day petting her, when a neighbor stopped and said, "OMG! That isn't that wild cat, is it?" She recognized Kitty, because she was one of the ones who fed her. She thought Kitty was wild and couldn't believe I was petting her. She said, "You must have some kind of special gift with animals or something."
Ironic thing about the Kitty incident is that at the time I absolutely and emphatically did not want a cat. I had all the 'critters' I figured I could care for, and I didn't want to deal with a litter box. Other people in the neighborhood fed her (somewhat) and wanted to interact with her, but she wouldn't let them near her. I didn't want her, yet for whatever reason she came to me that night, kittens in tow, seeking food. That was almost 3yrs ago now. The rest is history, as they say.
I don't travel much other than for work, so I mostly only run across creatures here around home, but it seems like every wild creature here knows I'm a big pushover. It's like they wrote it on the back of my shirts in something invisible to humans or maybe put up signs in the forest pointing to my house. I know how you feel. It is kind of nice, isn't it?
Cheryl, yes that was me. Everything from the moose (which was really an Elk but I had no idea) to raccoon's, fox, possum and squirrels...a few bunnies and birds also. I have a cardinal in the back yard, I make a calling sound...and he shows up. Follows me around the yard quite often depending what I am doing. It has been there for a couple years now. The kitten count, I have lost track honestly. We currently have six...and only two of those were brought home. The others showed up at the door...at very odd times in dire need...and we are sure there is a map somewhere in the neighborhood to this house.
I had a "rogue" horse at a polo match ignore its owner and start following me, I was probably 18 at the time. I said hello to it and petted it for a bit, the guy gave me a sugar cube to feed it...and after about 15 minutes he was ok to leave. The guy said it had never done anything like that before.
My funniest one was in Niagara Falls...with my "now ex" husband. He got this strange look on his face and said some choice words...then "Who are you, Snow white...every dang squirrel in the park is following us" I sat on the ground and started feeding them pieces of a sandwhich I had and thought he would faint from these "wild squirrels" eating out of my hand. Of course they were all pretty used to tourist feeding them...but I wasn't telling him that.
I remember your titmouse issue and most of the others, followed the kitty escapades also. I think they just no who is "sane" in this life and who will help them.
As stated in my misplaced post on the other thread, Heidi wasn't here tonight either. I'm starting to worry now.
Desi wasn't out there either. Those other raccoons don't always bring their kits with them. There were several females out there, but only one with kits. Desi wasn't among them. He will be back another day though. Now that he hangs out with me and lets me pet him, it's a lot more fun when he's around. I hope he doesn't stop letting me pet him as he grows up. It really was nice getting to stroke his soft, furry back.
I took pics of the 3 kits that were out there. I'll post them later. Those kits are not as cute as Heidi's kits though. One, I hate to say it, is a bit dorky looking - reminds me of those children whose ears are too big for their faces. I love them all, of course, and now I feel bad about saying he's less than adorable. (You will see when I post the pics.)
Just made another trip to check the patio. Since Heidi went MIA, I've been making so many trips each night I probably look like I have OCD. She wasn't there, of course, but there was a raccoon out there. This one looks for all the world like Jerry - and even stands up to ask for treats. If she isn't Jerry, she has to be one of Jerry's grown daughters. Now that I think about it, that probably is Jerry. She had 4 kits with her. Yearling females usually have one or at most 2. They don't begin having larger litters (4-6 kits) until they are at the peak of their fertile years, around 4 or 5. Jerry would be old enough. Her daughters, probably not.
This is the time of year when I begin to see a lot of faces (and behaviors) out there that look familiar. I don't know if some of the old ones sneak back this time of year or what. Just about every year I think I see Reba out there, standing up in the distance asking for food. She was out there the other night, doing the same thing. I threw her a few handfuls of kibble and a cookie piece. Jerry or her look-a-like shows up most years. One of the raccoons out there is the spitting image of Julia. She was from Yr 2, for those who may have forgotten. There is another out there lately that looks like Bast, exact same unique coloring. In her case, I'm pretty sure she is Bast's daughter rather than Bast. She doesn't know me as Bast did, and she doesn't have any scars.
Anyhow, when I went to the door a little while ago, Jerry was standing a few feet back from the door. She was always a bit shy, which is why she developed her namesake 'going out for a pass' method of getting treats. When she saw me at the door, she stood upright just as Jerry would have done. I thought at 1st she was alone, but then a kit stepped out of the shadows and walked up to the door.
I returned with food and cookie bits. When I opened the door and stood there in the doorway, 2 kits walked up to me. For a moment I thought one might actually come inside. Then movement caught my eye and I saw another kit, this one hanging from the wheelbarrow as though it were a jungle gym. (My landscaper left it tipped forward on the patio near the door, possibly so I would see it and put it away.) I broke out in a huge grin. Kits are adorable as is, but kits dangling off makeshift monkey bars are too cute for words. The kit didn't get down either, even though it was just arms length away from me. It just kept on dangling and climbing, doing what kits do. I am definitely gaining acceptance fast now that I broke out the sugar (e.g. bought cookies).
When I went out on the patio, I bent down and held a cookie piece out to the kits. Two of them came up to about 5-6in from the cookie. I tossed the cookie to one of them. He will come closer in time, when he is ready. Then I held a piece of cookie out to the other kit. This one reached out with her hands to take it. Her little hand touched my fingers.
(Forgot to mention that this 2nd group of kits, or rather one of them, had that same old, faded, and dirty 'teddy bear' shown in the picture above, the one that was in the grass the day I took the picture. The kit had it on the patio and was sort of alternating between 'hugging' or clutching it and eating kibble. I thought about going back for the camera so I could get a pic of the kit with the toy, but my laziness got the better of me, esp as I had already taken and downloaded pics earlier in the evening.)
There is so much irony out there this year. I'm having the absolute best 'kit' year I've had in ages, since the days of Dennis and Fraidy. Were it not for the fact that Heidi is MIA, this would be one heck of a great year on the patio, and yet that one enormous weight hangs over everything. It's perhaps all the more ironic that things changed out there with the kits the very 1st day after Heidi went missing. Odd.
Sadly, no. Right now her kits are between toddlers and preschoolers, closer to the former. They are still so young that, as mentioned before, they are pretty clueless. Even when I toss a cookie at their feet, it takes them what seems an eternity to recognize it as potential food and think about picking it up to sample it - even when they have tasted cookie before. At this age, sadly they would not last long without their mom. They still have a LOT to learn from her about how and where to find food, about what is safe and what isn't, and so many other things about how to be a raccoon.
In the wild (w/o a benefactor & buffet), the percentage of raccoons that make it to adulthood (yearlings) is lower than one might think - and that's with their mother. Without their mom, at that age they will be vulnerable to predators. They are too young to remember how to find their way back here. They may live a mile or more away. It would be like expecting a group of toddlers to find their way to Aunt Soffie's house alone and on foot if something happened to their parents. Even if they somehow could find their way here (which is pretty much impossible), they would likely be picked off by predators on the way, as they are not at all cunning and sophisticated at this age.
I doubt they would even think to try to come here. Like I said they are clueless at this age - like adorable toddlers. My guess is they would stay near her or in their den if they are lucky enough to be there. When they got hungry enough and realized she wasn't 'ok', they would start to wander in search of food. It wouldn't go well for them. The usual release age for kits is 6mo. Their only real chance at this age would be if they were found by a kind human, a hunter or hiker who would take them home and try to raise them or, better yet, get them to a rehabber - or if one of the other adult raccoons, one of Heidi's daughters would take them in and raise them.
There is no indication from the literature on raccoons that the latter would occur; however, I can't rule it out, since I have seen things in my observations of this group of raccoons that fly in the face of conventional wisdom on raccoon behavior. I'm convinced there is much about them and their interactions we still don't know.
It is a very difficult time right now, waiting to see what happens with Heidi. It is still not out of the question that I may just be missing her (time wise). Were it not for the added weight of her odd symptoms that last time I saw her, her disappearance would not be such cause for concern. If she is ill, it's still possible that she may be laid up somewhere recuperating, but just not well enough to travel this far. When her kits are born, for instance, she doesn't return for a week or more. Still holding out hope.
I'm slowly starting to realize that it doesn't look good at all this time. I'm starting now to go through strange moments - like a few minutes ago when, for one glorious moment I thought one of raccoons on the patio was Heidi - something I never used to do, but I guess now I'm rather desperate. I called out, "Heidi! Heidi!" hoping against hope for some sign of remembrance, but the other raccoon stood at a distance staring at me quizzically, and then I realized it wasn't her at all but merely that I was seeing Heidis everywhere.
You may be right. She was incredibly smart, and, yes, she has been a wonderful friend/pet.
There will never be another Heidi. Not to detract from all the many other wonderful raccoons out there, but she was in a class by herself. I am sad now to think that I may have seen her for the last time, but I keep trying to remind myself to look at this from a different perspective, realizing that my extraordinary relationship with Heidi and the many years we enjoyed was a unique and very special gift. Rather than dwell on feeling sorry for myself now that it seems she may be gone, I'm trying to remember how lucky I have been that she was in my life this long or even at all.
I/we always knew that it would eventually come to this. The only other alternative would have been for me to leave 1st, move, or just stop feeding them (to avoid having to deal with this, the end). I would much prefer it this way. I would prefer to have been there for her until the last and to know that I made good use of every day we had together. Above all, if she is really gone now, I don't want to let her passing cast a shadow of sadness over the wondrous and beautiful gift she has given me, the opportunity to know her and her babies, to observe her family and try to see the world through her eyes, to learn more, much more about her species, and most of all just to enjoy her calming presence. (shedding a few tears)
If Heidi has reached the end of her life, she gave you a wonderful goodbye gift: She showed you, without a doubt, this spring that she trusted you as a "pet" (as you said recently), no longer relating to you as a wild animal. Still holding out hope &, mostly, hoping that she's not suffering...
From a totally opposite perspective, I'm sure glad I made that decision (one of the last few days I saw her) to give her the watermelon I had planned to save for sorbet. Remember that? That day, after eating the better parts, I had scooped all of the remaining 'red' out of the shell and put it in a dish in the fridge. My plan was to bag and freeze it later that evening to use for frozen deserts at some later point in time. When I saw Heidi that night, knowing how much she loves watermelon, I went back inside for the container of watermelon pieces which I then dumped into the empty rind/shell for her. She was there late that night eating watermelon juice.
Just the other night I remembered the incident, and though how glad I am now that I gave her the melon. I would have felt awful and selfish had I deprived her of what turned out to be her last opportunity to enjoy one of her favorite foods.
Tonight it looked as though there would be no raccoon visitors. My neighbors were outside on their new screened porch. They were enjoying themselves. I could hear them clearly from my patio. They weren't loud enough to be disruptive to people, just to raccoons.
A little while ago after the neighbors finally went inside for the evening, one lone raccoon showed up on the patio. By the time I arrived at the door, I could see that she had one kit with her and another adult. Cookies and bag of kibble in hand, I opened the door. The kit, whom I had not yet identified but who turned out to be Desi, lumbered up onto the door facing and headed right up to my feet. I hadn't expected it would go this far, but before I knew it I had a kit in the kitchen again - and this one had come in face 1st, knowing full well that I was there.
I bent down and gave him a quarter cookie. Not sure why. I figured that was what he was after, and I guess I thought once he got it he would head back outside with it - you know, to where his mom was. Instead, he camped out on the rug, inside the doorway to eat his cookie. "NOW what?" I thought, not knowing quite what to do. On the patio, some 5 feet away, I could see that both the mom and the other raccoon were getting very concerned seeing the little guy there inside the doorway, inside the house and so close to the human. They were fretting, but it was clear they were not willing to risk dealing with me to 'save' him.
So there I was, door open, kit in the doorway eating a cookie - it was the kitchen, after all - and me with no idea what to do next. I closed the door as much as possible, leaving only enough room for my body between door and door facing, and then I stood patiently waiting for the kit to finish his cookie, so we could, hopefully, go outside. Meanwhile, Kitty showed up having apparently realized the kit was now, for all intents and purposes, inside the house - only barely, understand, but inside just the same. I'm guessing this gave Kitty cause for concern. I managed to wave her away quietly while the kit continued his snack.
Unfortunately, when Desi had finished his cookie, he had no intention of leaving - this kid really reminds me of Dennis more and more. He/she will be trouble as he gets older. I still had cookie pieces in my hand. Apparently Desi could smell them. He didn't want to leave. He wanted more cookies. I tried tossing a cookie piece on the mat just outside the door, but kits aren't that smart, nor are their senses that finely tuned. He remained focused on the cookies in my hand and completely oblivious to the cookie just outside the door. Tossing more cookies wasn't going to change things.
Next I tried to use the small dog food bag (used to carry the daily kibble) to gently guide (push) him out the door. Well that didn't work! Turns out, kits don't push easily unless they actually want to go, and he did not. With all 4 feet firmly planted on the floor, he didn't budge one millimeter. What he did do was reach up and grab hold of the bag, not down low at his height but as high up on the bag as he could reach, up near the top (I think it was a 3-4lb bag). I think he might have been trying to reach my hand.
Ultimately, I managed to use the bag, onto which he was now holding with all his might, to pull him outside. It wasn't easy considering he was on the outer side of the doorway and I was on the inner side. I tried to step past him to get outside, so I could more easily pull him, but he was determined to stick with me, so in very inelegant fashion, he and I and the bag all hobbled slowly out the door together.
Once outside, he let go of the bag, but quickly climbed aboard my shoe again, this time standing upright on my instep and grabbing on to my pants leg. So there I was on the patio, a small kit riding my foot like a wind sail, while his mother and another adult raccoon stood 3ft away watching helplessly. Actually, for the moment it seemed we were ALL helpless, all except the one tiny kit who couldn't have weighed more than a 1/4 pounder w/cheese - and yet was totally in control at the moment.
Ignoring the other raccoons nearby, I used a cookie to coax the kit to let go of my pants leg and get down from my shoe. While he was eating, I reached down and stroked his back - and not gingerly but just as one would pet a kitten. Once again, he remained completely unconcerned by my touch. Then I reached up and petted the top of his head, even did that kind of 'squishy' movement with my fingers a time or two as if gently messaging his head and back. No reaction at all, just went on eating the cookie.
To keep him entertained so I could feed the others w/o ending up with him on my pants leg again, I put another cookie piece beside him. I had already seen that kits eat very slowly. After feeding the others, I rushed to get back inside before he could 'catch' me again. I was fully aware of the irony that I had now come full circle and was once again running from the raccoons and that I was eager to get away from a cute, adorable, furry kit who wanted nothing more than to climb me like a tree trunk and search my pockets for sugary treats. What monster had I now created?
Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm here, and I'm fine. I've been through the grief stages. For now, at least, I'm at acceptance - mostly, although I do still check the door a few extra times each night, always hoping against hope to see the faint outline of her face looking back at me through the bottom door pane once again and always finding nothing there but empty blackness.
Over the past week I've gone from cracking jokes with myself like the one about renaming the thread The Heidi Free Zone (inappropriate humor as form of disbelief) to 2nd guessing my actions that fateful last night, as though I might somehow have saved her had I thought to scoop her up right then, upon noticing her odd symptom, and whisk her off to the 24hr vet hospital - and as though it might somehow be possible to go back and renegotiate things by making the right choice (bargaining). I've made dozens upon dozens of trips to the door hoping this time to find her there (disbelief). I've 'seen' Heidi in the others and called her name hoping 'she' might come to me and 'be' Heidi (disbelief/bargaining). I've shed a few tears (sadness/depression) and opted some nights to forgo such festivities as taking photos, handing out cookies, and petting Desi (sadness/depression).
I've been through most of the stages, some more than once, although I really don't recall feeling anger. I knew this would inevitably happen, and I knew I had been incredibly blessed to have had the time with her that I did. I've never been a "why me?" kind of person, and I couldn't see any reason to be angry now. Today, other than a few extra trips to check the door, I am largely at the acceptance stage, at least for now.
My failure to keep up with responses, as usual, is just a matter of time pressures and conflicting responsibilities. It has nothing to do with the situation with Heidi. The past few days have all been jam packed.
At times like this, I realize we all feel uncomfortable, not knowing how to behave or what to say. Should you be solemn and speak of Heidi, or will that just make me sad? Is it ok to celebrate the good times and enjoy the antics of the kits, or does such glee seem inappropriate at a time of such sadness? The answers are Yes, No, Yes, No, in that order. It's appropriate to feel all the usual human emotions, to laugh, to cry, to be happy, to be sad, to celebrate, to mourn, and do them all at the same time or in quick succession. There is room in my heart to both miss Heidi and enjoy petting the kit.
I very much agree with the concept that what one says at times like this is not so important as just being there. Being there to show support is all that really matters, and you have all done that. I've enjoyed your company and support. I've enjoyed grieving with you and laughing with you. I've appreciated your almost poetic reflections and attempts to see something good amidst the gravity of the situation, and I've laughed childlike moments later at images you paint of whimsical and carefree kits. Above all, I just appreciate that you have been here with me to help me face the situation and whatever may be.
So please, don't be afraid to continue to be yourselves, to laugh. to cry. to joke. to feel whatever you feel. to speak of Heidi or of Desi. to grieve for the past and look forward to the future. to celebrate the days we enjoyed with Heidi and grieve for those that will never be. to enjoy the adorable antics of the kits even as we deplore the loss of one so precious and irreplaceable. Most of all, just be.
Thank you all for being here. Things will be ok. It's all part of the cycle of life, and while I will miss Heidi in my life, I choose to rejoice in the very special time we had together.
Somehow this time just feels very different to me, perhaps because of the symptom she displayed before her disappearance or because of her rather advanced age or maybe a combination of both. Rest assured that I am keeping a check on the door worthy of one afflicted with OCD, just in case she does somehow make it back against all odds. I suppose you do have a point that she could be laid up somewhere sick and unable to get here and yet could still show up again - if she doesn't wait too terribly much longer, that is.
If she is out there sick, I hope she isn't in too much pain.
I was thinking along very similar lines about beginnings and endings and how one is actually the other (one door closes...).
Perhaps because in bringing her kits right up to the door facing, Heidi gave me considerable credibility with the group, the kits this year have been willing to interact with me in ways they never did before, especially not on the patio. Desi seems to fear me no more than he does his mother. Even the other adults have crowded around me on the patio, whereas in past years all but Heidi always ran behind the shrubs while I was out there. The daily presence of the group has had an unexpectedly supportive feel, perhaps in that I at least don't have to wonder if loosing Heidi will mean the end of the 'buffet' altogether (as I often thought in years past). The antics of the kits, especially Desi, bring me big smiles and keep me entertained. All of this helps to blunt the pain of loosing Heidi.
I'm glad the events of that particular night also brought smiles to some of you. I think we all need some reasons to laugh right now.
At the time, however, standing out there with a kit clinging to my pant leg, I hovered between humor and panic, unsure how I had gotten into this predicament and, more importantly, how I would manage to extract myself from it. Age and cute faces not withstanding, those kits are equipped with some serious weapons, and unlike the adults they don't always know how to handle them. Imagine a toddler with nails like Freddy Kruger - and a major cookie habit.
Something about that sentence and the image it evoked really gave me a much needed chuckle that morning when I read it - and still does even now when I read it again.
You visions may be more accurate than you imagine, because, so far at least, Desi shows 0 fear of me -- zero. He may actually be planning to come inside for cookies and leg ride. I think that's what makes the sentence so funny. He reminds me of those totally carefree people who skate through life w/out a scratch, narrowly and blissfully missing every major threat that comes their way.
When I touch Desi, he feels different than any of the others, ever, even Dennis - but then I wasn't actually able to pet Dennis at this age, much less do the scrunchy thing with my fingers on his head. Desi doesn't flinch at all, no matter how I touch him. He is completely convinced that I'm harmless - then again, he did ride my leg like a wind sail or pontoon boat, and nothing happened to him. That he has no fear of me is both incredibly intriguing, since I can enjoy petting him, and equally unnerving, because from Dennis I learned that fear is part of what keeps the raccoons in check.
I wish you guys could have been there to see it all unfold - and help me peel the little guy off my leg.
Kitty was not at all amused, but, thank goodness, she did allow me to wave her away. When I looked up, she was directly behind me, her nose stretched out for a sniff. My troubles would have gone up exponentially had she stayed to get in the middle of it all. I hadn't anticipated that she might come over to check things out. I'll have to be more careful in the future.
remembering Heidi's last visit, I seem to recall that she spent extra time with the melon juice. That is a wonderful memorie of her gulping down her all time favorite food/drink.
Little Desi is like a special gift just for you. I have no doubt whatsoever that Heidi was on a mission to be sure that her daughters and grands KNEW you were to be trusted. She was just so very smart and her moves and motives seemed clear. She was a matriarch to be respected and followed.
Speaking of Desi, if a she, you'd better get some strong dungarees in preparation for adolescent human climing games, heck perhaps she'd like her own special back pack for walks around the buffet and outer parts with you!! :-D
Heidies kids & kits will continue on in your stories.
sending prayers,hugs &love,
edited for clarification of word picture (raccoon back packer)
You know, it sure is one heck of a HUGE coincidence that after all these years of never bringing any of her kits to the patio at all, Heidi picked this her final year to not just bring her kits to the patio but even bring them right up to the door facing AND let them stay out there even as I walk around the patio towering over them - and that latter part had to take enormous trust, the equivalent of us trusting a horse or even an elephant to walk around inches from our toddlers. Her actions in doing these things this year seem all the more incredible when you consider it's what gave the other raccoon moms the green light to let their kits come to the patio and interact with me.
Every year prior to this, Heidi refused to allow her kits to come to the patio, choosing instead to stash them in a safe place nearby while she ate. They were never allowed on the patio until they were much older, like teens, old enough to take care of themselves in case the dog or the cat or some other person should emerge from the door. I always understood, of course, why she did this. Heidi was the best mom I had ever seen anywhere in the animal kingdom, humans included. She never took any chances where her kits were concerned.
Unfortunately, over the years while it was nice to see the adult raccoons waiting at the door, it was always a big disappointment that once we moved to the patio, we never got the chance to even see the kits much less play with them, until they were grown. Some of the less cautious raccoons would allow their kits to follow them to the patio over the years but ONLY until I stepped out to feed them. When would go out on the patio, only Heidi would remain. The other raccoons would run and hide taking their kits with them. Thus it was that once I moved to the patio, I never had the opportunity to develop any kind of relationship with successive generations, and I, quite frankly, feared that I would loose touch with the raccoons altogether once Heidi was gone.
Thus it is one incredible coincidence that she chose this very critical year to bring her kits to the door and demonstrate her extreme trust in me, because that is the only reason that the other raccoons trust me now, the only reason that my patio overflows with relatively fearless kits every night now even in her absence. If she didn't plan it this way, it is sure one heck of a coincidence.
And, yes, I do believe I may be in for trouble when Desi grows up - and maybe some of the others. His claws are pretty long and sharp even now. Anybody got a set of leather chaps I can borrow? Maybe some of you Texas folk out there in cow/cowboy country?
Tonight I was late getting out there. I took a nap after a hard day. By the time I awoke and gathered my senses, they had probably been out there an hour or so, more than enough time for the kits to know that the patio just isn't all that much fun without the cookie lady, sort of the patio equivalent of Ronald McDonald.
Jerry, and, yes, I really do believe this is THE Jerry, was about a foot from the door with her kits. When she saw me at the door, Jerry stood upright in her 'toss me a treat' stance. By the time I grabbed the bag of kibble and a handful of cookies and opened the door, two of her kits were right there on the door facing. Noses pointed toward the growing 'hole', as soon as the door began to open both kits came streaming in as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
Having learned from prior incidents, this time I was ready for them. I opened the door slowly a few inches and once I saw that they were definitely headed inside and fast. I jiggled the door ever so gently in an effort to send them back. I have one of those 'string of bells' things on that door. It's there for the dog to 'ring' to let me know when he needs to be let out. Over the years though it has served a host of other purposes including that of signalling raccoons when the patio diner is open and cats when to come running to get in the door. Tonight I hoped as I jiggled the door the bells ringing loudly above their heads might signal the kits to back up and get down from the door facing. It took a few tries as they were awfully determined, each trying to get to the cookies before the other, but they did finally move off of the door facing and allow me to walk out.
Even when I got out there the kits were right up around me, circling close around my feet, clearly looking for treats. After a minute or so as I bent down to talk to them a bit and give them cookies, the one most timid kit scooted over to hide behind her favorite chair - I say this because she often runs over there where she hugs a chair leg, standing behind it as though for protection. This time, seeing her back over there 'hiding' again, I looked at her and called her to "come back here", using my best baby kit voice, of course. I hadn't actually expected that to work, but sure enough as I looked her eye to eye and called her back, she let go of the chair leg immediately and came back over to me.
I passed cookies around for all, not whole cookies, mind you, but 1/4 cookies. I figure that works better for me and them. The cookies stretch farther and the kits get to enjoy 2 or 3 'cookies' w/o filling up on sugar. Every night, whenever Jerry is there, as soon as I start giving cookies to the kits, Jerry stands up in the background for a cookie, just as she used to do. The other moms zip around amidst the kits trying to snatch cookie bits before the kits get them, and that works well, since the adults have much faster reflexes vs kits. Jerry, however, does do that. She stands up and stays up. It's her way of asking me to toss her a treat. (For those who don't know, because of this behavior Jerry was named for Jerry Rice, because in those days, standing up at the back of the pack that way she always reminded me of a football quarterback waiting for a pass.)
I've never been able to resist her when Jerry stands up that way to ask for a treat, so even though I usually give the cookies to the kits only, I end up tossing her a few. Normally, the kits stand in the middle of the patio, closest to me, and Jerry stands back behind them at the edge of the patio and beside the large plant tubs. Jerry was always a bit timid that way, which is the very reason she developed her namesake method for asking for treats.
While I was out there, Kitty came to the door where she stood wanting to be let in. Without Heidi around Kitty has grown much bolder about standing on the patio even with the raccoons and their kits out there. She no longer growls at them though, thankfully. I always found it somewhat amusing that Kitty would run from Heidi - and Heidi would chase her, too, yet all the other raccoons ran from Kitty. As tonight, I often don't see Kitty at all, standing behind me at the door, until the raccoons give her presence away through their behavior.
Once Jerry saw Kitty standing behind me at the door, she became fearful and went around behind the large plant tubs to hide. After that, even long after Kitty had gone inside the house, Jerry remained over there where she felt safe behind the pots. Whenever I would start passing out another round of cookies I would see her head pop up behind the giant pots as she stood upright for a treat. It was a cute image which made me long for my camera, her face and hands popping up in the shadows back there behind the big tubs.
At 1st I didn't toss Jerry any cookies back there amidst the pots. I tried to coax her to come back out from behind them but w/o success. After a few failed attempts to get cookies by standing up behind the pots, she climbed up on the edge of one of the giant 15in pots. For some reason that looked even more humorous to me, her crouching on the pot's edge asking for a cookie. Finally I tossed her 2 cookie bits, tossing both into the pot on which she was standing.
Throughout all of this, Jerry's kits remained there around me on the patio, sometimes standing only inches from my feet as they ate kibble and looked up at me periodically checking to see if I had more cookies. These kits were really starting to interact with me more and more now. No longer just gobbling up food and ignoring me there, now they were coming over to me and looking up at me. Then just before I left, one of Jerry's kits stood upright Jerry-style looking me straight in the eye, clearly asking for another cookie. Of course I gave her one and passed out one last round of cookies for all.
I suddenly had a vision of a cartoon board set of images that begin with one of you shooing Heidi away with the rake ,you shooing with flailing arms her kits playing 'jungle gym' as they climbed and hung from that old bird feeder, pool time fun, she & her kits straddling the fence, Heidi drinking her beloved watermelon juice, and Desi windsailing along on your shoe with little black hands firmly holding to the sail!
Me thinks God presented this story board for all to smile and enjoy a great big warm fuzzy from Heidi.
This is actually from last week. Too much going on then to post it. It's one of the other moms and a kit looking in at me one night when I went to the door. I grabbed the camera off the counter and ran back to try to capture the shot. They had already begun to move. Afraid they might get down before I could get the pic, I snapped it while I was still a foot or more back from the glass. That plus the debris on the door led to distortion. (Yep, time to wash the glass again. Among other things, it gets a lot of tiny 'hand' prints on it.)
Here is another one. The quality of this one is even worse. That one up front looking in is a kit. The real reason I decided to share this pic though is just above and to the right of the kit. See it? On the glass? It's a raccoon hand print. I bet you thought I was kidding earlier. I see little hand prints like that one on the door all the time. They make me smile.
Edited to add: That hand print is probably a bit old. The 'fresh' ones are much sharper with all digits clearly defined. But at least you got to see one. I didn't realize they would show up in photos.
Thanks for the compliment and for permission to use the story board.
To date the raccoons have always been very well behaved out there on the patio. When sitting at the back door they always sit quietly, never harming anything. To date at least, they never make any attempt to get my attention. They don't make noise or scratch at the door as dogs will sometimes do. They sit by the door and, even if I walk around the kitchen for a bit and then leave the room w/o ever returning to feed them, they will sit quietly and eventually leave w/o ever having made a sound or otherwise tried to summon me.
I say "to date" because I don't know to what extent this good behavior may have been attributable to Heidi's influence. Even during Heidi's brief absences to give birth, the others have usually become intolerable in their raucous behavior. I shudder to think what may happen now once they realize there is no Heidi to keep them in line.
AmandaEsq wrote:It's hard to stay somber with those noses at the pane.
Those noses at the pane and the occasional hand print left behind have the same effect on me. Even now as the loss of our heroine hangs overhead, the noses, the hand prints, and the antics of the kits all help to bring a smile to my lips and lend light and cheer even in these dark days. As you so succinctly put it, it IS hard to stay somber with those little faces pressed up against the window pane.
I didn't feed the raccoons for a few nights. I wanted to be sure to set the tone right up front, to make sure they would know that some nights I can't be there, and they should just go on there way on such nights - w/o trying to break down the door to check on me. :-)
Last night, after a 2 day 'holiday', I went out there once more. Initially, I failed to notice the kit at my right foot. He/she was cast entirely in shadow by the wheelbarrow beside me. Not seeing him, I tossed a cookie piece to the next closest kit, one just beyond him but in the light and thus clearly visible. As the kit to whom I had tossed the cookie bit picked it up, the kit at my foot turned around to face the sibling with the cookie.
I can only imagine my little friend who had been patiently waiting there at my foot must have been surprised when I gave the cookie not to him but to his sibling farther away. It was only then as he turned to face his sibling that I became aware of the shadowy figure of the kit beside my right foot, the kit now facing away from me and helplessly watching his sibling eat what should have been 'his' cookie.
I bent down in the semi darkness and put my hand firmly on his little back hoping to get his attention. His little back was so tiny that even my small hand covered it almost entirely. I curved my hand slightly, the base of my hand near the base of his tail, the tips of my fingers just touching his shoulder region. I had anticipated a startle response, thinking he would jump forward at my touch or maybe even turn and spit/hiss at me out of freight, but he did not. There wasn't even so much as a rippling of his skin, no indication that he was startled at all. He had known all along that I was there, and he was not in the least frightened by my touch.
I couldn't see him at all well there in the shadows, but his behavior was consistent with that of my little friend Desperado. A moment later as I withdrew my hand, he responded to my touch by turning to face me, still standing close to my foot. I reached down to offer him a cookie, a whole cookie this time, my apology for having ignored him earlier. He reached up with his tiny hands and took the giant cookie from my hand. He took his prize a few steps away from the hustle of the crowd where he could sit and enjoy it. I tossed cookie pieces to everyone else, and then headed back inside.
This little Desi is a charmer. I hope Desi is a she so she can keep coming back . The scenes you describe are so exciting!! Does she talk to you? Their little baby chortle or trill is just heart meltingly sweet.
As with all of them, Desi is most likely a female. Seems like, on avg, only 1-2 out of every 10 are males. I just use the masculine pronouns to simplify things. It's easier than using 'he or she' for every instance and has the added benefit of helping to avoid pronoun ambiguity with the moms (and Heidi). I'm hoping Desi is a female, too.
All of the raccoons are extremely quiet. I think their silence comes from being prey animals. They are THE quietest animals I have ever known, which is why I call them ninjas. They can literally sneak right up beside you w/o even so much as crunching a leaf. Even when waiting on the patio, they will not utter a sound to try to get my attention - which is a nice benefit of their vow of silence.
That trilling sound the kits make is very specific. They use it to call their mom when they are alone and scared. Typically, they only do that when they are extremely young. By the time they are this age, they have probably learned that it is in their best interest to be silent and hide until mom comes back. So, no, Desi doesn't make that trilling sound around me, or any other sound for that matter. Like the adults, he is mute. Since his mom is always right there, it wouldn't make any sense for him to make the trilling sound, since that sound is for calling his mom.
I hear that sound a lot in the 1st few weeks after the kits start coming to the yard, but I hear it, not from the kits on the patio, but from the ones whose moms have left them hidden and alone somewhere behind shrubs or in a tree. Then I hear the trilling sound emanating from nearby shrubs and/or from a tree at the forest edge as the kits left there call out to let their moms know they are scared. That kits kept by rehabbers would make the trilling sound makes more sense, either because they are trying to call their real mom or because with time they begin to think of you as their surrogate mom.
Kits (and moms) make another sound, a sort of 'whoop', 'whoop' sound. Have you ever heard that sound? I believe the 'whoop, whoop' sound, often used by the mom in response to trilling kits, means 'I am here'. Mother raccoons also make the trilling sound, btw, although with much less frequency than kits do. Heidi used it sometimes when she was at the buffet and her kits were in the forest edge. She would make the trilling sound and they would answer with 'whoop, whoop'. Conversely, when her kits, stashed in a tree somewhere, were trilling, she would respond, 'whoop, whoop'. But, again, they only had this 'trilling, whoop, whoop' conversation when separated by enough physical distance for the kit(s) to feel alone/scared.
The trilling sound is sweet - most of the time. One night a month or so back a group of kits that had been left in nearby shrubs while their mom was on the patio eating, belted out the trilling sound at the top of their lungs the entire time I was out there, and I have to admit that it did begin to get on my nerves after a while. Most of the time kits make that sound rather softly. Then it is fairly melodic. More rarely, when kits get really worked up, as was the case with the ones in the shrubs recently, they virtually scream out the trilling sound at the top of their lungs, such that it begins to border on a shrill whistling sound. Then it is less pleasant, especially if they keep it up for a while.
Doubt that I would enjoy trilling that loud either.
You are so right about them trilling for their rehabber mom, too. The ones I knew were bottle babies, not much bigger than one's hand and made a very gentle happy trill sound when we would open the door to their room for feeding, armed with bottles. We did not know to 'whoop whoop' back.
They were released at creekside on another friend's woodsy property. Watching them 'discover' water was priceless. it looked just like they were 'washing' their little hands. The creek water was like a magnet to them as they would begin to walk away to explore elsewhere they each (4) would halt as if the skids were on, then turned back and skurrie to play in the water some more. Those 4 were just about the most precious babies Ive ever come in contact with. ;-D
What a beautiful account. I can understand and relate to much of what you are saying, this from my years of interacting with the kits especially at the buffet where I often stayed for an hour or more and could watch them enjoy the water (pool). There was a point in all of that when I began to experience an almost overwhelming desire to have a baby raccoon that I could raise as a pet. Thankfully, I never acted on that desire. I did some research and found that raccoons are not well suited to houses. Even people who had (beloved) raccoon pets were quick to caution, for instance, that you pretty much have to give up on all upholstered furniture if there are raccoons in the house. Those Raccoon Willie videos also helped to change my mind - like the one where Willie eats the kitchen cabinets. I really wanted one 'bad' back then though.
We are about to drown now, compliments of Hurricane Isaac. Don't get me wrong, I would rather be here than Louisiana right now. I don't mean to take anything away from them or from what they are experiencing (or about to experience) from this storm. They are in my T&P's as this thing plays out. Having lived most of my life in hurricane country and having survived Hugo, I feel for anyone in the path of a hurricane - and the folks in that area seem to have had more than their share lately.
The thing is, we were not in the forecast AT ALL for this one. Look at us. We are way over here on the Atlantic coast, while the storm is sitting dead center the gulf coast. We weren't in any of the 'cones', no warnings, no watches, no colored bands or boxes over here. I kept a good eye out for that sort of thing as the storm made it's way across the ocean. Nope, this time we were totally in the clear. No worries.
Nonetheless, we are getting hammered by the outer rain bands. The scary thing (for New Orleans area) about this storm is that it is just sitting still and barely crawling along. Thus it will spend many hours in one place, dumping lots of water and ripping things up with hour upon hour of high winds. Somehow we managed to get sucked in to it's path - only because the storm is so huge. A large section of outer rain bands has been sitting (still) over us for hours now and isn't moving. No winds here (so far), just relentless rain, all night and all day. I guess I'm mostly just surprised - because we weren't in any of the warning areas and because we are so far from the storm. Clearly, this is one BIG storm (in terms of diameter not strength).
Now they are mentioning us repeatedly on the weather channel. The main topic, of course, is New Orleans, as it should be, but Charleston comes up several times per hour due to the (unexpected) flooding. We have flooded neighborhoods, roads closed, 20+ cars stuck/stranded in high water, and a fairly large area of rain bands sitting on top of us. There are puddles around the back patio, something I've never seen before since my house is higher than the yard (back and front yards on grade to drain water away from house). And the rain continues...
Not complaining, just expressing my confusion. Still rather be here than N.O. (Pulling for you folks in the gulf!)
It really wasn't expected to come this far over, and really the storm itself (the eye) is right on the path predicted all along. It's just that the storm is apparently much larger than expected - actually, I think it's not so much large as disorganized so that some of the outer bands have spread/strayed much farther from the center than expected. The section that is sitting over us is probably 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the main (center) part of the storm, the part that is sitting of the N.O coast - and then there is a lot of empty space in between, so much so that I would be tempted to wonder if this was not even part of the storm, except that the hurricane guys say it is, and I can see it when they draw the big circle around showing how this part connects back to the storm. I don't think I have ever seen one spread out quite this much so that the eye can be sitting of the N.O. coast and a large outer section covering Charleston.
In answer to your question, I think there is a good chance that it may make it up to your area eventually. I say eventually because it really is moving at a snail's pace (which is bad, very bad). Right now it is sitting off the N.O. coast. Some of the inner bands are already lapping at them. If it were any normal storm, it would have already passed over N.O today and been on its way, but it's not expected to even make landfall until early tomorrow morning. Once it finally crawls up onto the gulf coast and starts to move up through Louisiana, I'm guessing the part that is hammering us now will move up toward NC. Hard to say if it will 'hit' your area in particular, but depending on how it moves and if it stays together, the band that is over us now is probably big enough to cover most of NC. Might miss the most western portion of the state, depending on how the storm steers it.
New flash, they just adjusted the predicted rain area to cover all of SC (now that we are already drowning) and about 1/2 of NC.
Do you need rain? The good thing about this storm, as they have mentioned repeatedly on the W.C. is that it has the potential to deliver a LOT of much needed water to drought areas. The bad news includes the fact that it may flood some of those areas. The last I heard we had received some 6in today alone. They say N.O. and some other areas may get as much as 20 inches. It's the old feast or famine thing. Got a boat?
Edited to add: If you need rain, I hope it brings you some - but only a good amount, not a flood. These outer rain bands really are great for curing the drought, as long as they don't stick around too long.
When Court said it was going to hit the drought stricken areas I was concerned about flooding. Hell or high water, no?
We have had a decent amount of rain. After I got most of my seedlings off to a good start, I hardly had to water at all. I collect water from the a/c condensate overflow and have more than I can capture. Both rain barrels are full.
I'll look ahead at the weather and try to prepare. Those outer bands have come back to bite us on more than one occasion on storms going up the coast.
OMG! There are people canoeing in the streets in the 'downtown' area!
Thankfully, the rain has stopped for now. Some parts of the downtown area flood with any heavy rain. Yards are built up several feet above street level (like mine) for this reason. So far I don't think we have flooded houses - even though we have people canoeing in the streets (for amusement). Locals know not to go downtown when it has been raining all days and typically know ways to get home - which sometimes means driving up on sidewalks, through the park, whatever it takes when the streets become lakes.
Amanda - Last time I looked, the worst part of that heavy rain band that was over us earlier today had (finally) moved up toward the Myrtle Beach area. Not sure where you are located w/respect to there. If you don't need the rain, hope it bypasses you. Check out the revised 'green' band TWC has placed over part of your state where heavy rains are expected.
Hi Liz - If the rain is mostly over now, we should be fine. I'm sure the critters will also be fine. Luckily, the raccoons spend most of their time in trees anyhow, so they shouldn't have a problem. I, too, hope for the best for all who are in the path of this storm. BTW, I saw where there were some 50 or so moderate earthquakes in southern (I think) California Sunday. Pretty spooky. Hope you were not affected. Do they have any idea as to the cause? Hoping it's not preliminary activity before a bigger quake.
They haven't discovered the cause of all those quakes. Usually, when there are several, they talk about them relieving pressure, which is good, because it avoids a big one. But some of these were good size & the amount is extraordinary. I'm in Northern CA - San Francisco Bay area - so we weren't affected. I sure consider myself lucky to live here, where we have the occasional quake. Hurricanes, etc. scare the begeebers out of me!
So you think the kiddie pool would work as a canoe in a pinch? ;-)
You post gave me the most adorable image of a bunch of kits in raincoats, hats, and golashes (a different primary color for each kit), standing in line at the backdoor, holding hands so no one gets lost. Oh that picture is just TOO cute.
Luckily, in the real world raccoons LOVE water. We still have plenty of solid ground - assuming we don't get too much more rain overnight - but even if the entire ground were covered several inches deep, the raccoons would love that. It would be like one giant pool party, no lines, no crowding, just pool everywhere. They sleep on tree limbs anyhow, so they always have dry 'ground'. Of course, those who don't have a 'buffet' for dinner will want the rain to drain away within a day or so to allow for better foraging, but, otherwise, wet raccoons are happy raccoons.
You guys are killing me today! Now I have an image of those same kits, dressed out in a rainbow of brightly colored, vinyl raincoats, hats, & golashes all riding the high seas in the backyard, paddling that purple pool (used to be blue but effect of sun and age has rendered it purple now)!
Oh, you guys are too much.
-- OMG! -- Newsflash - Now people are kayaking through the Market in Charleston! I had no idea the Market was that deep in water. For those not familiar w/Charleston, the Market is a historic area, an old market from colonial times now use by Charleston venders to sell wares of all kinds, a lot of touristy stuff.
You are correct. They would most definitely prefer to wiggle their toes and experience the tactile sensations beneath the water. I just like the image better with galoshes. In my mind they look like teddy bears with long, bushy tails, ringed eyes, and pointy noses. Can't you see them now, each dressed in a different, brightly colored, matching set of vinyl rainwear? The slicker, the boots, and the sailor style hat? I think I may be tapping into cartoon or Disney/Pixar character set on this. Anybody recognize it/them?
In reality the raccoons would prefer to shed everything, boats included, except maybe the hats. They love to be wet but don't particularly love the sensation of driving water pelting their head, nose, and eyes. But then who does?
I want to apologize for going so OT yesterday in discussing the storm. Hopefully, you will agree that I have been doing much better lately at keeping my OT stuff in the OT thread, but yesterday in my excitement I backslid. Sorry. Will do better.
While I'm on the subject though, I would like to say one last time that my heart goes out to the people N.O. (and others in the path of the storm). It's not a particularly strong storm, but it has been battering them for almost 12hrs now and is still sitting on N.O. even now. Some parts of the city appear to be flooding enough to require boat and helicopter rescue. I was so hoping that wouldn't happen again.
Usually, at least in the past, major storms only make landfall in a particular area every couple decades. Thus each generation only has to go through this once in their lifetime - typically. If that pace picks up considerably so that people have to go through this repeatedly, you may see a mass migration from affected areas. Charleston took a huge beating from Hugo in 89; however, historically, Hugo was one of only 3 major hurricanes to make landfall anywhere along the SC coast in the nearly 150yrs of record keeping.
To put this into perspective, when I was a kid there was a major earthquake in CA. It made a big impression on me at that age. I just remember news footage of pancaked cars squished by a bridge (or something like that). Years later I read a terrifying account of that earthquake. As a result, I spent most of my life thinking CA would be a cool place to live - except that I couldn't understand how people could go about their lives there with the threat of earthquakes hanging over them. It was only in recent decades that I came to understand that the earthquake I remembered had been an anomaly in that there really haven't been any (?) other earthquakes of that severity in the area since.
Hurricanes for us are much like earthquakes for you. We know they can happen here, but we may live our entire lives here w/o experiencing more than one 'big one', if that. One difference, having both positive and negative effects, is that we know ahead of time when a hurricane is coming in our direction. Thus we have the opportunity to leave and escape harm and that lends a sense of security to the issue. Unfortunately, since we can't know until the very last minute whether the hurricane will actually hit us or its severity on impact, we may face repeated decisions about whether to pack up, sit in gridlock, drive across a couple states, pay for a hotel room, and so forth when the hurricane will probably pass us by anyhow or whether to stay here and risk injury or death if it doesn't.
It probably wouldn't take too much more of 'the hurricane game' for me to rethink things.
I posted a couple of links to my OT thread, youtube videos of the flooding here yesterday and of people canoeing, kayaking, floating on inner tubes, and even water skiing (pulled by a truck), all in the middle of major streets in the downtown (business) district. Included among the videos is one professional montage set to rain themed music. I posted the links to my Rants and Raves thread. Here is a link to that post in case anyone is curious: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=9258431
I remember your reaction to the Bast incident, how you found it difficult to read about the horrors of her condition and decided to stay away during that time. I understand that. It made a lot of sense to me. We come here to enjoy our free time not to seek out a daily dose of sadness. Because of your reaction to Bast's illness, I sort of thought you were probably staying away due to the sadness of the occasion - and I understood it.
I think you may be surprised to find that, although we did lament the loss, we didn't dwell on it. I spent a lot of time in those 1st few days making trips to the back door always hoping against hope to see her smiling face looking back at me through that one bottom pane. I was pretty sure by the 2nd or 3rd night that it was over, in part because of the symptom I had noticed that last night. It was difficult to see her go, but I decided rather than dwell on this as a loss, I would rather focus on the wonderful opportunity I had to spend these many years with her and her family.
Yes, it is the end of an era, and that is sad, but just think of all the wonderful moments she gave us while she was here. I had something with Heidi that few people ever experience, and I refuse to see that in a negative light just because it has ended. That's how it is with life. Time passes and things change. Are the truly wonderful moments in our lives any less so, when they are gone?
After reading the news of Heidi's passing, it would be understandable if you didn't read on to learn of little Desperado. It's an extreme dichotomy, loosing Heidi at the very same time that Desi and some of the other kits have suddenly become so very unexpectedly comfortable around me, beyond even what we saw with Dennis in years back. Every time I open the door now, if Desi is out there, he is up on the door facing trying to come inside.
One night I had to pull him back out while he held onto a pet food bag refusing to let go. A time or two he climbed up on my shoe and rode around the patio (I kid you not) while holding onto my pants leg (ouch) as though he were wind surfing. And while it never fails even now to amaze me, I can reach down and not only pet him but actually cup my hand around his body/back (he's pretty small still), and he shows absolutely no sign of fear at all. Oh, and he takes cookies from my hand, too. Last night I had to climb over him to get out the door, but I'm getting used to that. We are all hoping that he is a she that will be with us a while.
So while there is sadness, there is also some joy still. I had feared that Heidi's passing might leave us with no raccoons still 'tame' enough for interaction. Little Desperado has stepped forward to show that this is not the case at all. There will never be another Heidi, but she has left us with a legacy, and there is still joy.
When HRH went missing, I continued for years afterward to hold out some glimmer of hope for his return. I imagine it will be the same with Heidi. For the most part, I've accepted that it's over, but there is always some flickering hope. I've made peace with things. If she does somehow against all odds show up one day, I will be overjoyed. If not, I'll be ok. I'm happy for the time we had with her.
I also have just gotten back to DG to catch up on you and Heidi. I am so saddened to hear the news. It was so late last night I couldn' stay awake to read all the posts but had to skip on to the last few,hopeing to read that Heidi had returned with her kits in tow. I was heartbroken to find she hadn't. Today I read all of the previous posts and feel somewhat better,though still in mourning at your(our) probable loss. I have been with you through your amazingly wonderful posts each visit at the diner,seeing through your eyes all the kits,yearlings and adult raccoons as they play together,manuver the steal,play in the pool,hide among the bushes,delight in the of new sensations of the different toys given them,sharing your concern when one showed up with an injury. Its been a fun and informative ride with the added sorrow of loss. One I hope to share for many years to come(the main reason I am still a member of DG). Bless you for I know Heidi(and other raccoons) would have had a harder time surviving these years without you.
It's great to 'see' you again. Sorry for the delay responding. I took a timeout to rest, reflect, and enjoy my birthday recently.
It was heart-warming to read your list of some of the highlights of the time we spent with the raccoons. Awwhhh, you remembered The Steal. :-)
I like to think that WE made a difference in the lives of the raccoons and helped to extend Heidi's life. I say "WE" in all seriousness, because each and every one of you played a very important roll in all of this. I don't know that I would have done it without all of you. You guys, the raccoons, and I have all been part of a circle, a circle which would not have been complete w/o any one of its three elements. You guys provided encouragement, friendship, someone (or ones) w/whom to share the experience, and, at times, supplies. Having all of you there to share the experience was probably more important than any of you realized, so much so that it's quite possible none of this would ever have happened without you guys.
I don't have time today, but I'm going to come back soon to discuss 'the next step'. I think we may need some closure. I'm thinking maybe a memorial thread to allow us to say our goodbyes, each in our own way. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.
I feel like I've unintentionally swept recent events under the rug, so to speak. I didn't want to dwell on the negative things. Like I said recently, I realize that you come here to enjoy your time, not to be sad. I still believe that, but I also think maybe we all need to address the situation - for closure. This isn't just my loss. It's OUR loss. Many of you have been with us for years. Loosing Heidi is difficult for you, too, and I think we maybe need to deal with it.
I was thinking a memorial thread would allow us to discuss Heidi, what she meant to us, whatever we are feeling - sort of like a wake or online memorial service, a place to provide support for one another (and have that group hug), while reflecting on our memories of Heidi (and/or the others). By having a separate memorial thread, we could still keep the regular thread(s) positive and upbeat. Now the point of this is for YOU, not just me, so please let me know what you think and whether or not you think it would be a good idea. It's ok either way. Please don't be afraid to speak your mind on this. I promise not to be offended or take it personally if you don't want to do the memorial.
on my end... I have not seen any raccoons all summer, but now that it is getting closer to winter, one has been eating from the squirrel feeders. I take a flashlight out with me when Buddy wants to go out, and I usually see one shimmying up a tree.
Yes, I'm still here - well, sort of. Sorry I've been MIA for a while. Basically, something disturbing occurred, & I was quite conflicted about the disturbing event(s). Often I deal with this type of adversity, the type where I'm conflicted about what to do as was the case here, by 'ignoring' the situation & doing other things while still processing the problem as a 'background process' (a software term that equates to letting the subconscious handle it). [Ok, that was a lousy sentence, but I don't feel like fixing it. Hopefully, everyone will be able to extract the pertinent info from it despite the messiness.] I've been trying for a while now to convince myself to post something, but... In some ways, I guess I figured you guys were better off not knowing, better off having more time to believe all was going well. In a nutshell, here is what happened (prompting me to go AWOL):
You might recall that Heidi left things in a very good state, whether intentionally as you suggested or by accident - although I'm leaning more toward 'intentionally' these days. The young mothers were comfortable around me, comfortable even with me walking around in their midst, and some of the kits seemed to think me a combination chew toy/amusement park ride. The yearlings continued to show up nightly with kits in tow, and while they didn't sit against the patio door as had been Heidi's habit, they did, nonetheless convene their on the patio nightly to await the evening feast, and even in the absence of their leader, things continued to run with subway station regularity. But for the unfortunate loss of Heidi, things could not have been better out there in 'Heidi Land'. That unanticipated bliss continued for a few weeks, and then...all heck broke loose.
Suddenly, other, more mature raccoons began to show up on the scene where they wreaked all manner of havoc, stealing food and chasing the yearlings away. For a few weeks the yearlings continued to show up each night, trying to hold on to what they had, but the 'others' were older, more mature, and more cunning and had little difficulty taking over once the food was served. Even before the arrival of the 'others', disturbing signs had begun to emerge, indicating that several weeks after Heidi's death the yearlings were having difficulty finding food in the forest. For the initial 2 weeks following her passing, the yearlings seemed to be eating well. Then suddenly, they began to show up famished. I had feeding them a cup or so of food each, enough for a good meal, but not enough to sustain them entirely, especially while nursing. I saw the food I provided more as a supplement than a complete diet. When Heidi was alive, that had been sufficient, but a few weeks following her death, it appeared the yearlings were having great difficulty locating adequate food supplies on their own. I had known for some time that Heidi played an important roll in leading and training the kits and yearlings each year. Now I was seeing evidence that her roll was even more important than even I had realized, as w/o her the yearlings were at a loss to locate nature's bounty on their own.
Kits began to disappear, slowly at first. A raccoon who, I was certain, had previously been accompanied by 4 kits, now bore only 3 - or was I somehow confused? Then another yearling began showing up with only 1, whereas she had previously traveled with 3. Kits were most definitely disappearing. I had no idea where they were going, but they were quite assuredly missing. Were the kits being picked off, lost perhaps to predation and/or accident, their young mothers lacking the knowledge and skills to keep them safe? Or were the mothers, unable to find sufficient food to feed themselves much less their litters, actually panicking & running the kits off prematurely? It was impossible to know the answer, only that they were disappearing, 'plink', 'plink', 'plink', like so many blips on a computer screen, there one moment, gone the next.
I was reminded of the grim statistics I had read somewhere years back, that only something like half or fewer raccoon kits make it to adulthood (1yr), the rest falling victim to predation and accidents, hit by cars while crossing streets, picked off by alligators while drinking at the pond's edge, and so on. For years we had been shielded from this grim reality, as 'our' kits had virtually all grown up and safe and healthy to return as yearlings. Year after year we had observed the same results. Heidi had never lost a single youngster and neither had any of the others who had been permitted to raise their kits here in "Heidi Land", but suddenly now things had changed and dramatically so. Now it seemed kits were dropping like flies.
I had just begun to realize that kits were disappearing about the time the "others" showed up on the scene and began taking the buffet contents for their own. Feeding time went from the joyous opportunity to commune with the group and play with the kits to a raucous, disorganized hour of constant snarling & hissing, a scene from which yearlings and kits quickly fled, often w/o so much as a single bite of the meal for which they had come. The fighting would begin even before I arrived with the food. I could hear them out there going at it even from inside the house. It reminded me of how things used to be at the buffet whenever Heidi was out on 'maternity leave' - times 100.
When I did get a chance to see one of the yearlings, however briefly, they often showed up with war wounds, nothing life-threatening, just various superficial cuts and scrapes, but still the scars gave evidence to the turf wars that had broken out in the area. Exasperated with the whole thing, I finally stopped going out there. The last time I saw little Desperado he was standing behind his mother at the patio door, while she was desperately trying to hold her position against the larger raccoons approaching them. As I walked to the door, food in hand, happy to see them again, I arrived just in time to see them both disappear into the night, chased away by the group of 'others' that had been taking over the area.
I haven't seen any of them since. Hopefully, now you will understand why I was not eager to share this information with any of you - or even discuss it for that matter. It certainly is not the way the story was supposed to end. It saddens me, but the situation is very much out of my hands. When Heidi left, I kept waiting to see some sign of a leader emerging amongst the group that remained, but it never happened. I guess they were too young (yearlings mostly) and too busy struggling to rear this their 1st ever litter w/o Heidi's guidance. Perhaps they, like us, kept hoping in vane that Heidi would show up again.
For whatever reason, there was no sign of leadership amongst the yearlings. Even if one of them had tried to lead, it's unlikely such a youngster would have been able to hold her own against older raccoons from outside. It was only a matter of time before outsiders, whether old relatives Heidi had previously sent away or strangers she had successfully kept out of the area during her reign, would begin to realize that Heidi wasn't here anymore and make their bids for 'ownership' of this very lucrative area.
Like it or not - and I certainly don't - I have no power over the outcome of these battles. What limited power I previously enjoyed with the group had come to me through Heidi. It had been her area and her power all along, and now, as much as it saddens me to realize it, the future of the area lies at the whims of the next leader, the raccoon who, with the help of her group, wins the turf wars. I'm hopeful that, in the end, the new leader will be one of Heidi's daughters, so that the land can remain in the hands of her descendants, most of whom we have met and known at some point. But I realize that it is possible that a stranger may emerge the winner and usher in an entirely new group of raccoons whom we have never seen before.
I decided to stay out of it for now. If I put out food, it goes to the 'others' anyhow. The others won't come to or near me, but they are able to chase the yearlings away even before I can get out there to try and defend them. In the end, the 'others' end up with any food I put out, so for now I've stopped offering food. It seems to me that the food at this point only makes the 'others' more determined to drive the yearlings out of their home. I figure I'll check back with the raccoons in early spring 2013 to see if any of our old friends, Heidi's descendants, are still around. By that time I figure the leader will have emerged and the turf wars settled. Any way you look at it, it seems this year in Heidi Land, though it started out with so much promise, is over - sadly.
The more I learned about Heidi's leadership methods, the more amazed I was. Her apparent concern for the younger members of the group rivaled if not surpassed our own. Her methods of helping them revealed immense and often astounding wisdom. Each year she sent the adults away to find new homes elsewhere, allowing only the yearlings, the now grown kits from the prior season, to remain. Pruning the group in this manner was necessary to insure that the group did not outgrow the resources.
Allowing the yearlings to stay was an act of supreme kindness and a wonderful way to improve the odds for their kits survival. Yearlings are practically kids themselves, being roughly analogous to 15-17yr olds in our society. They are children who have the care of infants suddenly forced upon them at a time when they barely know how to take care of themselves. In allowing the yearlings to stay each year, Heidi insured a better food supply for them (both the buffet and whatever she could find in the forest) and made it possible for her to continue their training through another year. It meant that she would be there to guide them through the rearing of their 1st litter.
It was an amazing system which impressed me greatly. Too late, however, now we learn that it had one fatal flaw. There would be no older members of the group around to defend their turf in the event of Heidi's death, and that's the situation we now face. In some ways I guess perhaps I'm to blame. Heidi went to this system when I cut back on food. After years of watching the group grow exponentially, I found myself out there one summer surrounded by some 20-30 adult raccoons, each with 2-4 kits in tow. The group had simply become too large - and would continue to grow at a frightening pace. As long as I was willing to provide enough food, there was no reason to limit the group's size. But the group had grown unmanageable. Aside from the reality that I could not continue indefinitely to provide food for the burgeoning group, the group had grown too large to even provide for an enjoyable buffet experience for anyone. With so many hungry adults in such a small area, mothers had become largely unwilling to even bring their kits to the buffet. That summer with 20-30 adults all milling about at once in a small area of the backyard, every night had become like a huge family reunion.
That year I decided to cut the food down to a manageable level. It was then in response to food cuts that Heidi began driving out the older adults who she knew could fend for themselves and allowing only the yearlings to stay. It had been one of my best and most successful decisions - or so it seemed. The smaller group allowed for more intimacy, making it possible for me to get closer both to Heidi and to the kits. It made the cost more defensible, especially as we entered into the recession and health issues cost me job time. Lastly, something about which most were likely unaware, I was no longer forced to wrestle 3 or 4 large (and heavy for my injured back and knees) bags of food weekly. Sadly though, it also ultimately led to this moment.
And, yes, these more recent events pretty much make bunk of all that froufrou stuff I said earlier about things still being good, about the loss of Heidi not meaning an end to things and so forth. I meant and believed it when I said it, Folks, but it appears I was wrong.
I didn't post sooner, because I needed more time to process it all and because I simply couldn't bring myself to tell you these things. I know you come here to get away from life's unpleasantries and enjoy a brief respite amidst the beauty of the natural world. I didn't want to change that - even though, as we all know all too well, nature isn't always kind. In her efforts to keep each species as tough and resourceful as possible, nature can at times be downright vicious. It was impossible for us to follow an animal group this long and not suffer a few such unpleasant moments with them. Still, I am saddened by it all, and I apologize for brought this sadness to you.
At this point it will no doubt seem anticlimactic to add that I've also been super busy with other aspects of my life, and this, too, has kept me from posting as much as I normally would. In short, the combination of nothing pleasant to say and other things to do was more than sufficient to keep me from posting.
Oh Cheryl, I'm so sorry to hear your news. Please don't ever think that you need to "shield" us & know that we're here to support you... because I'm sure the current situation has caused you stress & sadness.
We don't see you as our entertainer - yes, you do entertain us with your wonderful word pictures & stories, but we're your friends first. I admire all you've done for the racoons over the years & the view you've given us into raccoon culture. I hope you can find comfort in knowing that you contributed greatly to the health & well being of many raccoons over the past few years, and, certainly, saved some who would have undoubtedly perished with you.
I hope that this is just a difficult chapter in your life with the raccoons & not the end of your book. Regardless, know that the trust you inspired in Heidi was truly a miraculous event for both of you.
I hope all of the areas of your life calm down soon & are replaced with happier diversions!
Your post was like a warm, friendly, and comforting embrace, and I thank you very much for that. I hated seeing things turn out so badly with the raccoons following Heidi's demise. It was like an unexpected 1-2 punch, first loosing Heidi and then loosing the yearlings and their kits. It was all the more difficult since it happened at a time when young Desperado was more comfortable around me than any raccoon to date, even more comfortable than Dennis had ever been. Now I can only hope, if I ever have the chance to see him again, that he will remember me still. And, of course, all this is to say nothing of the ill effects all this has had on the raccoons themselves.
I'm doing ok though. I haven't given up hope that one of Heidi's more mature daughters may yet return to take control of the area. I'm going to give them some time to sort things out and check back with them in spring. Either way, I'm doing ok. Thank you all for being there. Your friendship (plural, all of you) and camaraderie has helped me through some dark days and means more to me than you may ever know.
That is odd that you didn't see any in spring/summer. Maybe they gave up on you while you were away, and it took them until now to realize you were back. In my area the only major feeding season is spring/summer when the females are bearing and nursing their young. In your area, one could imagine that fall might bring a 2nd push to eat as much as possible before the winter snow forces them to endure brief periods of hibernation. Since according to the literature raccoons do undergo short intervals of hibernation when heavy snow covers food sources and traps them in their dens, I'm guessing raccoons in snow prone areas probably feel a need to bulk up this time of year in preparation. At any rate, I'm glad you are having this opportunity to see and enjoy the raccoons in your area.
This past week I put a dish of scraps out for the raccoons or whomever. They sat completely untouched for days, indicating the raccoons had probably stopped coming here. On the 3rd or 4th night something ate 1/2 of the food and finished it off the following night. From that I'm guessing probably only 1 raccoon showed up, or maybe an opossum. I checked several times before going to bed and saw no sign of activity, so whatever it was appeared to show up in the 'wee' hours. The more I think about it the more it sounds like the opossum.
It is quite sad how things went down, but I should clarify. I don't really know for sure if the raccoons that took over were outsiders. They may just as well have been some of Heidi's older daughters. They didn't appear to know me as I would expect of Heidi's daughters, but there were a few recent years when I didn't spend much time with them. Daughters from some of those years probably wouldn't be particularly comfortable around me. Also, some that have been gone for a number of years might be a bit wary after all this time. Also, regardless of the identities of that initial group, I don't imagine Heidi's 'estate' will be settled all that quickly. I'm still holding out hope that one or more of her daughters will return to claim the land by spring.
I have a not dissimilar situation with a neighbor's cats.
I have mentioned I think that I go around the block every evening to feed a Boer goat that she keeps. Not sure if I'd call her a hoarder or just someone with a giant heart and not enough money (?!) or sense (?!) to do better. Anyway, there are at least 10 cats if not more that "live" at her house - outside mostly. One in particular, an aged girl - the lady says she's about 19 and I believe it. All summer I have stopped to scratch her neck when I leave. A couple of months ago I thought it would be nice if I could bring her a treat. So I bought some crunchy treats and started giving her a small pile every night.
I've tried to pet some of the others, or come close enough to say hello, but they're pretty wild. Not feral, just not approachable. A couple of weeks or so after I started with the treats another kitty came from across the street - she hangs out across the street under some trees, but it's this lady's cat. She's fairly at ease with me generally, but she started showing up and nudging me for treats.
Another week or so and at least 2 more females were pushing at me for food. I was buying several packets of crunchies and decided finally to buy a box of food. So then I was pouring out food in the street for the cat lady's cats!!! I said to myself out loud one night, "I AM NOT FEEDING THE CAT LADY'S CATS!" But I was.
The old cat I started with, Max, hung back when I got there, though as soon as I drove up I could see her eyes reflected by my headlamps. Funny - she runs to the car when I arrive, but the other cats pressing to me pisses her off, she growls, spits, and backs off. Last week I brought a can of cat food and pulled her into the car and let her sit on the floor board to eat it.
I tried that again the next night, with plain kibble, and it didn't go over as well. She freaked out, couldn't get out of the car fast enough, and pissed myself off in the process.
I decided I would not bring food with me anymore to feed the cats.
I am not feeding the cat lady's cats.
I stop to pet Max on the head, like old times. It's only been a few days since I stopped, so the others are still approaching, but they will soon figure out that they will have to wait till their mommy gets home to eat.
When I read your comments about Desi and mom at the door shrinking away because "the others" were being aggressive, I immediately thought of the cats. It is certainly more distressing in your situation. I know you've probably beat yourself up over this enough, and I personally wouldn't know what to do other than what you've done. It's not like you can control them somehow yourself without putting yourself at risk. I was thinking squirt bottle. :/
Putting anything out puts the critters themselves at risk.
I suppose as time goes on and "the others" go away realizing that there's nothing to be had, that you might once in a while see a little face at the window. It would be okay to change your mind once in a while.
Thank you very much. For some reason I seem to have missed your post. Seems like I didn't get the usual notice, but I'm guessing I must have done something to blow the notice away, somehow. But, thanks. A kind note from a friend is always a welcome 'pick-me-up', whether received on the appointed day or another.
We have the occasional chilly, snugly night but are mostly warm here, as I'm guessing your are there in CA. Going up into the 70's & 80's now thru the weekend. A storm and cold arctic air dipping down into the middle of the country including even the mid south is expected to displace the warmer air in our direction. I'm not complaining though.
I actually wrote a lengthy post in response to yours some time back, never finished it, never sent it. Sorry about that.
The main thing I wanted to tell you was that I didn't have an opportunity to protect that one raccoon and her kit from the aggressor. I saw them that night through the glass door panes, the mother making one last stand before fleeing. Before I could get outside, she and the kit were gone - and the aggressor hung back a ways in the shrubbery, unwilling to get too close to me. At that point, with the 'good' raccoons chased away by the 'bad', the 'bad' hiding out some distance away to avoid contact with me, and me grieving the loss of Heidi and just plain tired of all the constant fighting out there in her absence, I decided to give it up for a while and try again in spring.
I don't believe the raccoons are even coming here now, at least not on any kind of regular basis. This time of year, their caloric needs are very, very low. Without Heidi to lead them back, it remains to be seen whether they will return in spring when their appetites jump into high gear for the coming season of kit-rearing. I'm guessing and hoping that they will remember this place when the real hunger strikes them. Time will tell.
I still put out scraps when available but not cat/dog food, not right now. One night when making brownies, I found an egg with a cracked shell (on the bottom where it wasn't visible until lifted). I put the raw egg out on the patio edge where, surprisingly, it sat for some 3-4 days before something finally found it and ate it. Before Heidi passed, no egg ever sat around for days uneaten. When she was around, the raccoons always came by for a minute or so just to check. They might miss one night in winter but never 3. Other nights lately when I've put out food, it has sat around for days before being eaten, so it seems we are in new territory now in so many ways. It hard to say even if the creature that finally shows up is even a raccoon. It could very possibly be an opossum. Whatever it is, it comes in the wee hours of the morning, which corresponds more with what I've historically seen from the opossums who seem to prefer privacy.
I plan to put food out near the fence in spring, alone at 1st, with me some distance away later, much as I did in the early days with Heidi. Then we shall see what happens.
I've been meaning to hunt down the Mr T threads to post this next bit but decided to put it here for now:
One sunny day, the week after Christmas, I headed out the back door, camera around my neck, planning to photograph my favorite pink camellia while it was in bloom. As I stepped from the door, a tufted titmouse caught my eye as it landed in a very small, decorative tree a short distance away. For a moment I stopped in my tracks not wanting to disturb the titmouse. I was hoping I might get my camera in place, lens cap off, and set up before the titmouse got away. He/she was close enough for an excellent shot but disappeared almost immediately.
Having thus given up on the bird, I made my way over to the camellia. I was just about to begin taking pics of the blooms when I recognized the familiar sound in the air around me. Surely it couldn't be, not this time of year, but, yes, it was. It was the sound of the bird, the titmouse, no doubt, flitting about in the small, ornamental trees around me. This was a sound with which I had become familiar in the days of dealing with Mr T. I could see the bird at the moment, but I knew it was near me, and from the familiar sound of wings flitting here and there around me, it appeared to be showing an interest in me, following me, staying close to me.
I looked about me in the low 10-15ft trees, scanning for the small bird. I had just located him on a branch over my head and some 10ft away, when he quickly took to the air once more. Seconds later, the other familiar sound, that of wings flapping close, very close to my head, followed quickly by the out of focus sight of the gray blur moving swiftly only inches from my face. I watched as the bird landed again in on a limb in close proximity to me.
I was familiar with all of this behavior, even the order and flow of things. This was exactly how Mr T had behaved a few years before when, one spring, he had followed me about the garden for days before finally landing on my head, a few times actually, apparently searching for hair for his/her nest. At that time, subsequent research had shown that tufted titmice are known to pluck hair - quite courageously, I might add - from people, dogs, raccoons, and at times even CATS. In some species the male birds seek out nest building items and ornamentation of various kinds in specific colors to impress prospective mates. I don't know if this is the case with titmice, however.
A few minutes later, I went back inside. I was in a bit of a hurry at the time. The way this dance usually goes, the bird takes a few times (separate events or days) to of flying closer and closer before building up the nerve to actually land on my head, so it was unlikely that it would have done so on that particular day even if I had stayed out longer. This was my 1st 'run-in' with a titmouse sense the Mr T affair ended a few years ago. Over the years since then I haven't been spending much time outside - due to pain at the time and just not feeling at all well.
I have no idea if the bird that was 'courting' me recently was Mr T or a different bird entirely. Many birds are fairly long-lived, so I'm guessing it could have been him/her. What I found particularly confusing was the time of year, that and the difference in my hair color. In the past, it made sense that the bird did this sort of thing in spring when birds are busy building nests, but this recent event occurred in late Dec. On the other hand, it was especially warm here at the time, so much so that my azaleas were blooming and spring bulbs such as daffodils and lilies had begun sending up buds. It's not unusual here for plants (and maybe birds?) to become confused into thinking it is spring in late fall when, following a one night dip into the high 20's, we then enjoy weeks in the 60s and 70s, Perhaps the titmouse was also fooled.
The last time this happened, my hair was red, a sort of dark, red-blonde. At the time I thought maybe the titmouse had targeted me due to my hair color. More recently, however, I've changed my hair-color to a fairly ordinary, light brown, perhaps with some copper notes still, but most definitely not the fiery red it had been at the time of the previous incident. I'm guessing color was not the reason the bird sought me out, after all.
I've been in the yard several times since that day but haven't seen the titmouse. Lately, we've been alternating every 3 or 4 days between cold and warm days, so maybe the bird has gotten the message that it really isn't nest building time right now.
As you can see, I do seem to attract all manner of animals, all of whom seem somehow to know that I'm not dangerous. From raccoons to opossums, feral cats to turtles, squirrels to titmice, they all seem to come right up to me acting as though they know me somehow. Very strange. Think maybe there's a sign in the forest directing needy critter to my house for dinner? Or maybe it's a 'monkey see, monkey do' sort of thing. Some of my friends taunt me with labels like "Dr Doolittle"
It does sound like the raucous has gone away at your house. We have a possum coming thru overnights and I have been putting out leftover scraps from dinner. We had one that came to the condo I used to live in - farther out of town with more wildlife. A possum came every night and we were on fairly good terms. I enjoy the sightings, though the current visitor is more stealthy.
Hope to hear more tales from you as spring approaches.
AmandaEsq wrote:You could have worse nicknames. :)
Definitely agree! Also, with respect to the seemingly odd trust wild animals often show me, I realize the same is true of many of you on this thread, which makes sense as we are all kindred spirits here. Clearly, animals in their ability to separate us from the average human are smarter than most imagine them to be.
It does sound like the raucous has gone away at your house. We have a possum coming thru overnights and I have been putting out leftover scraps from dinner. We had one that came to the condo I used to live in - farther out of town with more wildlife. A possum came every night and we were on fairly good terms. I enjoy the sightings, though the current visitor is more stealthy.
Some years back when I was sitting out back with the raccoons nightly, a small, white opossum 'runt' I dubbed Snowball used to eat right along with the raccoons, sometimes even from the same dish. Perhaps in part due to seeing the raccoons gathering around me and eating cookies from my hand, Snowball in time became so comfortable with me that he/she would come right up to my feet as I sat there amidst the animals,
The creature that [eventually] eats my periodic leftovers could be either a raccoon who drops by now and then just to check or one of the opossums in the area who has learned to think of my house as a possibility when looking for a meal.
Hope to hear more tales from you as spring approaches.
Thanks much! I'm cautiously optimistic both that the leadership controversy will have been resolved by spring and that the surviving raccoons, when their metabolisms go into overdrive, will remember the food they found here in prior years and return.
On that note, I've elected to close this thread awaiting the events of spring 2013. In the mean time I've opened a new thread (link below) where I hope you will all go to lend me your thoughts on the question I've posed there regarding the future of this thread series. If you wish to make other comments (not related to the question) in the pre-spring interim, please feel free to make them on the new thread as well.
Note: The raccoon pictured below is Dennis. This was taken during her 1st year as a nursing mom. She is shown resting between 'meals'. I'm guessing any mother out there will recognize the exhaustion expressed.