Heidi Chronicles 2012 - The Little Guys & Gals

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Prior Thread: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1248138/
Original Thread in Series: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/603944/

The picture below of one of this year's kits was taken Saturday night.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Nice transition. ;)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)


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?

Lyndonville, NY

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.


Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Debbie,

What adorable stories. Love them all, esp the snow white one.

Your last sentence is exactly what I was going to say. I think animals have an innate sense of who they can trust.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Would Heidi's kits come without her do you think if she cannot get to you?

Yes, I feel the weight as sure we all do. Eager to open the thread for news. I keep her in my thoughts.


Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Amanda,

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.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh Miss Heidi - I hope you're okay. Hope our worries are for naught & she'll appear soon...

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Liz,

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.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Heidi and you are in my prayers. What a wonderful friend she has been all of these years. I still believe that she wanted to be sure the others knew that you are good and a food, safety source.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

I think that's true too.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Sheri,

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)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Amanda!

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

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...

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)


Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Liz,

I like that. Hadn't thought of it that way.

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.

Thank you again for your kind words.

Lyndonville, NY

Cheryl, there have been so many times Heidi has disappeared....along with one of her daughters that had big wounds. It was so so fortunate, that they
came back and rebounded.

I think like a cat, raccoons have 9 lives too! If this is the way it is, that she is gone, I will treasure all the smiles and laughs that she gave you....and you shared with us.

I just don't know if I am ready to give up my last ounce of hope yet. I am so happy she had that watermelon too!


Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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?

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

I laughed out loud at the image of you, the kit, and the kibble hobbling thru the door. Sounds like the title of your new book chapter? :D

All good thoughts of Heidi and her kits. I don't suppose any of us are ready to stop hoping for her return.


Lyndonville, NY

Sometimes....when God closes a door (Heidi)....he opens a new window. (Desi)

This tonight, made me chuckle.


Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

I am having visions of Desi running into the house every night to get cookies from you and ride your leg back outside^_^

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh my! I think you're in trouble. If Kitty didn't like Cocoa coming into the house, I can't imagine how she'll react to Desi! Thanks for the chuckles as I read about tonight's adventure!

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Awwww Cheryl - I know you must be sick over Heidi.

Just letting you know that you are not alone. No words of comfort except to know that you have comfort in the company of others.

Peace to you.


Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Debbie,

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Amanda,

For that image - me, kit, and kibble - and chapter title.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi, Debbie,

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

ROTF, June,

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

LOL, Liz,

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you very much, Amanda,

I'm doing ok. I think I'm over the worst of it. I do feel the presence of each of you and greatly appreciate that you are there for me. :-)

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

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)

This message was edited Aug 21, 2012 2:03 PM

This message was edited Aug 21, 2012 2:06 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Sheri,

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?

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

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