By Melanie Blow of New York
They say that when opportunity knocks, you'd best be around to answer the door. We usually think of opportunity in financial and material terms, but sometimes being able to experience an intense bond with a wild animal is a true opportunity.
My senior year of college, my boyfriend and I moved into a little rental house on a horse farm. It was a single-story house, but it became clear our first night there that we had an upstairs neighbor — a large raccoon could be heard walking and digging in our crawlspace, and at times the ceiling would actually bow from her weight. That was a little upsetting, but with a landlord eagerly offering to kill raccoons for us, what choice did we really have? He saw them as a threat to his horses.
A Noise At the Door
One afternoon early in the summer, I was cooking dinner when I heard a noise at the door. I looked out, and there on its hind legs was the raccoon, knocking, or rather scratching, on the door. I stared at her for a minute, and then called my boyfriend over. The raccoon looked at me, then got down, and went to the window, scratched at that, and then circled around the house, scratching at every door and window.
We thought the raccoon may have had a litter of babies in the crawl space, because there had been more movement and noise up there since spring. So our first instinct was that she was somehow unable to get to her litter. Walking outside with a mother animal who is frantic to get to its cubs is a very risky thing, but we decided it was the best option for everyone. My boyfriend thought he knew where the raccoon got into the crawlspace from outside, so he went into the carport with a hammer, and I stood beside the raccoon with a fireplace poker.
The raccoon stood about 15 feet behind and to the side of me, never taking her eyes off my boyfriend. It turns out that the landlord had nailed a piece of plywood over a hole in the carport that allowed the raccoon access to the crawl space. My boyfriend removed the plywood, and then slowly walked back inside, with me behind him.
Farewell Dear Friends…
The next morning I was doing dishes and saw three fat, healthy baby raccoons lined up right in front of the kitchen window. After that day, the crawl space was empty. Momma Raccoon realized the den was no longer safe. But she also must have realized that there are people in this world who can help her and her family when she needed it. I have never had an experience with a wild animal like that, where they so plainly express a need, and risk so much by trusting that someone will understand and help them. But it worked out for everyone.