Saturday, January 29, 2005

Ricky Takes A Nap

There's a low slung, dilapidated, wood-and-black-leather chair that lives in our little, decrepit garage. We've been keeping it for DK's friend M. who moved to Oregon over ten years ago. It's a handsome thing, but beat; our kitties nap there, or wait out rainstorms there. I've put a ratty brown blanket on its sagging seat just for them. I'd like it if I were a kitty.

Last week at work my phone rang, a double ring, meaning an outside call. It was DK. He'd just gotten home from school. Had tried to drive into the garage. But there, fast asleep in M.'s chair, was a big shaggy furry creature -- a raccoon. He'd honked and honked. The raccoon woke, peered at him, and shot up the backwall ladder into the rafters. Where he sat,looking down, laughing at my poor husband. Who was -- his word -- nervous. Too nervous to drive the car into the garage.

After all, hadn't I been ranting at him for years about raccoons and rabies ?

And hadn't he heard somewhere that you could catch the disease if you came within ten feet of a rabid creature ?

Before the late 1970's, raccoon rabies was confined to Florida and Georgia. In 1978 a group of hunters loosed a truckload of raccoons, imported from Florida, into the woods of Virginia. Later they noticed the several dead ones left behind in the truck -- dead, it turns out, from rabies. By then it was too late.

Idiot hunters.

I'm not just being a vegan nutcase here. Hunting to subsist is one thing. Hunting for the sport of the chase and the pleasure of killing is another. And this "bring-your-own-prey" hunting is like shooting fish in a barrel. Remember Mr Cheney and his buddies on their pheasant shoot ? Same thing. Pheasants were trucked in just so Mr Cheney could kill them. Mr Kerry did a bird-killing, gun-toting political photo-op as well. As if there were not enough premature death and suffering in the world.

Thanks to careless, blood-thirsty hunters, these smart, furry scavengers have become transformed into little biological weapons, loaded with one of nature's most deadly viruses. Way to go, careless, bloodthirsty hunters. Spread your icky karma all over the landscape why doncha.

I reassured my husband that, unless he went mano a mano with a rabid raccoon, he wouldn't get rabies. He seemed skeptical. The wildlife authorities recommend gently encouraging such squatters to leave, then securing the area against return. They suggested "ammonia soaked rags," for one thing, placed "beside the door." Or leaving a light on. Or playing a radio continuously. (Have Messrs. Rumsfeld and Gonzalez been doing some consulting for the MSPCA?) The authorities did not specify what genre of music would work best as raccoon repellant. My husband, again, was skeptical. And nervous.

I've always liked raccoons. For one long childhood summer we fed one on the veranda of my Aunt's little pondside summer cottage. He had his own blue-and-white speckled tin bowl on which my Uncle Peter had painted R-I-C-K-Y. We'd heap it with bread and milk, and the creature would shamble up and eat. Now, decades later, raccoons are probably the stuff of childhood nightmares. Move to the rear rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, tarantulas and scorpions. The monster closet runneth over.

Before I left for work the next morning, curious, I peered into the doorless side door of the garage. Sure enough there he was -- brown, fat, the size of two kitties, slumbering in M's chair. I watched the round flank rise and fall, rise and fall; he stirred, rolled over, and, like any peaceful sleeper, sighed and settled down.

Sweet dreams, Ricky. But wouldn't you be happier somewhere else ?

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