Written by MaryEllen Schoeman of California
Let’s be clear: raccoons do not make good pets. In the hands of anyone other than an experienced owner with the background, education and equipment to meet their needs, they suffer. This is the story of one such raccoon and his rescue….
When authorities arrived at a marina to impound a boat overflowing with garbage and posing a health hazard to the area, they were shocked at something they found in the under-deck cabin of the boat – an adult raccoon locked in 2 by 2 foot cage, with feces and rotten food six inches deep on the cage floor.
Appalled, they called Mary Cummins, of Animal Advocates. When she arrived on the scene, they discovered that the door of the cage was sealed shut with encrusted filth and rust. Equipped with bolt cutters and determination, the team cut through the door and moved the raccoon into a carrier. Soon, the owner of the raccoon appeared. He told an all-too-familiar tale of finding a cute baby raccoon, taking it home and discovering that as an adult the animal was too difficult to manage. This ‘owner’ had responded by locking the raccoon in the small cage and not letting him out for four years.
Mary rushed the raccoon to the vet where they determined that he was 80% blind due to poor nutrition, no sunlight and fumes from the accumulated feces and urine. She then turned him over to me, also a rehabilitator, for evaluation for eventual release. I soon found that due to his blindness and other issues caused by his long captivity, a life in the wild would not possible for him.
I named him Harbor, and quickly found that despite his hardships, he was a sweet and gentle soul. His yearning for contact and attention was palpable. After a few days and a few baths and lots of love and reassurance, I released him into a large enclosure that I had custom-bult for him. This is what happened.
I was astounded, and continue to be, at his utterly incredible capacity for joy. He plays, ecstatically, with anything at hand, and accepts everything that comes into his life with an open heart. I have worked with raccoons for many years, and I can honestly say that I have never encountered one who greets each day with such happiness, and who loves so fully and so deeply. He loves his pool, his toys and every single person he meets.
I have learned from Harbor, as well. I have learned that it is possible to come from a place of unimaginable darkness and despair, and still move forward into a life of joy and love; that we do not have to carry our darkness with us, and that every day is a gift.
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