Wednesday, September 1, 2010
All summer long, we receive phone calls from people who find baby raccoons that have lost their mothers. Because it is illegal to rehabilitate raccoons in North Carolina, and because I have a personal love for raccoons, these calls are particularly difficult for me to handle. All we can tell people is that we cannot legally help them. We receive more of these calls than many do, they are even sent to us by officers and other rehabbers, because we possess a permit to keep three raccoons permanently. This permit does not help in these situations; all of our raccoons have to come from captive settings. We still cannot rehabilitate them, or take illegal ones in on a permanent basis.
In July we received one such call from a woman who had raised a baby raccoon that had become very friendly to humans and she wanted to know if we could take him in as an educational animal. As many are, this woman was desperate to save this baby. She knew the law, understood the chances she had taken in raising this baby, and loved this baby very much.
After talking to her for a bit, I told her that we could only take this baby in if the state would give approval and a permit for the raccoon. The woman agreed to contact the state, seeking approval and we didn’t hear back from her. I assumed she had tried and the state had turned her down.
In mid-August, we realized something was wrong with our darling, permanent raccoon, Pooka. Given how close Pooka and I were, I knew that something was seriously wrong, even in the absence of what most would consider major symptoms. He wasn’t acting particularly bad, but he wasn’t eating like he normally did. I took him in to the vet on a Wednesday for some blood work, which showed nothing. I continued to watch him closely and worry. Within a few days, things got scary, Pooka had completely stopped eating, and lost so much weight that I could see his ribs, something you should never see in a raccoon. Then, on Friday evening, he vomited. I immediately called the vet and scheduled an appointment for Saturday morning at 8am. We sedated him and took an x-ray. The x-ray showed a large mass inside his abdomen. The vet put in barium to see if this mass was in his stomach and it wasn’t, which made it scarier. The vet said we had to do surgery to see what and where this mass was. At this point, he looked at me and said that, given how this mass looked, once we got in there, we may decide not to wake Pooka up from surgery. This was something I really was not prepared to hear. Though deep down I knew that something serious was going on, Pooka was only 8, and I was not ready to lose him. During surgery, the vet removed a round mass, a little larger than my fist that was slightly attached to his liver, and noted that Pooka’s liver was hard and not a normal color. Pooka made it through surgery, and he was sent home. Unfortunately, Pooka never fully woke up from his surgery. He passed away that evening, in my arms.
The loss of any animal is never good or welcome, but the loss of Pooka sent the whole family reeling. We were all in deep mourning over losing the CLAWS founder and a close family member.
Tuesday, after Pooka’s passing, I received another phone call from the woman with the baby raccoon, explaining that she had called the state, explained to them that we lost Pooka and they agreed to let us take in her baby raccoon, Rocky. I was more than a little shocked, both because I wasn’t sure how I felt about taking in another raccoon so soon after we lost Pooka, and simply because the state agreed. But, no matter what we were going through, being able to help one raccoon was more important than our feelings. So, we began arrangements to bring Rocky into our family.
Thankfully, this woman truly cared about Rocky and did consider him her responsibility. The state had given her until August 31 to turn Rocky over to us, so we needed to move quickly to get him prepared to live here at CLAWS. Several things needed to be done. All animals, even raccoons should be spayed and neutered, for their own health, even if there is no risk of mating, and we keep all of our animals up to date on their shots, of course. We decided that, it would be easier on Rocky to go through surgery with her, since he trusted her. So she made an appointment and got him neutered and all of his shots were given. This way he could recuperate with the only mom he had known so far, and not with strangers who love him, but he doesn’t know. Rocky came through surgery like a little champ. The vet informed us that he shows signs of possible dwarfism and may be some other issues. Just things to note for the future.
We set up a meeting time for Tuesday, one day before the deadline given by the state. In walked a very sad mom, carrying a precious bundle of joy!
Having to take Rocky from his mom was very tough to be honest. She very obviously loved him very, very much. But, we all knew that this was the best thing for Rocky. Trying to hide a raccoon is not easy and if he was ever discovered, he would be euthanized by law. One look at his darling little face and we were all very much in love.
After a very emotional parting, we brought Rocky home. We had thought we would change Rocky’s name, since it is such a common name for raccoons, but one look at his little face and the name just fit him too well, so we decided to keep the name given to him by his first mommy.
Once home we decided to have Rocky live in Damien’s room for his initial transition period into CLAWS. In the two days that we have had Rocky, he and Damien have developed quite the relationship. Sharing their little bachelor pad! Rocky has begun to really trust Damien and play with him like a brother. He also loves playing with the dogs, and making the cats scatter!
As sad as it has been to lose Pooka and as unsure as I was about taking another raccoon in so soon after losing him, Rocky has been a great addition to the CLAWS family and I am certain will help continue Pooka’s message to the public! We look forward to many happy years with this darling little boy as well as, I’m sure, many more blogs to tell you about his antics!
We want to thank Rocky’s original mommy for the wonderful care she gave him during her time with him! And for loving him enough to ensure he has a bright and very productive future!