Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pooka's Life with us

Pooka was brought to us in late November, very late at night. The people who asked us to take him said they had been raising a litter of four and this was the last one still living. They had kept them in a wooden box in a goat pen and fed them human milk once a day. No baby can survive on one feeding a day and human milk isn’t good for any animals, it isn’t even good for human babies under the age of one. They left him with us because they said they were tired of his crying.
The poor, tiny, sickly and filthy baby was handed to us and the people drove off, never contacting us again to see how he was.
He was crying pitifully and so filthy, we could not tell if he was male or female! After warming him up and feeding him, we weighed him. He was so tiny! He weighed 15 ounces. By the end of November, baby raccoons should weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. I made a very late night call to our vet, who said to bring him in first thing in the morning.
At the vet’s office, we cleaned him, tested him for distemper and determined that he was a boy and that his little body was starving to death. The vet was skeptical as to whether or not he would even survive.
We all immediately fell madly in love with this little darling, and worked very hard to ensure that he would not only make it, but become healthy! He began to grow and get very attached to us as well. He “helped” decorate our Christmas tree and by January he weighed a whopping 5 pounds. We decided to go ahead and neuter him, agreeing with the vet that he’d probably never grow large enough to safely survive in the wild.
We named him Pooka and he very quickly became the love of my life! I won’t say he was spoiled, since anybody who had gone through what he did deserved anything that could be provided for him and make him happy!
Soon after his surgery, Pooka began to grow, and by the time it was over, he was a whopping 29 pounds. We always said he didn’t grow until he was sure he wasn’t leaving.
He was raised around a lot of children, both my own children and those of my friends. He had his favorite games, one of which was sneaking up behind a small child, standing on his hind legs and calmly putting his hand on their shoulder. When the kids would jump, both Pooka and the child would laugh! He also loved playing “peek-a-coon”, which meant climbing quietly over the back of the couch and pouncing on the nearest unsuspecting head. LOL, He loved this game!
Pooka always had some issues from his “early childhood”. He was terrified of going outside unless I was with him. So, he stayed inside most of the time, but we did build him a play cage outside with a pool to play in the summer. I can’t count the number of times I had my clothing decorated with muddy raccoon paw prints.
Pooka started doing programs to educate children by the time he was a year old. He LOVED going to what he called “The People Zoo” and seeing the kids. He never did quite understand why he wasn’t allowed to get out of his show cage and play with them though. But, we had to be very careful so that the state would not say he had hurt anybody. If he knew we were leaving for a program and he wasn’t going, he would cry. When he saw his show cage, he would get excited. Even though he got car sick every time he was in the car, he still loved his visits with humans. He was wonderful at showing everybody just how great raccoons are at climbing and using their hands.
For the next 7 years, Pooka saw thousands and thousands of people. And here at home, he brought joy to our lives daily. If I got hurt, he felt it was always his job to make it better. Even old injuries that I’d forgotten about, he would fixate on and lick, trying to fix it. If he saw me cry, he would put a hand on each side of my face and lick until I laughed. He hated seeing anybody upset.
His best friend was a 6 pound, white Chihuahua. They would look like they were wrestling on a pro-wrestling team and people were always amazed that the dog was never hurt! During programs, we always put the kinkajous in his cage to show “World Procyonid Wrestling”. Pooka never hurt another living creature! He would wrestle, but he knew how to be careful, he knew his own strength.
At the vet’s office, he was an angel. I would hold him on my hip and the vets could give him shots and do his entire checkup with no worries.
Sadly, at the age of 8, Pooka stopped eating, but never complained. Within four days, it was determined that he had liver cancer and he died in my arms.
Pooka is the reason we started CLAWS and his memory is the reason we will continue to educate people about all of the species that we can. Especially those that are so misunderstood, like Pooka’s cousins in the raccoon family.
Nobody will ever replace Pooka, he was absolutely one of a kind. And we all feel honored to have shared his, too short, life with him.