The Raccoon Gods copyright 2009
Please note that I do in no way condone wild animals as pets, yet as many wildlife rehabbers know, there are some wild critters that are not releasable for different reasons and our lives change forever.
This planet seemed a different place when I was growing up. People were not necessarily so governed by jaded hearts or fear. There was common sense and a child could play for hours outside, burning the energy of youth, not forced in-front of a screen of some sort or in need of some medication to tone down that pent up energy.
There were not all kinds of phone numbers and organizations to call for help. There were homes with large yards and plenty of open space between for the wild critters to dwell. This was the place that kindled and nurtured my gifts, and it is the place I return to in my mind, to find what I need to know when life takes me to a place where I exhaust my limited knowledge.
Sometime in the 3rd grade I ordered a book called “Wild Orphan Babies” by William J. Weber D.V.M. I refer to the wisdom within those pages from time to time, when wild orphan babies need assistance. It is still one of my favorite old books.
It is important to know that it is illegal to have/raise wild orphan critters and the state has laws and regulations to govern well meaning-folks that may not have all the training and know how to get these little guys back to nature. There are also those times in life where these little guys get caught between the legalities and situations that such organizations can legally assist in. Here is where there are groups of us, that have cared for these little guys out of our own love, time, expertise and expense; because the law written on our hearts could not see something die because some entities hands were tied by mere ink on paper.
It is hard to select which “orphan story” to write about as all are memorable, but here are 2 of my favorites.
They arrived in the summer of 2001. A friend of a friend called to say an acquaintance had some baby raccoons. It seems her husband, an exterminator, was called in to remove a mother raccoon and her babies from the attic they called home. The plan was to trap the mother when she returned for her brood. The problem was she never came back.
The exterminators’ wife thought it would be fun to raise these babies. Then she found out raising orphan babies is work!
We were still living in the apartment in San Pedro. At that time we were looking for a home to buy. I really didn’t need 5 orphans to raise, but I was moved by pity for them. They lost their mom through no fault of their own and no one else seemed to want them. Often when an exterminator is involved, wildlife rescue organizations have their hands tied as to which creatures they can or cannot help. At least this is what I have been told when I called.
Shortly after my friends’ call, I heard the most horrible noise out front. It was something between screaming in a horror show and the screeching of metal train wheels on the rails. I looked at Gene and said, “I hope that isn’t them”. Then came the knock on the door.
I opened the door to see the grave look of concern on my neighbors’ faces as my friend brought the basket of tiny, masked faced, ring tailed orphans into our home.
She set the basket down. You could tell she was repulsed and disgusted. “They stink and they won’t stop screaming”, she said.
I left her to chat with Gene as I went to my trusty cupboard full of orphan supplies. I mixed formula and appropriate remedies for them. After getting a few droppers full of formula (they weren’t more than a few weeks old) they began to quiet.
Next I fixed a large box with fluffy towels and a warming pad. Each was wiped clean and placed in their new home. They wasted no time snuggling against each other and falling a sleep.
Our acquaintance couldn’t believe how fast they were quieted. She couldn’t see how her repulsion of them made things worse. Non-verbal communication has everything to do with what the heart can see. While physical comfort (warm food, cleanliness and shelter) had something to do with it, I believed these little beings knew they were in the presence of beings that understood their plight and loved them.
Since there were so many of them, I opted to collectively call them the “Pandybears”. It was easier than naming each individually. Life is interesting with little ones like these in a house. They pretty much ate and slept. After feeding they would love to crawl all over us. Sometimes they would peer lovingly into our eyes and give us raccoon kisses with those tiny, pink tongues!
The established pack of Poohbear, Scottie and the cat were quite used to the antics that orphans bring to the household. However, at that time, Murphy was the new dog in the pack. Prior to Murphy joining our gang, his butt ended up in the shelter twice because of children born into a family and the family not setting the dog up for a successful transition. I could see in my little Murphy’s face that he was quite sure he would have to go again. I have not since felt such despair as that which radiated from that dog that day.
I held him close as Murphy loves to cuddle, and told him that when the babies were grown they would return to the wild. My Murphy would have a forever home. He did need to have compassion for the little ones, as he knew exactly how it felt to be thrown away. So he had some growing up to do. I could tell he wasn’t sure about it, but he was comforted.
We moved to our present home in a nick of time as this band of raccoons was growing into mature beings. Before feedings, I loved to turn them loose in the yard. I called it “Pandy Olympics”.
After opening the cage door, I would take off running with a band of baby raccoons in chase. In the large yard we would run around in circles. After I stopped, they would climb all over me like some kind of motherly totem pole. They stayed close and never left the yard. If one lost sight of the pack, I would hear that familiar “Pandy cry” for help. Once we caught sight of each other all was well.
Time moves quickly as orphaned babies grow. Soon the little pack graduated to walking on trails. They forage, explore, engage in wrestling as only these little bears can, honing skills and instincts that would serve them well later in life. My fearless little Pandybears, the world is their playground and they back down to nothing. Still, they were perfect little ladies and gentlemen around me. Quality intent and integrity are valuable tools.
The day arrived when the mutual decision was made for release. Any healthy, wild orphan I have raised will just begin to act different one day. They remember a wild song in their hearts that they will remain true to. At that time I choose a quiet day, a quiet canyon, as far from homes and roads as possible. This time I had them in a crate as we hiked down the canyon to their new home. I could feel their concern about this big day.
We arrived at their new home. There were plenty of trees and a creek. I spread some food around and opened the crate. The largest male began to climb a nearby tree. The others meandered in and out of the creek, picking at the food. They were very much into their new world, so I slowly began to wander away. I was about 50 yards away, when my dearest little runt (I had a soft spot in my heart for him) spotted me and gave chase with some of the others. The largest male did not follow.
He came up to me and touched my leg with that precious little hand of his. I patted his head and told him this was his new home. They had all they needed to survive. I would be back to check on them, if they didn’t feel right, they could come back home. In the past I have had certain orphans that needed a “weaning” period. With no wild parent there to help them transition, some orphans will go back and forth a few times before they feel confident to join their world. I wanted them to enjoy their world and their life, with the entire God given talents they possess and not be stuck in a cage for my entertainment, when I would have time.
We walked back to the “home base”, I gave them my non-verbal speech one more time, this time as I turned and walked away, none followed; a sad and happy moment all at the same time.
Much later in the day, I hiked back down to check on the little darlings. Walking silently down the trail, I could hear something rustling the brush near by. I stood still. Out popped two of the boys. Startled, they arched their backs and hissed at me. Never under estimate the power of little bears we call raccoons! I was thrilled to see their instincts kicking in and serving them well. They were like teenage boys out exploring somewhere they should not have been and got caught.
After I stopped laughing, I asked them what they were doing away from their camp (they were about 80 yards away). The minute my dear little runt recognized my voice, he hurried towards me and put that gentle little black, hand on my leg. I patted his head, and told them to head back to the camp. His bigger brother stopped his big, bad raccoon display and followed. I left some snacks. They were melting into their world and didn’t care when I headed up out of the canyon.
In the days that followed, I weaned my presence from them. They seemed to transition well into the role they were meant to play. Then came one of the best days of my life; late one afternoon, I strolled down the trail. There in the setting afternoon sun, I spotted one of my Pandybears in the creek. Just eating, washing and drinking as a little bear was meant to live her life.
At that moment the words “what man does to the web, he does to himself” ran clear and true through my being. I felt such a connection between the sun and wind as it nourished the trees and shrubs that sprang from the earth and creek to nourish all life. I could see a magnificent reflection of our Creator in each. For a while I could feel the timelessness of eternity. A feeling of peace and security surrounded that little creature and me. This sounds strange, but I envied the trees and rocks that would cradle these little beings and their babies for more time than I would have. The world could have ended that day and it would not matter to me. There was such a sense of timeless completion, it was grand!
People often wonder how orphaned animals fare when released. For some reason our closed, controlling minds have a great deal of difficultly accepting anything that defies convention. Through intuition, I had the vision of possibility and reaching a goal. Intervention did not mean life long dependency. Careful preparation, developing the Pandies abilities and faith in those abilities combined to give us all a miracle that day.
When the foundation is strong, letting go is easier and necessary for any being to reach his or her potential in the freedom of their life. All will make mistakes in the process, all will learn in the process. Some become stuck in fear as freedom becomes too great a burden with all the choices and consequences there of. Others soar to new heights unknown to previous generations.
Letting go can be a hard thing to do. However, learning to pave the way with a solid base helps the transition, whether it is a child growing up, a starting a young horse under saddle, or releasing an orphan back to the wild, amazing accomplishments spring from a mind opened to possibilities that taps into a wisdom greater than our own.
That was one set of little darlings.
In March of 2005 another friend called. A raccoon had a brood of young in the attic of her daughters’ apartment. A trapper was called and trapped the momma raccoon, unfortunately the just born babies were still in the attic.
I stopped by and could hear the little ones crying in the corner of the attic. There was no attic access; a hole would have to be made to take the babies out. My heart broke for them.
As it is in the human world, permission would have to be granted by the landlord to break the attic open.
My friend asked how many babies I thought there were. I said 3 to 4 – one felt very weak and near death. She then asked why I can’t just ask the babies to leave – I explained as best as I could, that newborns, just like human babies, can’t just get up and walk away.
I told them to get a move on as per obtaining the landlords permission to break the ceiling open. These babies probably had little or no nourishment, as mom was trapped; the newborns had no one for warmth, food or comfort. Time was of the essence.
At 5pm the daughter called to say the trapper would be by in the morning to collect the babies. I told her they would be dead by then, but that was what she wanted to do. It is a difficult web humanity has weaved.
As the evening wore on, I packed my trusty crate and orphan supplies, along with a small tool kit to bust the babies out. At 9pm the predicable call came, the daughter worried the babies would not make it till morning. I incorporate silent communication much differently than in previous years, I tend to say less and act more on what I get, this is much less taxing for me.
I jumped in the car and made my way to the apartment. There the landlord and others stood and watched as I felt the ceiling to get a close proximately to the ones that were still crying.
I got the hammer and started to break plaster, there was much fiberglass insulation to get through. I did not get a good feeling about these little guys breathing that in those tiny screaming lungs. I plucked a screaming, little, raccoon child from the darkness of the attic, then another, and another. They were getting progressively quieter and weaker. I gave them a dose of mild milk replacement solution along with remedies to ease their trauma. I continued to break the opening in the ceiling large enough to fit my head through to make sure no one was left behind.
As I did, there at the very edge of the eaves, was one last seemingly lifeless little body. I stretched as far as I could to reach her. She was cold and barely breathing. I sat with all of them and did a few minutes of energy work on them, but this one was taking longer. She was critical. I wet her lips with a homeopathic solution, careful not to allow anything to interfere with her already struggling breath.
I kept working on her for what seemed an eternity, everyone in the room melted into the background as I worked on this little piece of heaven. When working on any being, I acknowledge the struggle that life is, I offer my gift, and then it is up to the being and their Maker what to do with that gift. I try very hard not to color the out come with my agenda.
Finally in our own little sacred space, she gasped a deep breath and eked a tiny “me” squeaky sound. A sheer symphony to my ears! I tucked her in my pocket, close to my heart and headed out the door to continue the supportive care these fragile babies would need.
As I headed home the old disco tune “Born to be Alive” played on the radio – I smiled to myself and hoped it would be a good sign!
That evening I stayed with my little brood till about 3am. In my heart I knew I was a sorry substitution for their real mother. It was bitterly cold for March; they were without nourishment for a long time for newborns. Once fed, cleaned and warm they all snuggled together, content and comforted in each others company. We would work together and do the best we could.
The first week was tough. The two largest were lost, their lungs inhaling too much of the insulation. The smaller two lived, named Shrek for the boy,
Lena for the little sister that was cold and lifeless when plucked from the ceiling. Their eyes and ears were shut tight. They were only a day old; their little toenails still had the protective covering on.
Time passed and Shrek and
Lena grew. Collectively I called them the Piskies, as they love to pester each other. They wrestle like little bears, ate and slept. Lena loved to curl up around my neck and fall asleep, something she still does to this day.
Raccoons are amazing little creatures. They are incredibly smart, unbelievably fearless and have reactions so quick; a human is a slow Neanderthal in comparison. They are distantly related to the bear. In Native American Folklore the raccoon is known for dexterity and disguise. Those little, gummi-like hands can get into anything and everything. They attack life with gusto and fervor and behind those beautiful, black-brown eyes lie ages of wisdom that the raccoon is guardian to keep and share with those of us who dare to peer into those eyes with nothing but love and deep admiration. To be kissed by a raccoon is a blessing that heralds one into the sacred oneness of all life.
Yet, human stay on your toes! Like the flip of a switch those little dark eyes flash with glee and it is time for “Bad Piskie” as I like to call it. The wrestling is on, and again I am reminded how defective a human is designed when it comes to playing with little bears their strong claws and razor sharp teeth. Extreme gentleness (good piskie) or wrathful warrior (bad Piskie) all rolled into one. They play all the notes The Maker placed in their hearts and they know when to play them. They make no apology for who their Creator made them to be. True to themselves they are! How many people can say the same without apology? I love that about them!
But I digress; the Piskies appeared in the period my brother died. Bob was never one to visit too often. But he did make a stop at out home when the Piskies were young. He sat in my office chair watching as I gave them a final feeding. He told me I would not be able to let them go. I told him that many wild critters know when they need to go back to the wild. It would be their choice; humans have interfered enough in their lives.
I told him to give them a kiss on their then tiny cheeks. He shook his head no. I told him he would have too – he would not get an opportunity like this again. This time he did.
Next unfolded one of those strange and surreal times that life can present. Our eyes locked in gaze. It was a look my mother gave me the Christmas before she passed. Words cannot explain, but the look is one I will never forget, it is the look that makes one know life is short. I was about to say something, and Bob shook his head no. I nodded in agreement. And much was said without saying a word. Much of my family is gifted in silent communication. A short two months later Bob died in a plane crash. He died doing what he loved, even though some of us asked him not to fly the particular plane that cost his life. Knowing is a weighty gift that many of us throw away for this very reason. Freewill trumps all.
The event of Bob’s death set in motion a series of severe health challenges that culminated in lumps along my lymphatic chain.
In the midst of this despair and illness, the Piskes’ role as my Raccoon Gods was solidified. Most orphans I have raised that are not releasable remain in a child-like, innocence stage and don’t get the full fledged wild critter fire that the releasable ones do.
Lena stayed relatively dependant and clingy. Perhaps their tainted start to life took too much fire from their souls and they needed that dependency. Perhaps something, somewhere in the large tapestry of life knew more about what all 3 of us needed than any of us could know single-mindedly.
I did attempt a release in an area that I knew would be free of any human influence. I wouldn’t put it passed Shrek to walk up to a hiking stranger, tug on their pants with a outstretched Piskie hand asking for hand outs! I know my chubby little Shrek.
For four days they tried their hand at their new life. On the fourth day, when they caught sight of me, they quickly tried to climb up my dog and myself (something they didn’t normally do) as if to say, “We can’t do this”. I sat with them a long time and explained to them the piss poor life I could offer them in captivity. It was a weighty and heavy hearted conversation. In the end my sister wondered how I would get them back in their crates – I said “just watch”. I set the crates down and in they ran.
Our lives would never be the same.
Gene built a lovely aviary like enclosure for them. It has been dubbed the “Piskie Chateau”. Complete with branches, water, an attic, it became their home. Being the smart and inquisitive little beings they are, I must provide them several activities a day; they love digging through garden debris for bugs and other edible things. They get cardboard boxes to slide around and destroy in wrestling matches. Water to splash and play in. And of course toys.
Like many wild creatures they bond deeply with one person, the only momma bear they know - me. A chosen few are mildly tolerated at best.
It is with the wild critters that one gets a sense of how stifled domestic creatures have become to suit human whims. We have dumbed down life around us, so we as humans can dance that frantic pace we think actually means something.
Wild critters are very sensitive to any and all expressions, body movement and language. Going deeper, they are very aware of your energy field. On days when I felt particularly ill I would keep interactions with the Piskes to a minimum. I knew I didn’t have the where-with-all to handle their antics with any degree of integrity.
If I got hurt, I would only have myself to blame. They love to wrestle and play with fervor. Human skin is particularly defective when playing with furry woodland creatures. I remind them of that often, I know who I am. Not pretending to be anything other than the limited creature I am makes this crazy triad work and the Piskies respect and honor my short comings
My heart so often breaks when hearing of captive animals that have attacked humans. Our first instinct is to blame the creature, yet how many of us realize the complete frustration and utter despair these creatures feel, having so many wonderful traits they cannot use? Hearing these silent screams, crying these silent tears? It is a wonder more of them don’t go mad. How many people feel the same? Stifled vigor often finds a deadly outlet to give voice to that no longer silent scream.
As the years unfold, there is something utterly amazing that keeps revealing itself to me there in the Piskie Chateau. Time spent in there reveals to me how these little beings that knew themselves to be too compromised to make it in the wild, still carried with them much ancient knowledge most humans will never know.
In Spring, they spontaneously fast and eat more herbs that naturally cleanse the liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Spring is the season for the liver. A good Spring cleanse with certain herbs and vegetables gives the body a well needed boost after winters rest. The Piskies knew this, their feeding habits change with the seasons. My garden provides a good deal of herbs and fresh fruits and vegetables for them to choose from – not to mention bugs and grubs that they love! Just before winters rest there is an upswing in their eating habits and food choices. They put on a bit of chubbiness to ward off winters cold.
In winter they go into a pseudo – hibernation. They rest more and come down from the attic for light meals. This is a bit of a sad time from me as the three of us don’t spend as much time cuddling and playing in the winter. Something I now need for my mental health.
Lena lays on my shoulders like a living, sleeping stole. Shrek curls up in my lap and we can stay like that for a long time. Then in a flash eyes change, they perk up and the playing starts, though as they age, the playing is gentler and they prefer cuddling.
Sometimes they will stay in the safety of the attic when they perceive trouble in the neighborhood. There have been times before car accidents at a near by corner when they refuse to come down before trouble hits. They have taught me to sense the feel of impending doom in the air before such happenings. After the crash they come down. Most of us are not that perceptive. Gotta love them!
And here in this little sacred space the three of us find precious gems, knowing each other. They are probably one of the few creatures on earth that understand me better than I understand myself. They know there is a part of me that cannot handle the least bit of convention, established or logical thinking. Whenever something gets too structured or official it feels like a rope around my neck choking the life from me. It stifles my creativity and I have to run the other way and do whatever I must to free myself from that invisible choke hold. I understood their start would hinder their ability to thrive in their “real world” and with their consent, our combined weaknesses wedded to make this little triad strong. Something much bigger and wiser knew these things needed to come together to keep us going in periods we were not sure we would live through. And thus the Raccoon Gods came to see me through, as I was there to see them through.
Lena reminds me of this often.
My life has changed much to accommodate the needs of the Piskes. I do not travel anymore. Yet I have found that this place, my home, the Piskie Chateau, the small critters, my horses is what helps to keep me strong and able to do the work I do. Many humans do not want to slow down their addictive pace of life till something forces them to peer into a window other than their addictive junk. At times we are angry at such gifts. How much better this medicine would work when we quiet the noise in our heads and accept it is the medicine needed for our hearts.
The gift your ego brings should be to show you who you are, at any given moment, on any given day. Taking in all the factors that comprise the whole, the environment and the beings involved, this helps to formulate an inspired course of action that results in the good of all and thereby keeping the ego in check. When this happens, you know who you are and your place in the greater scheme of things. The ego doesn’t have to scream as loud as a deep sense of well being and being taken care of emanates.
All animals sense this, wild critters more so. In teaching others to work with animals from an energetic point of view many people with deep seated respect for other life forms act from this place naturally and the miracles just flow. Others whom have been yoked by chains of expectation will try too hard to put on a “show”. If the domestic creature has found its voice and knows how to use it, they will generally reject this coercion. With wild critters, you won’t have a chance.
A show has a preprogrammed agenda and does not lend itself to the ebb and flow of life. Man has created many versions of such “shows” as they are predictable, teachable and help to feed the ego. I also tend to think this is why “trained” wild creatures go “bad” at times. They need to get back to that ebb and flow, creation and destruction programmed into all life in this universe, even us. The sooner we make peace with it, the better we are able to minimize the damage.
As moments unfold in working with creatures there are times when one literally has a chance to stretch physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Some people will cloud this process with the voice and intention of their egos and color what can be or kill a new level of wisdom all together by not allowing integrity to lead the way. Often they want someone or something to be the keeper of their conscious all together. Here is where the human errs greatly as that voice should come from deep with you and not someone or something else. Here is where people will get bucked off, bitten, attacked or some other wake up call. This is where one remembers the ancient wisdom of other races that man does not own the earth and needs to be mindful of his intentions with it and the consequences there of. Intention can be woefully tainted by ego, lead with integrity.
This is extremely relevant when working with wild critters and for those of us that have bridged that gap with the wild ones, there is no turning back as we plunge into the wild with a profound sadness that others in our human race cannot forge the same love for all life. For once the ego, respect and integrity marry and merge with Devine inspiration limits we have been yoked with since childhood shatter and the world is our own just as it is for the furry little wild beasts we love. It frees the heart to play all the notes therein, and the wisdom of when to play those notes. We feel and live the holographic interconnection of all the lives we love and touch. It does cause your footsteps to follow in grace and blows all the rules away for the greatest good.
This is what I have learned and try to live in the Piskie Chateau, with
Lena sleeping on my neck like a living stole and Shrek snuggled up in my lap.
Lena passed away Dec. 24, 2013, Shreky passed away Feb. 3, 2016, a book about them is in the making.