Part 1: Procyon Lotor
by Tony Ertel
I am by no means an animal expert, but I, like every other human am intrigued by and find some enjoyment in the diversity and flat out strangeness of God’s creation. Whether observing animals in the wild or perusing a Wikipedia entry, it’s all I can do to keep from exclaiming, “That’s pretty neat.”
My most recent interest concerns the Procyon lotor, commonly known as the raccoon. For the longest time I kept my distance from these curious beasts, getting only slightly more personal on two occasions. My first encounter came during my teenage years; it was the shortest and most dramatic miming I
My second close encounter came years later in a cemetery. Most people wouldn’t believe me, but I truly was the victim of a raccoon hit-and-run. At the time it was funny (and quite shocking), but now looking back on the incident, I wonder if I should have started my research and commenced preparations for World War C or Planet of the Coons. I now wonder if these science fiction scenarios of the past may be realities of the near future. I have two more recent accounts leading me to fear the worst.
Only two months ago I was a naïve and nature-loving guy. When my mother shouted from the dining room, “There’s a raccoon on the back porch,” I innocently and unarmed ran to see. It was cute to watch the curious creature with its dexterous paws, picking up and dunking the dog food before consuming it. In that moment, I was like a child who sees a dog for the first time and cannot turn his gaze. I thought to myself, “I could watch this thing for days.” Well, my hope was realized. The apparent one-time hunger- induced bravery of the coon transformed into a habitual and seemingly calculated consumption of my dog’s food. And thus began the takeover.
I thought for sure that alerting my dog Wrinkles* (though old, she is still known for her toughness and protective nature) of the intruder would put a quick end to the confident demeanor of the coon. A burst of energy and a moment of ferocity however, were not enough to keep the coon away. Rather than retreat, the coon whom I had spontaneously and wrongly named Razzo (that name has playful connotations), embarrassed me, my dog, and all canines by chasing Wrinkles and reclaiming the porch. To make the whole situation worse, Razzo eventually learned to open the door, wrestled a broom from my mother’s hands, and raised four young in the woodshed**. Throughout this display of impertinent behavior I remained naïve and eventually dismissed the happenings from my mind altogether.
Fast forward one month. I am living in my new apartment in the city of Cincinnati. From a third-floor balcony my wife and I enjoy a nice vantage point of the surrounding neighborhood. Aside from the city squirrels and their shenanigans and the seemingly endless line of runners that pass by, there isn’t too much excitement on my street. Or that is what I thought. While sitting out at dusk one week ago, I noticed some movement on a rooftop across the street. Sure enough, it was a raccoon exploring the neighbor’s house. The home is not well kept by city standards, but the coon seemed to find it fitting.
After five minutes of fascinated observation I lost sight of the coon trotting on the sidewalk to the back of the house. My mind had just wandered off into some thought of the next-door bed and breakfast’s landscaping when my eyes caught some motion in the third-floor windows of the dilapidated house. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The raccoon was inside the house with its belly to the window. It was reminiscent of an over-confident middle school child mooning his friends through the library window, thinking the librarian wasn’t watching. Well, in this case the librarian was not watching, but that more conservative classmate was. That classmate was me.
After discussing the situation with my wife, I thought it best to notify the neighbor of her third-floor tenant. At the very least, I thought she might be able to squeeze a little rent out of the freeloader. Before breaking the news however, I ran a background check on Mr. Raccoon (Wikipedia style), so as to really understand with whom I was dealing. I got more than I bargained for. The most striking information I learned was that the first recorded sightings of “urbanized” coons were in the suburbs of Cincinnati! That insight led me to think that maybe my neighbor coon was a respectable tenant after all (perhaps even the longest established urbanized coon in America). Regardless, I deemed it my Christian duty to tell the matron of the house. She didn’t seem too surprised by the news and said that years ago she had a raccoon removed from the house to the wild. Maybe she was ok with the current raccoon keeping a low profile and her actions against the previous were only those of any fair landlord adhering to the lease agreement – “No party animals.”
As for me, I plan on watching my back, staying in at night, and making millions of dollars off of the development and distribution of a coon-specific security system – “Ra-Coon-a Matata Security: It means no worries for the rest of your nights!”
*That’s what happens when you let a kid name a pet. It is black – “let’s call it Blacky!” It has special coloration around its eyes – “can we name him Patches?” It has a spot on its fur – “how about we call him... Spot?!” “Man, this dog has so many wrinkles ... Let’s call her Wrinkles.” I was 12.
**Though the presence of the mama coon’s “kit” (her litter of young), was only suspected by my parents in the early stages, they still might have been found deserving of PETA’s Compassionate Action Award. I suspect the snub was the result of one of two things: 1) there was no naked protestor or 2) it wasn’t endorsed by Bob Barker.