This is the Final Part of the two previous posts "Things That Go Bump in the Night." You can either scroll down for two posts, or find Part One here and Part Two here.
Depending on the reason, it can be anything between mildly frustrating and seriously infuriating when somebody hangs up on you. In this case, I met the situation with anger and bewilderment. I had just been told that I would have to deal with a mother raccoon trapped in my house without the help of experts. She was confused, frightened and desperate to see her babies, who were nestled in a bucket on the roof. I hung up the phone and stared in disbelief. Now what?
I no sooner stood to see how the raccoon was doing, when the phone rang. It was Sean, a supervisor over at the wildlife removal service. Evidently Mr. Nameless at least had the sense to let him know that he had just talked to one irate and very unhappy customer on the phone. Sean immediately returned my call to let me know that he fully grasped the urgency of the situation and that he was sending someone over right away. That someone was Sande, who also made a point of phoning to reassure me that he was on his way, but that it would take him about a half hour to forty minutes. I felt very grateful and hoped that the raccoon could hold on until then. She did.
We had the better part of an hour to kill before Sande arrived. I went next door to get my neighbour and friend Caroline. I knew that this was something she'd want to see. She and her husband Lloyd came over to share stunned expressions over the mess. Lloyd is from Newfoundland, and I mentally predicted the very words that he uttered. "Lard Tundering Jaysus! What in the hell happened here?" I guided them to Alex's room where the poor frightened mother raccoon continued to stare back at us. Lloyd and Caroline's daughter had an important hockey game to play that night, but Lloyd promised to return afterward to board up my ceiling.
Shortly after they left, Sande arrived and set to work immediately. "Where are the babies?" I told him their approximate location on the roof and he climbed up there in the dark to retrieve them and relocate them to a sheltered corner of my front deck. I asked how many there were and if they appeared to be okay. He counted the same four that were there earlier that afternoon and reassured me that that seemed to be just fine. Sande then came into the house with one of those poles that have an adjustable loop on the end of it, so that he could capture the mom.
He approached her slowly, and spoke soothingly to her. She began to panic. Amid much pole-biting, growling and flopping about, he managed to get the loop around her neck and cinch it. She fought like her life was at risk, and to her, it was. There was no way to communicate to this poor beast that we were going to set her free so that she could reunite with her babies. She hissed, growled and struggled until she manage to work herself out of the loop. She ran downstairs. Sande was adept at his job though, and soon had her cornered in my kitchen, this time fastening the loop around her abdomen. He guided her outside my front door and onto the deck where her litter of kits were blissfully asleep in the Rubbermaid tub.
She continued her chorus of fierce noises and he persisted in trying to sooth her with his words. Out of exhaustion, she eventually calmed down enough for him to reach into the tub and remove one of her kits. He slowly brought the baby close to its mother and she snatched it from Sande's hand at the same time he released his hold on her. With her baby clutched close to her, she ran up and over the snowbanks on my front lawn, across the street and out of sight.
Sande assured me that she would almost certainly return for her other babies through the night, once she found another safe place for them. He suggested that we keep away from the deck for tonight, but to check on them in the morning. He was betting that they'd no longer be in the tub. I thanked him profusely and told him how much I appreciated his concern for the creatures. He told me that he has spent time raising abandoned raccoon kits himself, so he felt quite confident when it came to handling them under this sort of circumstance. We chatted a bit more and he had me sign a "no charge" invoice before he departed, and I went back into the house to figure out what to do with the mess.
Water was still dripping slowly into the bucket below. I retrieved my iPod and portable player speaker from underneath some of the mess. It escaped most of the wet insulation and works just fine. I picked up enough junk from the floor, nightstand, bed and from behind the furniture to half-fill a garbage bag. I stripped the bed of its covers and pillows, pulled it from the wall and vacuumed everywhere. Aside from the ceiling and roof, the damage was restricted to the lamp, the nightstand which seems to have become discoloured from the water (perhaps raccoon urine) and the blinds in Alex's room.
As promised, Lloyd returned around midnight with large sheets of plastic which we placed over the bed, nightstand and floor. He then proceeded to remove the excess debris that was still hanging from the gaping ceiling. A few loose pieces of plaster and drywall were taken down to make the job of covering the hole easier to do.
Lloyd located the beams and with Frank's help, expertly nailed a few sheets of plywood to cover the unwanted skylight in my room. He then stapled another plastic sheet all around it to give it a tight seal from the cold air and moisture.
I filled another trash bag and a half with the excess debris and the plastic sheet, and then vacuumed again. My room was toasty warm all night - a testament to the quality work that Lloyd does.
Early the next morning, I just had to head outside to see if the babies were still in the tub. I grabbed my jacket and went out on the deck. I slowly peeled back the protective layer of insulation and saw only more padding beneath that. I touched and gently poked it all over the place but the tub was empty of baby raccoons. The mother had retrieved them all, and I breathed a sigh of relief. For a second or two, I thought I heard the familiar chatter sound that they make, but chalked it up to my tired mind playing tricks on me. The sound is not unlike some birds, so that was probably what I'd heard. I went back inside to make tea.
Later in the day, Lloyd climbed up onto the roof with my camera, to take pictures of the hole (with the one-way door in place), and to lay a tarp over it as required by the insurance company. They'll send someone out today or tomorrow to investigate the situation. I hope to have the roof and ceiling repaired shortly.
I'm very grateful for a number of things:
I glad that Frank was here for an early weekend visit. He usually arrives on a Friday, but decided to come out on the Thursday for the long weekend. I wouldn't have been able to keep reasonably calm on my own, and his suggestions certainly helped to minimize damage. Thanks, Frank.
I'm grateful for wonderful neighbours that are always reliable. That hockey game ran late, and Lloyd was tired but he returned to help me out of a jam. Thanks, Lloyd.
I'm appreciative that the two K's (Kyle and Ken), supervisor Sean and rescuer Sande were all kind, caring and compassionate people who understood my distress and made the animals' safety a priority. I don't know what happened with Mr. Nameless, but I am glad that he ultimately made contact with someone who had a brain and who cared.
I'm very relieved that this didn't happen a few hours later while I was sleeping. I'm so much happier telling this story, than the one that would start out with "I awoke to a face full of raccoon and wet insulation."
I'm thrilled that the mother and her young were reunited safely.
I'm thankful that this whole situation was as minor as it turned out to be. I got to thinking about the suddenness of it all. One moment we were chatting and playing cards, anticipating a quiet weekend, and then all hell broke loose. In an instant, everything changed. I related that to how the unforeseen happens to people all of the time with car accidents, fires and illness. My incident will be costly, inconvenient and frustrating - nothing more. I'm very thankful that in perspective, it was pretty small and really rather funny - at least in retrospect.
Epilogue: On Saturday afternoon, my son Jeffrey was playing around with Benny in the front yard - throwing small chunks of snow around for him to chase. At one point he stopped tossing the snow and called me over to the deck where the kits' tub had been. "Do you hear this?" I did. It turns out that the chatter I'd heard that morning was not a bird. Mama raccoon decided to keep her babies close to home. This family of five now lives under my deck.