If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. ~ Chief Seattle of the Suwamish Tribe
Have I ever mentioned that I have great neighbours? I'm certain that I have.
One evening, last month, my next door neighbour Lloyd knocked on the door with a message for me from his wife. "Caroline said to get your camera and come to the park. There are some baby raccoons by the culvert."
Less than 2 minutes later we were walking down the path, and looking into the eyes of three beautiful little raccoon kits. The mother was with them but her focus was on her fourth wee one who was making a tremendous racket from inside the tunnel, beyond our view. Apparently the family was in transit and babies #1, 2 and 3 followed their mom fearlessly enough but kit #4 was afraid to manouever his way past some obstacle.
The little scardy kit attracted a small crowd with his loud complaints. The mother looked a bit alarmed at leaving her three babies with all of these human onlookers but soon assessed that we were harmless enough and went into the tunnel in search of her young trouble maker. Eventually it quieted down and I can only assume that they found another exit and were making their way back to the rest of the family on land. That did not happen while we were there, but I know how loyal and capable mother raccoons are and I feel confident that she would not have abandoned her adorable threesome.
In the meantime, these little guys waited patiently but not without getting into a little bit of trouble. They were unafraid of our approach, and even considered following us once or twice. Thankfully, they were easy to dissuade. One little rascal, wouldn't sit still on the small, wet, somewhat slippery concrete lip, and with only a fence behind him and a foot or so of water beneath him (we'd had a huge downpour just hours earlier), he slipped down and landed about ten feet below with a significant splash. I was glad that the water was there to break his fall. He quickly surfaced and scrambled his way up the cement wall. Even young raccoons are excellent climbers. He ran into more trouble trying to make his way back to that small lip though, and down he went again. Splash! One more time up and one more time down. On his last climb, he was arm's length away from me and was beginning to teeter once again. I was able to reach the scruff of his neck and scoop him up and onto solid ground beneath a nearby tree. He would have managed on his own, I'm sure, but truth be told, my actions were at least as selfish as they were protective - I couldn't resist holding him for just a second. The other two soon joined him by the tree. This is where they remained when I headed back home.
An hour later, none of them were in sight. Not surprising because it was pretty dark by then. I'm hoping Mama returned with kit #4 and that the family moved on to learn all about hunting for food. I'm willing to bet on it.
Thank you Caroline and Lloyd for giving me my raccoon fix - and a blog post, to boot!
Below are a few photos which I took that night. They're in random order, along with a selection of animal quotes. I hope you enjoy.
An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language. ~ Martin Buber
It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life. Towards this end, experiments on living animals in classrooms should be stopped. To encourage cruelty in the name of science can only destroy the finer emotions of affection and sympathy, and breed an unfeeling callousness in the young towards suffering in all living creatures. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~ George Eliot
Lots of people talk to animals... Not very many listen, though... That's the problem. ~ Benjamin Hoff
The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man. ~ Charles Darwin
It is hard to be brave, when you're only a Very Small Animal. ~ A. A. Milne
Love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we humans shall come to understand each other. ~ Dr. Louis J. Camuti
Every baby animal is unique and adorable, and there is no greater love than that between a mother and her young. It is the power of this love that explains why humans have always sought the company of young animals. ~ Angela Serena Ildos
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained. I stand and look at them long and long. ~ Walt Whitman
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. ~ George Bernard Shaw
If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans ~ James Herriot quotes
I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. ~ Mark Twain