Monday, March 24, 2008

Things That Go Bump, Crash (and Oh Sh*t!) in the Night

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.


the Bag Lady said...

Oh, my goodness, what an adventure! That racoon must have decided you made a damned good landlady!
Glad things worked out well for all involved (meaning: everyone is still alive!), and, yes, how fortunate that the ceiling didn't crash down on you in your sleep!
Does Benny know where the racoon is living now....?!
(And why did the photos load well in the first two segments, and won't in this one!!!?)

Reb said...

I suspect supervisor Sean overheard at least the last portion of Mr. Nameless talking to you and asked him about it. I also suspect Mr. Nameless is now Mr. Jobless. I am glad that all worked out well for you. Once momma and babies have left the nest, you will have to seal up under your deck.

Good luck with the insurance people.

Daryl said...

OMG .. now what will you do? I am glad the tulips on my blog cheered you up .. you certainly needed that .. I am betting you could sell this story (you write extremely well) to a magazine .. really!

Frank Baron said...

I'm glad I was there too.

It saved me HOURS of listening to you on the phone. ;)

The Merry said...

Been there, done that.

Frankly, Raquelle the racoon made a /lousy/ tenant! Speaking from my personal perspective. It was hard to keep up a cultured, urbane conversation in the dining room while trying to ignore the scurrying right above our heads. The mother raccoon had found a way into the eaves and set up a raccoon nursery in the space right above the bay window in the dining room. (Why doesn't Martha Stewart ever have to deal with this problem?)

And the next year her babies came back. I was sleeping in a bedroom that was about two feet from the apricot tree. My bed was inches away from the window. I woke about 2 a.m. to see a young racoon looking through the screen window at me, his look plainly saying "where did all the apricots go?"

That's one problem you'll need to brace yourself for... them young raccoons have extremely good memories!

Of course, as my brother pointed out, the 1950s version of The Joy of Cooking give a very good recipe for Racoon... ;)

Kappa no He said...

Bravo! I'm teared up here. I think the sweetest part is that she decided to move in next to you. Now you guys can keep an eye on each other.

Daisy said...

Wow - what a story! I'm glad everyone came out safe.

Hilary said...

• Hi Baggie, I don't think Benny is aware of their location, but I suppose come spring (the REAL spring when weather actually gets warmer and snow actually melts and we actually feel like winter is over.. can you tell I'm getting sick of winter?), we'll sit out front at times and then Benny and probably Skitty (my more adventurous cat) will begin to catch on.

I had fewer photos in the first two segments. Do you need me to mail these to you, or have they loaded by now? :)

• Thanks, Reb. I hope to block their return access, but from what I understand, they can be very determined to get back to their familiar haunts.

• Thank you, Daryl. I'm very flattered and I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) I don't think there's anything much that I can do right now, regarding the raccoons. Getting my house repaired is the next order of business.

• Frank, I'll save up all of the renovation stories for ya! ;)

• Hi Merry. "Merde!" <--- yes there was some of that too.. but not too much! ;)

Ack, you let your raccoon family stay in your ceiling? Mine was driving me nuts, and I'd dealt with some other, smaller animal scurrying around above a lower floor room for sometime a couple of years back, causing unpleasant odors to come through a vent, so I didn't want to risk that again. I really didn't know she'd had already had the babies either. I was thinking she was looking for a nice nesting place. Duh!

You're way more tolerant than I am. Then again, I've been thinking about how she came through the ceiling exactly where the babies had been located. If it was a weak spot, it could have been a lot worse for the full family to fall through.

An apricot tree sounds nice. I guess your raccoons thought so too. Do they still come back for visits?

I'm totally ignoring your brother!

• Kappa.. errr yes :] I'm hoping it won't smell out there all spring/summer. But I do hope they're not disturbed again. :)

• Thanks, Daisy Jo, and ditto! :)

david mcmahon said...

Hi Hilary,

Just got back from spending Easter in Sydney and saw your comment on my `Bucket Lift' post. Glad you enjoyed it.

I've enjoyed this post of yours so much I went back and read the previous one as well!

Tink said...

Aw. I love stories with happy endings. I'm sorry it came at the cost of your sanity (momentarily) though. ;)

Casdok said...

Wow!! And phew!! :)

Hilary said...

• Welcome back, David. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks. :)

• I'm glad it turned out ok too, Tink.. hopefully. Right now I'm listening to my roof leak... :/

• Agreed, casdok. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Cath said...

AAAhhhhh Hilary that is a wonderful conclusion! I can't believe I didn't come over earlier to see if you'd posted! I'm putting you on my bloglist and I won't miss. Bookmarking ain't workin'!

I am so glad they are all ok and you got some help. Dread to think how you would have coped if Mr. Nameless hadn't called some one.
They were all really good and what a great neighbour! Glad you had Frank with you too.

You write really well and tell the story so I can feel a bit of what you must have felt!

Your epilogue is great. Will they be a problem under the deck? I hope not. I think that's really sweet she feels safe round you still. It made me "Awwwww"!
Thanks for a great (true) story. And thank you for keeping stopping by mine and leaving those lovely comments.

Jo said...

Oh Hil, what an amazing ending to a crazy adventure. Or maybe it's the beginning...just think, you may get to see those little kits grow up--and all b/c you cared enough to see to their welfare.

I'm so glad it worked out, and glad you were surrounded by such a great support crew! Wow, if it had happened while you were asleep in bed, I think I might have heard you screaming from here LOL!

Hilary said...

• Hiya Cath. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll. I'll do likewise as soon as I update next. I don't anticipate a problem with them under the deck but.. I never aniticpated this mess either. ;) I hope she can raise them to independence and then we'll do something to close up the opening. She made me "awww" too. I was really happy to know they're ok. I've not heard them since that day though.. so I don't know if she moved on.

Thanks so much for your kind words. :)

• Jo I have no doubt you'd have heard something across the miles.. sreaming.. my heartbeat.. my feet running.. something. As I type this, my bedroom is being torn apart by a small crew of workers. This is going to be a long process.. Ugh!

Thanks for stopping by. :)

Shammickite said...

You have my deepest sympathy... I've been through a similar situation. A few years ago, a family of raccoons decided to come down an unused furnace chimney and made their nursery behind the wooden panelling in the basement. Lots of scratching, squeaking, fighting going on, so we finally decided to pull the panelling off the walls... PHEW what a stink of raccoon poo. Of course, they all escaped up the chimney, but tried to come back the next day. The only way to discourage them was to light a fire at the bottom of the chimney, so while husband did that, I went outside to make sure they all exited.... the last one came out with his tail on fire, poor thing! Once they were out, we built a nice fireplace and put an animal proof mesh on top of the chimney. No more midnight visitors.
I hope your insurance company is going to cover all your expenses. I loved the way you told the story, in 3 nailbiting episodes. Those baby raccons are so sweet laying in their Rubbermaid basket. I hope mama doesn't give you any more trouble. She'll probably leave as soon as the babies are old enough to follow her around.

Cath said...

Hi Hilary - award for you at my place. Pop over and pick it up. :0)

Anonymous said...

Great Story! You might want to get those wildlife removal guys to move Mama and her four younguns to some park or forest a few miles away though, because RAcoons can be caariers of rabies, and with pets around, that wouldn't be a good thing :(


Hilary said...

• Hi ex-S. Wow that some story of your own. That raccoon tail must have made some torch! I hope it went out quickly once he was free. I'm glad you enjoyed the tale, and that you stuck around for all three parts. :) I'm hoping the family will move on once the kits are mature, but part of me hopes to see them occasionally.. but OUTSIDE. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Cath. That was very sweet and thoughtful of you. Much appreciated. :)

• Thank you Maeven. I'm not too worried about the rabies aspect. The mom appeared really healthy and she reacted quite normally for a raccoon trapped in a bedroom - with fear. All she wanted was to be with her babies and I sure wouldn't want to disrupt their bonding again. I will be cautious though when any of the pets are out front. Thanks for the reminder and I'm glad you stopped by. :)

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Hooray for happy endings and rabies-free homeowners!

Rabid raccoons are a big problem around here.

Hilary said...

Thanks, EWBL. They're not too much of a problem around here - at least not that I've been hearing. Thanks for the visit. :)

Althea said...

wow...i don't quite know what to say. i'm glad everything turned out ok, apart from your roof, i guess :( i'm also glad for you that e was there...and benny too :)
hope the rest of stuff is good for you...easter was chocolate filled and so on...i'll catch up with you soon ;)

Hilary said...

Thanks for stopping by, Althea. Enjoy that chocolate! ;)

Pat - Arkansas said...

Oh, my goodness. I need to count my blessings that my raccoon family is in a tree outside! What a story! I had to pop over here to read this after you left the comment on my blog (thanks). Are the raccoons still under your deck?

Hilary said...

Pat, I believe they might be gone now. The various neighbourhood pets that usually sniff at that particular spot when they visit, seem to have stopped doing so, and I've not heard them in quite a while. It's probably time to try to raccoon-proof the area now. Thanks for reading. :)

Yvonne F. said...

Loved that story, Hilary, especially the part where the raccoon family now lives under your deck!