Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where the Wild Thing Aren't

Earlier this month, we arrived at the cottage armed with information about how to feed Sugar and Spike during our stay. For those of you who may not remember these critters by name, they are the orphaned raccoon kits which were found under my deck this past April. They are now living outdoors full time but still rely on the kindness of their human friends to feed them. The trick is to fatten them up sufficiently to make it through the winter. Their evening meal consists of dry cat food and just about any scrap left over from our own day's meals. And fish guts. They really like fish guts - the heads, tail and innards left over from filleting the day's catch.

Early that evening we went to their feeding spot a few yards/meters away from the cottage, but still within its sight. We poured out their food and returned to the cottage. Not more than a half hour passed and one little raccoon ambled over to it and started eating.

I wandered out to him. He kept a wary eye on me but continued shoveling food into his mouth. At one point he came over to me and nudged my hand with his nose. That was it for our interaction for the night.

The following afternoon, Benny alerted Frank to some whining noises coming from the nearby tree. Glancing up, he saw these two adorable faces watching them.

There was a third larger and presumably older raccoon on a higher branch but he or she only presented us with a bushy, striped tail. It was an encouraging sight to see that they had hooked up with a more mature raccoon who might be able to teach them how to fish and hunt for themselves. Later that day, when I brought their food outside, Spike came bounding over to me, put his paws on my leg and looked straight into my eyes. The face that greeted me had porcupine quills on the left side.

We looked him over and he didn't appear to be in pain. His appetite was good but Frank decided to call his sister Theresa - the raccoons' adoptive Mom for advice. Her solution was to drive up to the cottage the next day, figuring that only she would be able to hold him while Frank took the pliers to the quills and pull them out. Spike allowed me to pet him and scratch his head while he ate.

Theresa arrived with her sister, Lisa the following afternoon.

Accompanying them were Luca

and Sambuca

- two adorable 10 week old (approximately) kittens which were found abandoned and brought to Theresa with their umbilical cords still attached. This is what they looked like when I first saw them in the middle of June.

Now they're bright, healthy, well-adjusted kittens which appear normal in every way, despite never having had a feline mother. Benny loved playing with them and they were used to Theresa's dogs, so they let him discover, mother and practically smother them with kisses. Benny was beside himself with excitement. This video, which is less than a minute in length will give you an idea of how they interacted.

Lisa's beautiful dog, Oona was much more placid and nonchalant about the whole thing.

Theresa also brought Hailey, who was the newest member of her adoptive family. Can you figure out what she is? Give it some thought. I'll keep on talking.

Hailey was just a few days old when somebody found her on her driveway. She was brought to Theresa who fed her every 45 minutes during the day and a bit less frequently through the night.

She was pink-bellied, hairless and incredibly cute. (The following three videos are less than 30 seconds each.)

She was fed with a syringe,

stimulated to assist with elimination

and kept very warm, wrapped up next to a heater. By the second or third day, she became more active, began to sprout whisker and started making vocal sounds. The second to last day we were there, she began to bloat a bit. Her energy level diminished some and her vocalization was softer. Her appetite was still good but she just didn't seem right. Sadly, on the last night we were there, she died.

She had a short, little life without great chance of survival, but Hailey the squirrel had most certainly been loved.

Back to Spike. Theresa was able to pull most of the quills out by hand while he was eating.

Only one was painful enough to cause him to nip at her hand but the rest, he hardly noticed. He looked as handsome as ever when she was done. I love how he tends to hold the bowl in place with one of his back feet while shoveling in food with the front.

Spike, despite being the shy kit early on, has become the more adventurous and affectionate one of the pair. He's been known to enter the cottage through an open window and dine on peaches which he robbed from the kitchen counter. Once, Theresa woke up to discover that he'd made his way into the cottage, and climbed into her bed to cuddle with her. He was right beside her, gazing at her and touching her face. He's also becoming destructive, having torn through a screen window or two. I have concerns that the surrounding cottage-dwellers won't have any idea that these two are semi-tame and they might fear their friendliness as a sign of rabies, but Theresa plans to let others know about Sugar and Spike so they can just let them be, and maybe even offer up a meal now and again.

It was a lovely, restful time spent with wonderful people and adorable creatures.

Stay tuned and in a few days I'll post some photos of some of the wilder critters we encountered.


ellen abbott said...

How very cool. I knew the hairless one was a squirrel because I found one a little older that had also fallen out of it's nest during a storm. I took it to a re-hab center but don't know if it survived.

Daryl said...

Oh I just love these critters .. and Benny is a good mama .. I cracked up when he put his 'arm' around the kitten to keep it still as he groomed it ... Gus does this to Rose all the time .. she doesnt think its so sweet ...

Poor little baby squirrel .. it was surely loved .. Frank's sister is a fantastic person ....

ds said...

Theresa is an amazing person, and Benny is an amazing dog! I would never have guessed 'squirrel'--thought ferret. Poor thing.

Mental P Mama said...

What an amazing time that was...between our babies, the kittens and the squirrel, I would never be able to leave. That squirrel was loved. And Benny? He makes the best mommy. But I'm not surprised;)

Zuzana said...

Beautiful story of survival and the magic of nature. As well as the hard reality of life and death, that no animals can escape.
The picture of the two raccoons in the tree is priceless.
For some reason the clips wouldn't play for me, but I will give it another shot.

Congratulations on the "Post Of The Day" nomination; even though you are a veteran in that department.;)) Well deserved every time.;)

photowannabe said...

I was amazed to see a quiet and calm Benny with the kitten. Great video clip as are all of them.
Teresa is quite a person too. Great story and I look forward to more.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

OH MY goodness.......

~JarieLyn~ said...

I love the photo of the two squirrels in the tree. I just want to climb up there and cuddle them.

I thought the baby was a ferret. It's so sad it died, but it was well taken care of. It had a good little life span.

The kitten in the last photo is so adorable. Ah, I loved your story.

Maggie May said...

Aw..... I do love to see the animal photos and I'm glad that the little raccoons have done so well. Lovely cats and that poor little squirrel..........
Superb photos.

blunoz said...

Thanks for the update and the great photos. The first photo of Benny on the dock with the sun's reflection in the water is amazing. The raccoons are still cute as ever.

NJ said...

Wow I can't believe that she was able to get the quills out. Having had a couple of dogs that had encounters with porcupines I know it isn't easy. At least it wasn't with my dogs and we always ended up going to the vet.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of Benny as a mama, but clearly he has a nurturing streak alive and well inside of him.
The raccoons look very healthy, thanks to Theresa's excellent care. I would have never guessed squirrel, although I suppose Hailey did look like a baby rodent.
Luca is a pretty kitty.

Clowncar said...

Benny taking care of that kitty is priceless. What a gentle guy.

steviewren said...

Hilary, you guys had one heck of a vacation. I feel relaxed looking at your photos beside the lake. Sweet pictures of all the animals.

Leah J. Utas said...

What a beautiful story. Oh the whole, that was some lucky squirrel.

Thumbelina said...

Awww beautiful photos. I thought Hailey the Squirrel was a premature puppy. Very sad but at least you tried hard.

Beautifully told as always. Loved the videos too and of course, Benny and the kittens. Those kittens are too cute!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I love animals so much! Thank you for this post. I have racoons who come up on my back porch each night for left over cat food. We always feed too much so there will be some left for them. I have had all manner of suggestion of how to "get rid"of them, but we wouldn't dare...we don't try to tame them, we just enjoy them through the window or fromthe other end of the porche. God's creatures!! C

Hilary said...

Oh, I was so sad when the little one died.
What a sweet thing.
Loved all your pictures.

MaggieGem said...

What great photos and videos! Did not guess the baby squirrel, sad to see it had such a short life.

Tabor said...

I knew this was going to be a wonderful post when you mentioned your would later write about your interactions with the critters. The little squirrel reminds me of my youth when my collie dog brought me a hairless rabbit which I tried to nurture to health with milk from a baby doll bottle. He lived for many days, but got out of his box and disappeared in the house and was found dead days later...I should blog about that sometime ;-)

Louise said...

I was just going to be shocked if that squirrel lived. I'm shocked enough about the kittens. They cycle of life is hard, but the rewards when you see the triumphs! I think I would like waking up to a raccoon, but I know they can be terribly destructive. I'm hoping the neighbors will be nice.

Cloudia said...

I love your friends
and you HEART!!


Comfort Spiral

John Going Gently said...

lovely photo of the dog at sunset


Suldog said...

Excellent update on the coons. And some swell photos, as always.

Shammickite said...

Fascinating stuff! i was wondering what happened to the baby racoons, so now I know. Good to find that they are adapting to life in the wild. And at a cottage by the lake too.... lucky little so-and-sos.
Theresa must have the softest heart around, with all the good work she does with lost and abandoned animals. I have a great respect for her. Sorry to hear that the baby squirrel has died, so very little, but Mother Nature knows best.... most of the time!
And Benny...? He was obviously getting in touch with his feminine side....!

Andrea said...

What a bittersweet post - I'm smiling and crying at the same time. Your pictures tell such wonderful stories!

Hilary said...

* Thanks, Ellen. They're such vulnerable little things. Thank you for taking it to where it could get the best chance. It might be the place for those wild pups too, eh? :)

* Daryl, that's exactly the kind of thing Benny would love to do with my cats, but they won't have any of it so it turns into fighting instead. Skitty hisses his fool head off and Benny thinks they're playing. But he sure was sweet and gentle with the kittens.. and playful. And I agree with you totally. Theresa is an angel. :)

* DS, Theresa truly is wonderful. I'm not so sure I would have known what it was either had she not told me first. Her face looked like that of a hippo. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* MPM, it was quite a lovely time spent among good people and incredible critters. I love those raccoons and sure hope that they can make it through the winter on their own. The kittens, led by Benny were just a laugh a minute. I have my battle scars to prove it. They love climbing bare legs! Benny was as sweet as could be with them. Yup, it was hard to leave. :)

* Thanks, Protege and right back at you for that POTD. I was in great company. :) Thanks always for your thoughtful comments. I think you would have loved being amid these beautiful creatures. I hope the clips play when you try them again. Let me know. :)

* Thanks, Sue. You should have seen Benny when he first saw those kittens. I thought he'd wag his tail right off of his butt. He ran all over the cottage with them. This video caught him in a quiet moment. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* They're cute, eh Gary? :)

* Thanks so much Jarie-Lyn. I'm glad you liked the post. No need to climb up there with them. Just put out some food and they'll be there before too long. :)

* Thanks so much, Maggie May. I'm glad you enjoyed it all. Thanks always for your visit. :)

* Thank you, Kevin. I'm glad you're enjoying my raccoon updates. That first photo by the dock was one of Benny's rare sitting still moments. :)

* NJ, we were quite surprised too. Frank has had many times when it was a great ordeal to take care of dogs with similar encounters. We had visions of wrapping Spike up in a blanket and using the pliers to remove them but they came out quite easily. He might have been pretty hungry and well-distracted. We're also thinking that he may have got just the very tip of a sweeping tail so perhaps they weren't embedded too deeply. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Thanks, KC. Benny is full of surprises every day. Not all bad! ;) Thanks always for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

* Clowncar, hard to believe if you hadn't seen it for yourself, eh? ;)

* Thanks, Steviewren. I'm glad the post relaxed you. More to come in a few days so just keep your feet up until then. ;)

Hilary said...

* Thanks, Leah. She was. She stayed warm and fed - and very loved. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* Thanks Thumbelina. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I did think about you when I was photographing them - particularly Sambuca because I remembered the litter of kittens you posted about. The black ones are so difficult to photograph. Their features just disappear in shadow. Thanks always for the visit. :)

* Thanks so much, SHCW. It's nice to know you're providing food for your bandit friends. I can understand why people don't want them around. They can be very bold about making their way into your space. But if they do stay on their own turf, they sure are a delight to know. Thanks for looking out for yours. :)

* Thanks, Hilary. It was sad, yes. But quite expected. She had a very small chance of survival but thanks to Theresa, she at least had a more comfortable life and death. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Thanks Maggie Gem. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

* Tabor, I think you should indeed blog about that rabbit. It's so sweet that you tried to help it. Too bad it didn't work out. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Thanks, Louise. What pleases me so much about the kittens is that they're so normal. I knew that under Theresa's fine care they'd be healthy. I had no idea about how their instincts would make them absolutely regular cats. I do realize that it's instinct but you'd thing some things were taught from mother feline to kittens. And like you might hear Theresa say in the video, they never got the pawing and licking like Benny was giving Sambuca. They missed out on some things, but are so incredibly well-adjusted. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

* Aloha, Cloudia. Much appreciated. :)

* Thanks very much, John Grey. One of his rare quiet moments. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* Thanks very much, Suldog. Your kind comments always make me smile. :)

* Thanks, Shammie. Too funny - your comment about Benny. And I so have to agree with you about Theresa. She's a saint for devoting her time, energy and heart into helping these little sweeties. I think she's amazing. Thanks always for the visit. :)

* Andrea, thanks ever so much for your kind comments. I'm sorry for the tears, but I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

Anonymous said...

This is a really cool story of survival and the circle of life. I really enjoy the pictures and videos.

Sorry to hear about the baby squirrel- glad Theresa could be there to help out though.


Dianne said...

Benny is so sweet! he was really loving that kitty

Theresa is a saint! please tell her that she is a hero to me.

SandyCarlson said...

Thanks for giving that squirrel a shot at life. What effort, what love. I am touched. I love the way you cared for the masked dudes, too. They know they are loved. All these animals do.

Andrea said...

I've missed your photos, Hilary!! It's so nice to be back. All these creatures are just the cutest!! :)

Nancy said...

I just loved this post. You are all so wonderful. Kind, gentle and giving. These little critters are blessed to come in contact with such beautiful people.

Barbara Martin said...

The animal photos and videos were delightful. Racoons are quite the cuties when young.

Unknown said...

This is simply amazing and so are you.

Left you something on my post today so stop by and pick it up.

Kappa no He said...

Love animals! And look how motherly Bennie is putting his paw on the kitty to hold her down.

the Bag Lady said...


Sure hope the neighbouring cottagers understand about the racoons! They are so cute.

Poor little squirrel baby.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved this. But sad for the tiny squirrel. How amazing a tiny creature can pull so much on our hearts. Benny looks to be quite maternal :)!

Crabby McSlacker said...

Wow, what amazing pictures and video! And I'd never seen a baby squirrel before. Too bad it didn't survive, but at least it had a few days.

What a fascinating menagerie of critters!

Debbie said...

Those kittens are so adorable! Now, i can do without the raccoons I'm afraid:)

Bogey said...

It was so good to see how well taken care of Sugar and Spike (not to mention the other furry inhabitants of your houshold) have been taken care of. An aquaintence was recently relating how he deals with the invasion of wild life at his cottage. Let's just say he was politely warned of the legality of his actions. Some people are considerably less humane in their actions. As usual, your photos were very welcome indeed. Benny is quite the stand up guy. He deserves to be on the Letterman show. Nice work Hilary.

Jo said...

Goodness, those baby raccoons have grown, and they are still as cute as they ever were!

Poor baby squirrel. Well, it had a lot of love and attention, anyway.

JC said...

I was wondering what had become of Sugar and Spike. Thanks for the update. Great pictures.

Hilary said...

• Thanks, E. I'm always grateful for Theresa, myself. Thanks for your kind words. :)

• I will Dianne. She's a wonderful person. I'll give Ben a scratch behind the ears for you too. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Sandy. I'll pass your kind words along to Theresa, because it's she who has been looking after them all. She's given them a great start. Fingers crossed that they'll manage on their own through the winter. Thanks always for the visit. :)

• Thanks so much, Andrea. I've missed you too. Thanks for the kind words and best of luck to you on the Terry Fox run/walk. :)

• Thanks so much, Nancy. We feel equally blessed for getting to know them. I've never before touched a baby squirrel or had a raccoon run up to me like a puppy - or known orphaned kittens from their first few days of life. They are such a joy to know - if only for a brief time. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, Barbara. I'm glad you enjoyed them. Raccoons are indeed adorable little ones. They're beautiful when full grown too. Thank so much for stopping by. :)

• Thanks so much, GS. I'll be sure to add it to my award slideshow as soon as time permits. Much appreciated. :)

• Terrie, I know. He was so cute and gentle with them. Who knew that Benny wanted to be a mother? ;) Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks, Baggie. I hope they do too. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that a friendly raccoon is rabid. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• So true, Amy. For such tiny, little paws, Hailey sure tugged hard at our heartstrings. Thanks so much for the visit. I've missed you much! :)

* Thanks, Crabby. I hadn't seen one that young before either. She sure was a sweet little thing. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

* Aww Debbie. I'll bet that if you had seen them as teeny, tiny kits, and one sat on your foot and climbed your leg because it was cold and hungry, the raccoon would quickly become a favourite animal too. Probably. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks so much, Bogey. Your acquaintance's attitude is why we were not able to release Sugar and Spike back into my neigbourhood. It was too risky for their safety - particularly if they were going to trust and be comfy with people and dogs. One raccoon met an untimely death at the hands of an uncaring character a year or so ago. I didn't want a repeat of that, especially with one of these sweeties. Anyway, the credit all goes to Frank's sister Theresa who has put her heart and time into rehabilitating these two, and many others over the years. Thanks always for your visits. :)

• Agreed, Jo. That wee critter had the best chance as possible with Theresa. And the raccoons too. Let's hope they get by on their own this winter. :)

• Thanks, JC. If they continue to do well, I hope there will still be occasional updates over time. Thanks for the visit. :)

Grayquill said...

I have only known one animal lover in your catagory of animal lovers - it was my son's ex girl friend. She goes to the animal shelter just to visit the critters. It all seemed very odd to me. I guess its good someone loves the four legged creatures.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Another lovely post! Loved Bennie and the cats. My male Cocker Spaniel once "raised" a litter of four kittens whose mother died when they were about three days old (he did everything except the feeding, but alerted us when the babies were hungry.)

I recognized the baby squirrel, as I found one about that size several years ago. Unknowingly, I had live-trapped its mother and relocated her to the other side of the county, and the baby fell out of the nest searching for its next meal. I fed it at once, with an eye-dropper, then my daughter-in-law took custody and it lived in their home for several years.

Hilary said...

• Grayquill, I'm so grateful for the people who put so much time and heart into looking after these creatures. People like Theresa are one in a million. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm enjoying your blog posts. :)

• Thank you, Pat. That's so incredibly sweet that your male canine raised orphaned felines. That must have been quite the sight to see him mothering them. :) The squirrel.. that's a mistake that's often made when we relocate creatures. It rarely occurs to us that they might be leaving babies behind. I'm so glad that it worked out for this one. You and your daughter-in-law are gems. :)

Country Girl said...

That last shot is just absolutely priceless.

Hilary said...

Thanks, Kate. I'm glad you think so. He's a sweet little cuddler, isn't he? Thanks for stopping by. :)