The Hazards of Living in the "Not-Country"

>> Monday, May 24, 2010

In my last post, I shared with you my first, and for nearly a decade after that my only, telephone call to the police.  (Notice that I carefully did not say, "encounter" with the police.)

I really did think that it was quite something to say that my one and only telephone call to the police station involved a runaway cow.  I just wasn't sure whether that "something" was a good thing or a bad thing.  Certainly, it was distinctive.

Little did I know that my second ever telephone call to the police (and, so far, the last one I have ever had) would be even more unique, involving a racoon and a mayonnaise jar.

Yes.  A racoon, a mayonnaise jar, a feral cat trap, and a laughing dispatcher.

Here is what happened.  Basically, Darling Husband and I were running a shelter for feral cats.  Well, no, we weren't, but the cats seemed to think we were.  We had adopted two feral cats to live in our backyard and help us control the rodent population.  At first, they (the cats, not the rodents) were contained in a very large pen -- I think it may even have been bigger than Darling Husband's single dorm room at Penn State.  Then, after enough time went by, we released them into the backyard and left the pen there with the door open.  (They returned every night to sleep and use the litter for awhile before we took the pen away.  Yes, we cleaned litter for outdoor feral cats.  We wanted them to like us.)

Literally hours after we first let the two orange mousers out of their pen, we were watching them cavort around the yard in the fading sunlight.  As the moon rose, we counted one, two, three, four ... five??? sets of eyes in the backyard and the neighboring undeveloped land.  Our new friends had friends ... and lots of them.  As it turned out, there were a lot of feral cats living nearby, probably because there was an old woman with a lot of cats who used to live somewhere around here.  No one knows what happened to the cats after she passed away, but the neighbors all seemed to think her family just opened up the house door and let them all go.  With all the eyes we kept seeing in the backyard, I was beginning to think so too.

With the help of Alley Cat Allies, the wonderful organization that gave us Princess and Charlie, our two feral cats, we gradually began trapping, neutering, and returning those cats to the wild.  Surprisingly, none of them were totally wild, although I wouldn't have invited most of them over for dinner.  Those that were friendly enough (although clearly abandoned) went on to live in new homes with people thrilled to take care of them in all the domestic glory they could stand.  One of them went on to become the now-famous Houdini that wormed his way onto our queen-sized bed -- in the middle, thank you very much.

So ... as the years passed by, we accumulated one or two ... sets ... of traps to catch and transport feral cats to vets who will treat them. 

One day, while I was trying to use the internet to identify the strange long-legged, odd looking animal that ran through my backyard (it was a young coyote), not too long before the 12-point buck chased my husband out of the yard, our family of racoons came to try to steal the cat food from the back stoop. 

Did I mention that we live just outside the beltway in metropolitan DC?  No, I don't mean in the West Virginia or Gettysburg commuting corridors, either.  I mean, I could be downtown in 15 minutes.  I know, with all this wildlife, you just knew I lived in a big city.

Anyway, here comes the racoon family, and one of them is looking mighty strange.  He's following his family members, and wobbling and weaving a little ... because he has a mayonnaise jar stuck on his head.  Yes, he looks like a jar head -- literally.

As annoying as racoons are (and expensive, with all the cat food they eat), we were too much of softies to let this situation go.  So, Darling Husband got out the cat trap and set it for the racoon, baiting it with cat food.  The poor thing kept creeping in, trying to figure out how he could eat that food through the jar on his head.  For the life of me, I can't figure out how he was breathing, much less smelling anything.  He'd move forward, hit his jar head on something, and back away confused.  Anyway, Darling Husband got him trapped fairly quickly while I, once again, had the pleasure of calling the police to report an animal issue.

Fortunately for me, the county I live in now has an animal control division that they can send, but I still needed to talk to the dispatcher.  The conversation went something like this:

"I need some help with a racoon in my backyard."
"What's wrong with the racoon?"
"He has a mayonnaise jar stuck on his head."
"...  I'm sorry, he has a what?"
"A mayonnaise jar.  On his head."
"A mayonnaise jar?"
"Yes.  On his head."
"It's stuck there?"
"Well, that's about the strangest thing I've ever heard.  I'll call the animal control officer.  Do you want us to remove the animal?"
"I want to get the jar off its head before it suffocates or starves in my backyard."

According to the animal control officer when he finally arrived at our house, the dispatcher could hardly stop giggling when she radioed the call.  He, of course, was mildly amused at the diversion, but he wasn't sure it was going to live up to the yogurt cup that got stuck on a possum once....

Now, the animal control officer was a nice enough guy, but he was a little bit ... of ... a goofball, if you haven't already figured that out.  He didn't understand what we were trying to tell him when we said we had the racoon confined to an animal rescue trap.  He took a big hook-loop thing like the kind they use on Animal Cops or whatever that Animal Planet show is, and he tried to open the hatch to the trap so he could hook the racoon.  In the process, he managed to let the racoon go, and off into the woods it ran.  I don't know why he couldn't just take the trap we gave him, take the 'coon to some vet, shoot him full of drugs, and pry that jar off.  I'm figuring if the 'coon couldn't get it off himself, I don't know how one guy could do it with a control collar around the 'coon's neck.  But hey, I'm not the animal control expert.

And what was the officer's advice?  "He'll be back.  If so, give me a call.  If not, it probably means he broke the jar and got it off somehow."

Yea.  Sure.

To be a bit more fair to the officer, he did apologize for letting the 'coon go, and he blamed it on his unfamiliarity with the trap, thinking the door would only open a little bit.  He thought the trap was a neat idea, and he thanked us for trying it.  But still .... confined animal in small cage versus animal dangling from metal pole.  How would you prefer to deal with it? #justsayin'

Anyway, we never saw the 'coon again, so either he starved in the woods or he did manage to get the jar off.  I guess we'll never know.  Either way, I have now gone down in the police log books (again) as calling to report some pretty crazy animal antics.

Yep.  That's how my life rolls.


Dazee Dreamer May 24, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

omg. too hilarious. I hope that poor thing somehow got the jar off tho. :(

Doreen McGettigan May 24, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

Yes just too funny..poor raccoon I know they are such a pain but they are funny!

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