Bandits at the door
It is a strange trick of the light that we feel so tired and sluggish in the winter. Out the door in the dark and probably coming home in the same lack of daylight. In this part of the world, the brightest spot in my day is the light I have shining above my indoor plants. I get to see that in the morning, turning the switch on as I leave home and reversing the process when I return in the evening. It is a cycle of relative darkness, which takes its toll on my energy levels.
At night, I easily fall asleep quite early. I am pretty much spent after a full day, after getting up early, to make the commute into the city. Once that pattern is established, it carries through for most days. I wake early and then feel very tired at night. The glow of artificial light, is not bright enough to emulate the sun.
All of this preamble is meant to explain why I was awake at 4:50am and heard a sound. I wondered if I should try to sleep for a little while longer, then I heard another sound. Kind of a thump-drag as if something was being moved, not very heavy and not very far. I was rationalizing if I should get out of bed and heard it again. Should I be alarmed? Was someone trying to break into our house? Finally the sound was right at the back door and I was up, out of bed waking my husband.
What was that? Where is it coming from? He was asking in a flash. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly our bodies can fill with chemicals which make us act. My husband flipped on the outside light and peered out at the back deck exclaiming, “there is something out there!” As I approached the door, more curious than afraid, I faced two raccoons who were not at all fazed by the bright light and people on the other side of the glass door.
We keep a couple of large recycling bins on our back deck and the one with single use plastics was tipped over. The pair was rummaging around in it. In all the years we have had this system, this has not happened. So somebody put something in there that smelled fantastic to the raccoons. Even as my husband tried to shoo away the masked invaders, they only retreated by a few feet. The bin had to come in the house, and even then the bandits could not accept that the food was not at hand. They could smell something.
I watched as the raccoons sniffed around the area at length. I was wide awake now. These fuzzy animals had made my decision for me. They are kind of cute, I thought, watching them for a while, not at all afraid of me. Although my husband thought they could not see me with a reflection on the glass from the light. But even so, one was touching the glass with its little hand, right at my face as I crouched on the floor, watching at their level.
Some might be completely bothered by the whole experience, but not me. I wonder what they smelled. Or do they think we are the house that feeds wild creatures? Do they notice that the crows and jays get peanuts from us every day? And the hummingbirds have a little feeder, always full of nectar. Maybe these two raccoons just figured they might as well give it a try. Being nocturnal, it is only logical they would give it a go in the dark of night. There were probably wondering, how long do we have to wait until they get up? Maybe they marvelled at the amount of effort it took to get our attention.
In the end, the would be bandits, reluctantly waddled off empty-handed. My husband complained they would be back and our recycling bin was not safe out on the deck anymore. I think it just needs to be emptied and cleaned out. Whomever of us is not washing out the plastic bags, needs to be more diligent. Or are the raccoons expecting to be treated like the birds who come to our yard? The recycling bin was just a ruse to get our attention. Time will tell.
There is no way my husband will add raccoons to the wild creature feeding list at our house. For some reason it is OK to feed the birds, but anything else is considered a pest. When I was watching the raccoons, who are very fluffy, like a puffed up cat, it occurred to me how strange it is that they are considered a menace. They are really adorable with their masked faces and little hands. And they behave a lot like a cat would in the same situation. Not afraid, looking you straight in the eye imploring you for the tasty treats which they know you have.
I’ve heard it all before. Raccoons are wild creatures who carry rabies. They are invaders, robbers, bandits. Nothing good can be said about them. Usually the word, ‘problem’ accompanies raccoons, not the word ‘cute’. raccoons and rats are often lumped into the same category of urban pests which must be dealt with by homeowners. Yet, if you ever look closely at a house cat, I often get an eerie feeling. If they were the size of their wild ancestors, they would eat you. They know it and you know it. But, we give a wide berth for the precious house cat.
I am not proposing we domesticate raccoons or rats. It is only an observation about all the little hairy creatures who live among us. Some are acceptable and some are not. The reasons for the distinctions are interesting. At this point in history, the racoon is not in fashion, they are in the ‘out’ crowd. It may not always be that way. Margaret Atwood describes a very desirable pet called a ‘rakunk’ in one of her dystopian novels, ‘Orx And Crake’. One never knows what the future holds.
I’m not wishing for an ongoing wake-up call from the raccoons. I cross my fingers that this was a one-time thing. The antics of the invaders are not personal, they are just trying to make it in the world. Under the increased cover of darkness, humans and raccoons are literally crossing paths a little more often! Hopefully their curiosity leads them to another house.
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