Keep Your Distance

Brooke here. No pictures this time, for what I hope are obvious reasons.

Yesterday morning, Brown calls me into the living room and points out what he thinks is a raccoon on the other side of our backyard fence. From twenty feet and a window away, it looks like a possum to me; it’s on its back and doing a little wiggle-dance in the mud. My first thought is that it’s doing the possum version of a bird taking a dirt bath.

We watch it from various windows–I finally accept it is a raccoon–and we gradually realize it’s dying. The raccoon is moving its forelegs but not its back legs: I think it’s been hit by a car and has dragged itself somewhere to die; Brown thinks it fell off of the roof and broke its back. And now we’re in the awkward situation where we realize one of us should do something with the business end of the shovel, but we are not business-end-of-shovel people.

Plus, dying wild animal. Keep your distance.

Brown ended up calling Animal Control, who asked Brown to describe what he saw and then sent someone out immediately. Like, Jimmy John’s freaky-fast. And that’s when I started to worry, because even though the raccoon was barely moving its back legs, it was still able to move them intermittently. Hello, warning sign of paralytic-stage rabies!

Zu is fully up-to-date on his vaccinations, and thanks to a crazy rainstorm, he hadn’t been loose in the yard that morning (see: woman in her pajamas, standing on the front porch, yelling at the dog on the other end of the retractable leash to hurry up and do his business, no it doesn’t matter where, because we are all about to drown, that’s why!). But I’ve called Animal Control for roaming dogs before, and it usually takes them at least thirty minutes to show. So they were taking this seriously, and now we were, too.

The Animal Control guy shows up, Brown takes him to see the raccoon, and the guy stops dead in his tracks.

Brown: “What do you think? Does it have rabies?”

Animal Control Officer: “I’m not allowed to comment, but is your dog up on its shots?”

And then the raccoon was taken away. I would be very surprised if it is still on this mortal coil of ours. Or if its head is still attached to its body.

Total guess on our part whether the animal had rabies or not. Unless Animal Control contacts us for a follow-up and property inspection, we might never know what was wrong with the raccoon. We also assume the officer is not allowed to comment until the tests come back, because he’s just fueling speculation and panic until then.


I know this blog paints a nice picture of a quaint do-it-yourselfer shack in the middle of the woods, but we’re smack in the middle of suburbia. We live within walking distance of a Target. There’s a major highway a few miles away, and an international airport some distance after that. We ain’t in the boonies out here, guys.

Read up. Be aware. And keep your distance.

(p.s.: And get your animals up-to-date on their shots. I personally know two good dogs that were put down because it was local “policy” to do so when there was even a chance they had come into contact with a carrier. It seems like a Dick Move of a policy but it’s really not, and it’s completely avoidable if you take care of your pets.)

5 thoughts on “Keep Your Distance

  1. We had a similar situation several years ago – a fox ran across our busy street in broad daylight (unusual, but not unheard of) right into our yard, while we were outside. Said fox ignored us completely. Walked to the back of the yard. To the pen where our four dogs (1 lab mix, 3 Australian Shepherds) were. Paced back and forth along the pen fence, eyeing the dogs. The dogs? They barked at first, then shut up and went to the fence at the back of the pen. The fox then chose a spot halfway between the pen and the road, sat down and glared at the dogs. I’m on the phone with the county sheriff since Animal Control doesn’t apparently answer their phone on the weekend. The dispatcher had no idea when, or even if, AC could be on-site. I asked what kind of legal trouble I might get into if I put the fox down with a shotgun (normally not allowed to discharge firearms where I live due to the proximity of neighbors). I was told in very clear terms that what I described sounded like a sick animal, and since it was clear that it had no intention of leaving the area, I was within my rights to use the means I had to dispatch it from a safe distance. That was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and likely one of the most humane. Oh, and I got to bag it and throw it away, too – since it never bit anything/anyone, AC wouldn’t be picking it up for testing.

  2. Yikes! Good observation, you two … but a really scary story. We have coyotes and foxes in our neighborhood – I never let the pups out unattended. So Glad Zu wasn’t at risk. Must have been horrible to watch. Thanks for the warnings. You guys do have some strange things happen, don’t you!?

    1. *Best informercial voice* “Would you like some Bahamian ones? I’ve got about 3 families of them I can send you! For the low, low price of Shipping And Handling!!!!”
      Seriously, they’re bigger than my Pomeranian, but according to what I can find online, the ones here are smaller than their northern cousins. Weirdly enough, The Bahamas hasn’t had any official rabies cases in forever. Yet they creep me out, glare at me from our trees, and make me worried about our dog and the neighbours’ cats. All great things from an invasive species, right?

  3. Aaaaaaack.

    We bought a rifle when something attacked our horses, then made sure we both were thoroughly educated in how to use it. (The Spouse got a badge as a scout, but we both took the riflery class so he could get a refresher. It was pretty awesome; the other person who’d registered for the long-and-expensive-prepaid-class didn’t show, so we got really, really in-depth lessons on just what we needed.)

    Thankfully, nothing else has harassed the horses. The only thing we’ve used the rifle on was a very, very sick possum. It was camped out in the barn, hissing and swiping at anything that got close to it. But it was clearly having neurological issues with movement and balance; stiff-legged wobbly motions every time it felt it had to move at all, and it couldn’t walk.

    I rigged up an emergency noose with a long thick wire and a pipe. I did not wish to touch that thing with a 10-ft pole, but I had a 10-ft pole, and I also didn’t want to kill it _inside_ my barn. We dragged the poor thing to an area where none of our domesticated animals go, onto a tarp, and stood back.

    The Spouse shot it by flashlight 😦 [Of COURSE it was late at night. Why would it be anything else?] Despite the conditions he managed to get it with one shot, and we’re glad, because the poor thing was already suffering and we didn’t want it to suffer any more. We left the body well-blocked-off until morning, in case Animal Control wanted to examine it. AC said they were sure it was distemper, since there was currently distemper going around in our county, and we should just bury it DEEP. So we did. With lots of cinder blocks over the area so nothing could dig it up.

    And were thankful that some of our animals are immune to small-animal distemper, and the rest were fully vaccinated.

    And were thankful we had the rifle on hand already, plus the training and target practice, so we could put the thing right out of its misery with minimal fuss.

    And were pretty nauseated for the next week or so.

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