Godspeed, Little One

I have a heavy heart today. Last night, I had to say goodbye to her:

Venturing Out

Her name is Coco, and she is an 8-week-old raccoon baby. Here is our story.

For several months, I’d been bugging my husband about getting a puppy. Remember the Shiba Inu puppy webcam? I was obsessed with those little furballs. They made me want something fuzzy and cuddly to play with. But we knew how much work would be involved in taking care of a puppy, and neither one of us wanted to commit to that. But still, my heart yearned to nurture something. My sons are 12 and 6, and are pretty much past the cuddly stage. They’re all about sports, video games, swimming and bike riding, not snuggling up on the couch with Mom.

But one sunny Saturday morning in April, God felt my need and sent me a present. My husband was out on our deck working on some gardening, and the kids and I were inside playing with Legos. Hubby opened the door and whispered, “Come out here and see this!” Since our house backs up to a wooded area and creek, we’re used to seeing all kinds of wildlife in our backyard. We obliged, and he pointed up to one of the tall trees. “There’s a mama raccoon up there in a nest.” And indeed, he was right. We had no idea that raccoons build nests in trees, but they do! We watched for a few minutes and went back inside.

About five minutes later, hubby opened the door again and said, “Look, a baby raccoon!” In his hand was a tiny, dark animal about the size of my hand. He had heard her cries and went to the tree to investigate. At the base of the tree he found this tiny baby, only a couple of days old, not much fur, with her eyes still closed.

Baby2

 This was taken about a week later, but you get the idea.

Thank God my husband, an avid conservationist, had raised many a wild orphaned baby in his youth. He had a book about how to care for orphaned wild animals, and I also checked our local wildlife rescue center’s website as to what to do with this little one. (Of course, the wildlife center was closed, so we couldn’t call anyone.) The website instructed us to keep her warm in a box until dusk, and then to put her back under the tree so mama could come down and fetch her. So that’s what we did. A couple minutes later, hubby went outside to check on her, and saw a huge owl in one of the other trees, his sights set directly on the little one. Her cries had caught his attention, and he wasn’t going anywhere until he got his snack. Hubby tried to scare him away, but it was no use. Obviously we weren’t going to leave her out there to get killed, so we brought her back inside.

Even though I had the aforementioned yearning to take care of a little fuzzball, the thought of having to bottle feed this thing EVERY TWO HOURS (that’s what the book said), was a tad much for me. Thankfully, my stepson D agreed to do it for the night, until we could get to the wildlife rescue center in the morning. We bought some kitten formula and a tiny little bottle, and I took D over to his mom’s house.

Long story short, none of the rescue centers had any room for her, so hubby’s ex-wife and her husband (S and F) took on the job of her daily care and feeding (D had tired of it quickly). They took care of her for a few weeks, and we’d go visit her periodically. Her eyes opened at about 3 weeks, and she was growing like a weed. One weekend, they asked us to babysit while they were out of town. I excitedly agreed. I went out and bought toys, a litter box (I’d read you could litter train them), stuffed animals, a bottle, etc.

After spending two days with her, I called S and asked, “Did you REALLY think that you could leave her with me and actually get her back?” In those two short days, I’d fallen for her. Hard. She was the sweetest little animal I’d ever been around. She loved to be held and would often cuddle up and fall asleep on my shoulder. I was in heaven. S just laughed and told me she knew that would happen. She understood that while she and F liked her and enjoyed her, that I LOVED her. So I took over as caretaker.

In the middle of all this, I got an email from a woman at the wildlife rehab clinic saying that one of their baby raccoons had died, and that they now had a space for her. My initial thought was “Noooooooooo!” But I knew that we couldn’t keep her as a forever pet. She’s a wild animal and she needs to be in the wild. I knew they would teach her how to be a raccoon, get her in a group with others her age, and release her with that group. The success rate of those who are released in a group is much higher than for those released alone. But really, how on earth was I going to be able to say goodbye to this face?

Sweetest Face

Luckily I was able to keep her for a couple more weeks while they found a foster parent to take care of her until she could get the necessary shots and worming. I couldn’t be her foster parent because it’s actually illegal to keep raccoons in my state, unless you have a license. 

So I spent our last weeks together giving her as much love and attention as I possibly could. I watched her progress from barely being able to walk to running and climbing the stairs. She was so sweet, and loved everybody. But of course she loved me best. She was mine and I was hers. She had this wonderful smell, sweet like honey. She loved burying her wet little nose in my ear, gnawing on my knuckles,  and styling my hair with her wonderfully dexterous hands. We were like peas and carrots.

Yesterday we took her to the wildlife rehab clinic to drop her off and say our farewells. She will be fostered by a volunteer who also has a male baby raccoon. So she’ll have an instant brother and potential suitor. Once she gets her shots, she’ll go live at the clinic, where she’ll meet the rest of her group and learn how to live in the wild. We’ll be able to visit her periodically, and we will also be present at her release in late August or September.

I’m very sad and emotional today, but I know I’ve done the right thing, the best thing for her.

Take care, little Coco. Thank you for letting me be your Mama for a while. You’ll always be in my heart.

Bittersweet

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12 Comments

  1. Posted June 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to cry!

    I will miss hearing about her but know she is better off. Such a sweet little baby!

  2. Posted June 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm, let’s see, 12 and 6 and hunkering for another one. If you are following the previous pattern then I guess you are pregnant again?
    I think a kitten might be easier this time. (it is cute though)

  3. JenniferI
    Posted June 11, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful little baby! You are way stronger than me – They would have had to pry her from me 🙂

  4. Posted June 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I am now crying. No, for real.

  5. Posted June 13, 2009 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    You wouldn’t think a raccoon could be so freakin’ cute!

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted June 13, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      I know! She sure stole my heart!

  6. Posted June 15, 2009 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    What a cutie! We get raccoons here too … the babies are always adorable!

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted June 15, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Thanks! I had never seen a baby raccoon until then, which is unusual since we have so much wildlife running around back there. Baby foxes are wayyyyy cute 🙂

  7. Posted June 16, 2009 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    OH! I am all said now… damn cute baby animals…

  8. Honeybee
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Give Smart-Aleck and Surfer Boy hugs from me – just love you and your family. Tell the boys to always be good to their mama and to keep things out of their body cavities and they’ll go far and weigh less. Eye-popping good blog!

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      “they’ll go far and weigh less” That made me snort! You’re funny 🙂 Thanks for the compliments 🙂 Love you!

  9. Posted June 18, 2009 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Coco is adorable! I’m so glad you got to have that wonderful experience!
    “We were like peas and carrots.” I love that.


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  1. […] it a wonderful place for wildlife of all kind. We’ve seen groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, deer, raccoons, owls, hawks, tons of songbirds and other stuff I can’t remember right […]

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