Spring=baby animals

As the animal birthing season will soon be upon us, spring is a good time to consider our urban wildlife. The small mammals that cohabit with us on the island of Montreal, and most cities in North America, have adapted very well to the conditions we have provided. We need to keep in mind that they were here first; it is we humans who have transformed the environment to suit our needs and wants.  We have taken the areas where the animals once made their homes and crowded them into virtual homelessness. They struggle to adapt and survive in what we have left them.

Their struggles to find homes is one of the concerns humans have when dealing with small city mammals:   they get into things – attics, garages, garbage cans, etc.  They are very good at doing so! There are, however, very specific things we can do to prevent this.  Spring is not the time of year to do it.

All buildings can be made animals proof, however, if you have any concern for either your building or the animals, you will do this between September and February – before or after the baby season. Once a mom has moved in and given birth, they need a few weeks before the kids are ready to move or be moved. To close up a building during this time could mean closing in animals that may get frantic and do more damage or die inside your building and the odour – you do not want!

For a good source of hints on what to do and when to do it: www.kywildlife.org/HumaneSolutions.html. This web site is a wealth of information about caring for our native wildlife. The Kentucky Center is professional in every way, working with veterinarians and universities to learn and share information about caring for wildlife.

It is absolutely essential that you do not live trap during the baby season. If you trap a mother, you condemn the litter she leaves behind to death by starvation – not a nice way to die. Some of these babies need their moms for as long as a year if they are to learn how to survive.

It is also essential NOT to assume that a litter of infants is orphaned and take them home to care for them. If you hear sounds and find a litter in a quiet place, it is important to realize that mom is probably out hunting for food and she will be back. She will be very upset to find her kits gone. These animals are as attached to their infants as humans are. They have feelings and suffer grief and pain, just as we do. They do go out during the day to find food, and at night also. They are moms and will do whatever they need to do to care for their babies.

If you think the litter is in jeopardy, it would be OK to put them in an open box and leave them for 24 hours. When the mother returns, she will probably remove them to a new home. The mother will return – unless she has been trapped or killed. Like any mother, she will care for her infants unless someone or something prevents it.

If the mother does not move them and they are still there the next day, you have two options: let them die, or take them in temporarily. If you do the humane thing, help is available. Check this website for immediate assistance: www.orphanedwildlifecare.com/raccooncare.htm. This is a comprehensive site available for raccoon care. Squirrels can be treated similarly. It would be preferable to leave other small creatures alone. Skunks spray even when very young. There are groups of people dedicated to helping each and all of our native wildlings.  Googling animal rehabilitators can help. The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) can put you in touch with your state or provincial rehabbers.

In my experience, tiny squirrels and raccoons can be cared for effectively and moved on to a rehab centre. It is best to do it as quickly as possible. Like any young animal, including humans, they need a stable environment in order to thrive. They also become very lovable very quickly. They are definitely not pets and must not be treated as pets. They need to be kept in a rehab environment that helps them maintain a sense of identity as the wild animal they are, with as little contact with humans and domestic animals as possible.

If you have difficulty finding help, message me and I will try to help you find a suitable placement.  I have a long list of websites that offer help.

Sometimes, however, there is just no help available. There is a huge need for rehabbers in every part of North America. If you are interested in rehabbing animals yourself, it requires training and licensing – differing in every locale. IWRC can put you in touch with the appropriate agencies if you do not find them on line.



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Help the wild orphans

This page has the purpose of offering assitance to those who may encounter raccoons, or other small wildlife, in Montreal.

I have access to websites and people who are dedicated to rescuing and nurturing this animals. When I had difficulty finding help for the two raccoon kits we rescued in 2010, I determined that I would try to find a way to offer help to others in this position.

Therefore, if you need assistance or would like a support person or information, email me and I will get back to you ASAP – usually within a few hours or, at worst, a day or two.


For the sake of the animals.

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Your fragrance hurts my brain

The chemicals in fragrance hit my brain like a glass of vodka does a ‘bad drunk’. These volatile chemicals affect my brain directly. They attach to receptors, reducing my ability to think, my coordination, and they change my mood. While ‘under the influence’ I cannot hear or speak properly. It may take me hours to recover. I may have trouble getting home. Twenty percent of the population suffers noticeably.  Many more would notice an improvement in health and mental ability if they stopped using fragrances, perfumes and artificial air fresheners.


The effect of perfume on my brain is immediate. I lose focus and balance. Or, I become angry. I don’t mean to. It is a direct reaction to the chemicals. I was interviewing a family close to a powder room with a commercial “air freshener”. After a short time, my eyes could not focus and my brain was foggy. I was struggling to continue. I asked that the “air freshener” be put outside. Fifteen minutes later, my brain and vision returned to normal.


But some toxins are unknown and odourless. At times, I find myself unable to comprehend the written word. I can read a sentence over and over unable to make sense of it. On the first occasion this occurred, I finally realized where the problem lay, left the building as quickly as possible, and, after a few minutes in fresh air I became clearheaded. It took me several years to realize how much chemicals affect my ability to understand both oral and written language. When the level in my body gets too high my brain turns off. I am like a “canary in the coal mine”. Teri James Bellis’ book, When the Brain Can’t Hear, helped a lot. At last, a doctor who understands!


These hypersensitive reactions are known to be caused by chemicals in the environment. In North America there are many thousands of environmentally poisoned people. Tomorrow, after an unexpected exposure or a build-up of toxins in your system, it could be you.


I was a hard-working professional in 2000, on the day I was poisoned. It was formaldehyde, a common chemical used to preserve dead bodies, or stop fungus in furnishings. This was in carpeting on a stair. It was brand new, and it stank. By the time I had walked up one flight, I felt as though I were going to collapse. A co-worker exclaimed, “You’re white as a sheet”. I left immediately, but the damage was done and will plague me the rest of my life. 


The Occupational Health Center had no idea what to do. I went twice. The second time, a doctor whose son had been poisoned by drywall chemicals when he renovated his home, suggested I continue to see a holistic chiropractor. He had been able to clear enough of the toxins for my brain to function better, for a while.

The effect of chemicals on the brain can be worse than on the body. The brain is clouded; thinking impaired. I was only just functioning. I had severe ups and downs. I did not realize it at first but a lot of things had changed. Language was severely handicapped. I was hypersensitive to loud noises. They made me angry. I had days when it was a struggle to get up. I was able to do very little and became depressed by my inability to function at my usual high energy level.


A friend suggested I try “detoxing”. The practitioner lived an hour away. Just getting there was exhausting. She gave me a handful of supplements and a horrible tasting drink. Then she announced, “Now we need to walk for half an hour”. Horrified, I said, “But I can hardly put one foot in front of the other!” But then added bravely, “Alright, one foot after another. I will just keep doing it”.  I was desperate. I wanted to be better, or die.


I survived that first treatment, and four more like it over the next three weeks. Came the fifth session, miraculously I had my energy back. I had the energy of a hyperactive ten year old. Now I understood how the children, with whom I was working, felt when told to “sit still”. I was striding through life again instead of dragging myself along. My brain worked better. Grace and joy seemed to pour into me until life was full again. I was elated.


But detoxing needs to be repeated. Every time I go into a place full of chemicals (any city and even some areas not in cities), I have to come home and take a detoxing bath. If the exposure has been heavy, I may need to do it again in the morning. My awareness of my energy level lets me know what I need to do.  I will never be able to stop detoxing.


I worry about all the others who climbed that stairway. How many of them had symptoms? How many are still suffering from that exposure? I am so grateful for a friend’s support all those rough years, otherwise I would never have learned what was wrong with me or how to regain my health.

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Amazing Grace

Yesterday I did something unique. I went to the memorial service of a woman whom I had never even heard of until I saw her picture in the obit section of the local paper. How often is a photo published of a lovely looking woman with a raccoon on her shoulder – 3-4 month old kit, firmly perched on her shoulder, leaning against her face?

The obit said little: dates and “Please join us…” She looked like someone I would have liked to have known. I joined them – and Grace now lives in my heart.

I hoped to meet some of her eight children, and to find out more about a woman whose children saw fit to portray, in public, with a raccoon.

I did explain to a daughter that I never knew her mom but felt called to celebrate her life because of the wonderful picture. The service, for this 82 year old, was attended by over 100 friends and relatives. It is worthy of note that only about 25% of the attenders had gray heads. Clearly, she was a woman who was young at heart, someone who maintained friendships with people of all ages.

The two daughters whom I met so briefly were beautiful women in full bloom. They were effervescent, friendly, a joy to observe as they greeted the arrivals. As I looked around at the crowd, I saw that most of them looked very interesting, many whom I would have liked to meet.

Grace had wonderful friends because she was, indeed, a wonderful person. The eulogy spoke of her many activities in her well-lived life, mainly striving to help those who were disadvantaged in our city – humans and other animals received her best possible support, in positive and life affirming ways.

Of course she had a sense of humour. That could be seen in the photo, a face with lines in all the right places. She was a lover – of all of life, reading, people and all animals, garage sales, bridge, music, laughter. She paid heed to all around her and worked for the righting of wrongs – refugees, prostitutes, abandoned animals received her good help. Porn theatres and abusive doctors were a different type of good work.

I missed out on knowing Grace in life but I shall continue to think of her, of who she was and the things she accomplished. She was a marvelous role model. Sometimes it is a very good thing to do something unique. I got to meet Grace and my life has been enriched by that meeting. Amazing Grace.

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The Dept. of Agriculture (circa 2009) issued a bulletin announcing the spraying for Spartina in Puget Sound. This bulletin focuses on the dangers of Spartina, but nowhere does it give us a clue to the dangers of the chemicals it plans to use.

One of those chemicals to be sprayed is glyphosate. According to the NJ Department of Health Right to Know fact sheet, the acute symptoms of exposure are irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, convulsions, and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Studies of farmers and others exposed to glyphosate herbicides have shown the exposure increases risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, miscarriage, and attention deficit disorder. Laboratory studies agree with these findings. These herbicides cause genetic damage in fish and frogs, resulting in abnormal development.

Studies have shown that contamination with glyphosate occurs in streams in both urban and rural areas. According to data compiled by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, glyphosate’s half-life can be as long as 174 days. This is the amount of time it takes for half of the glyphosate to breakdown after an application.

As a gardener, an exposure to glyphosate caused me almost a month of pain and exhaustion, a loss of income and a month unable to function at a reasonable energy level.

We all need to be aware of the dangers of toxic chemicals in our environment. These health effects must not be ignored. The chemicals drift into the water and into the air we breathe.

Why do we continue to allow the government to poison us at our expense. We the taxpayers pay the cost of the staff, the materials, and THE MASSIVE HEALTH COSTS of people falling ill and not realizing why.

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What/Who Do We Love?

As I scanned some and read some more deeply, through the May, 2013 issue of The Canadian Friend, this is the question that occurred to me.

I had just finished a novel in which several important issues came down to this question. One monk loved God more than the music; another loved, or was obsessed with (?), the music and seemed to have forgotten love of God, or love of the monastery or the other monks therein. It may have been ego that got between him and love. Love of self?

The Superintendent loved being right more than he loved/cared for the men who worked under him. The Chief Inspector loved the Inspector more than he loved, or needed, to be seen as right.

The way words were used was an important part of the story. Much of the on-going effort to find and maintain our unity in diversity, comes down to the words we each use and how we each define those words. Do we love the words more than we love each other? Do we allow words to get in the way of loving one another?

Back in the early 70’s, our dear Friend Deborah Haight, a Quaker by birth and heritage, was visiting Montreal MM. A few of us chose to take her off to the Botanical Gardens. As we sat in a conservatory that wintry day, talking with and listening to Deborah, I realized her words were certainly not ones I would use but the spirit was clearly the same. “I love to feel where the words come from.” (A quote from a 17th century native American.)

It is not easy to let go of our pre-conceived notions of the “right” words to express our sense of our religion or our non-religion: our theism, atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, or whatever other ism seems important to us, if any.

At that meeting with Deborah, I was strongly struck by the realization that the spirit was the same and, for me, the words did not matter. The important thing was to feel the spirit in the other. If people use words that might have bothered me, I am able to let go and, in instant translation, feel the spirit in which they use those words. “The letter killeth but the spirit giveth light.”

What do we love? Can we love the person and let them use the words they need? And recognize the spirit that is within each? Are words more important than persons?

Have you taken the time to know what it is you believe in your deepest self and be comfortable enough with it that you are not threatened when someone uses words you do not like or would not use? Can you love the spirit within you more than your ego? Do you need others to agree with you? To see the world your way?

Can you respect when the other has not yet been able to do that? Can we love the person and allow them their words? Can we meet one another at the level of the spirit that is within each and unites all? Are we able to live in that spirit “which delights to do no evil nor to avenge any wrong”?

Can you recognize that “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right” (book by Brad Hirschfield)?

What do you love?

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Raccoons in Montreal – Raton Laveur à Montréal

This page has the purpose of offering assistance to those who may encounter raccoons, or other small wildlife, in Montreal.

I have access to websites and people who are dedicated to rescuing and nurturing this animals. When I had difficulty finding help for the two raccoon kits we rescued last year, I determined that I would try to find a way to offer help to others in this position.

Therefore, if you need assistance or would like a support person or information, email me and I will et back to you ASAP – usually within a few hours or, at worst, a day or two.


For the sake of the animals.

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What We Learned from the Raccoons

Each one has a distinct personality

Gentle Frick survived: There were two baby raccoons (kits).  Frack was larger and more aggressive. He was a bit of a bully to his little brother. However, we left them, at 4 months of age, in the woods overnight, hoping we were giving them a taste of real raccoon life.

Frick survived and came back to the waiting tree. We never saw Frack again and fear he was killed. Frick was waiting, not the next day as we expected or the two days after that when we made special trips in hopes they would be waiting. But the next week, when we had almost given up hope, there he was on the branch.

Frick was vocal and Frack never made a sound, except to scream when Frick bit his ear too hard.  These guys wrestled just like any little animal. This is part of their bonding and of learning to deal with life. It is also good exercise.

Frick chirruped and chirped, sounding like a bird at times. He hummed as he walked, as though he were saying, “Hhhhhere I commmmme!” He purred as he sucked on Robin-mom’s arm. It seems he was weaned too quickly and needed to suck, which he did whenever allowed.

Every sound Frick made had meaning. When we arrived back at the waiting tree that night, he was up on the branch chittering at us: Where have you guys been? I’ve been waiting and waiting! I am SO glad to see you!!

He came out of the tree so fast he fell on Robin’s head and was grabbed in his arms and passed on to Dorothy-mom in the car. I tried to put him in a cage but he said, “NO WAY! I need to be held! I’ve had a rough week! Hold me. Cuddle me! Scratch my ears. Now scratch my head. Now tickle my tummy. Now hold me tightly and make me feel secure because you are mom and that is what I need mom to do. “

There was a shell-shocked glaze in his eyes, we realized once he was in the car. He was clearly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had almost-healed wounds from head to tail. It was obvious: he had been attacked and bitten-up by some vicious beast  – and he had survived!  He had not shown up at the waiting tree the other three times we had checked because he had been hiding out and healing – physically. It was another week before he sparkled again, before he had that mischievous little raccoon look in his eyes.

But, Frick, the gentle raccoon, had survived and the larger, more aggressive Frack never came home.

They LOVE challenges!

They delight in achieving their goals.

Frick and Frack not only told us what they needed, they told us what they WERE going to do. Keep us enclosed? We will do everything in our power to go where we want to go, see what we want to see. AND we want to go everywhere and see everything.

There were all manner of fragile things in the house and some of them were on top of the china cupboard. We thought we had that area barricaded. I went into the dining room and there was Frack looking down at me from the top of the cupboard.

The look in his eyes said it all: I LOVE challenges. You thought you could keep me down from here! Well, here I am!!! I am a successful little raccoon! Oh, that vase down there?? Well, it isn’t broken and neither is the antique stained glass door it just missed hitting. So, I am up here looking down at you – because I am a growing, competent raccoon!

They are determined

Barriers were only there to give them opportunities to show how determined they were to go where they wanted to go. We don’t want to stay in the kitchen anymore. We want to see the rest of the world. What is on the other side of that board? We will find a way.

To explore is to learn how to find food – and more

The cracks between the floor boards were cleaned out by these guys. They knew there might be food there, and probably there was! When we took them to the woods, the moss was lifted, stumps torn apart, rotten wood investigated. They knew where the food was.

But they also liked to explore pockets and any other enclosed space. They have to see what is where. They also liked to collect interesting objects, especially shiny ones or noisy ones. I caught Frick engaged in putting my cell phone behind a stack of clothes – such a treasure! Another morning, I caught him making a phone call. He enjoyed all those sounds!

No matter how hard I tried to prevent the pocket thievery, they were more determined to find mom’s treasures. The small tape measure that was in my left pocket has never re-surfaced. They hid that treasure well!

They want approval

They were trainable in some things, at least while we were watching. They were after all baby animals, learning about life and what was and was not acceptable to mom. They learned that “no” meant no. Stay off our lap while we are having a meal.  They did that with the help of a stern “No” and the hand signal for “down”.

But not at the cost of being who they are.  Like every small animal, they had to push their limits, try to do new things, seek out new places, overcome new challenges.

They enjoy cuddles, affection

They are social animals

As soon as I sat in the comfortable reading chair, I had two little guys on my lap. They wanted to be petted and cuddled, ears scratched, tummies tickled. Then they would go to sleep on my lap or right next to me, or on the back of the chair next to my neck and hair.

Hair reminds them of their natural mom; they wanted to be near hair.  They loved sleeping on the pillow at the top of our heads, as close as possible.  I washed the pillow cases daily. Robin’s beard was the absolute favourite. Thick and coarse, it must remind them of real raccoons. They never gave up looking for a nipple in there! And settled for a bottle.

They know how to ask for what they want

–      if I know how to pay attention

The first hint was the morning I went into the kitchen and these two guys were running – as much as two month old kits can – around and around the inside of their playpen. Their playpen was the bottom of a brand new composter. NOW, they told us, this is too small a space. We need more space. Let us out of here!!

So we opened the little door and they dashed out into a whole new world! What delight they took in exploring the kitchen with all manner of boxes and objects to inspect, with floor boards that had wonderful cracks to investigate.

We put a high board at each doorway and they explored happily within that space. When they got tired, they went home – in the little door to sleep in their basket or in their box, opened at the side to form a cave, or a ”hole in a tree”.

When the kitchen became too small, they knocked the barriers down and went out into the wider world of bedroom and living room. They had a blast exploring this new world.  Our home became more and more “raccoon-proofed”.

In his fourth month, becoming more independent, Frick decided a clothing shelf would make a good sleeping spot. He cleared the clothes off each night and I put them back each morning. I finally got the message and put the clothes elsewhere, leaving the shelf for the guy.

They loved going for walks

They loved going for walks in the fields and woods but needed the moms nearby. When going from place to place, they were so close on our heels, we would bump their noses. That did not deter them. They knew that was what they were meant to do – to stay safe they needed mom. As they got older, they went further away – just like human kids. – but still kept track of mom. 

They do what they are genetically programmed to do.

They have inherent good sense

One day we were in the country and we took them for an afternoon walk. They climbed some small trees but stuck close to the moms. Later in the day, I thought I would take them for another walk. I took one out of the car and sat him on the ground. As I got the other out, the first climbed back in. I tried again and Frack tried to “nip” me, telling me in no uncertain terms, he was NOT getting out of the car. “You can’t make me!”

I let them stay in the car, realizing they had an inherent sense of what a small raccoon should be doing at that time of day – coming on dusk is NOT a safe time for baby raccoons to be out in the woods. Predators abound. Their instincts were correct and they told their dumb mom, “No way!”

They are night creatures

Once they had free run of the house, nights became difficult for a while. They would be asleep. We would go to bed. As we settled in to sleep—-all of a sudden —-boppety, bop, bop would come a small critter. Over our bodies, over our head, no respect at all! Under the covers! A cold nose on our leg! Arghh!

Not both at the same time. One would bop around for a while and then there would be a quiet time. Then the other would wake up and bop around for a while. There was a memorable night when I stood up, turned on the light and shouted, “It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and I have not been to sleep yet!!!!”

Robin-mom fixed a door to keep them out of the bedroom.  As they got older, they settled into a schedule that suited all of us. We all went to bed about midnight and got up after 8 am. The guys usually slept in later. After all, they were growing kits!

They transform lives

How little we knew, on that cold May day, of the many ways in which these guys would impact our lives! How we would “raccoon proof” the house, learn about raccoons, toilet them, feed them organic goat’s milk, and grieve when they moved on to a transition farm that would prepare them to live in the wilds of southern Quebec.

We lost our hearts to these exquisitely beautiful creatures. We found the experience of living with them, one of the most rewarding of our lives. We learned from them. We became their moms. We loved them.

They gave us hard times, humorous times, sleepless times, joyful times, insightful times. They transformed our lives. They gave us unconditional trust, affection, and pure delight.

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Being Mom to Raccoons

We did not mean to do it. But sometimes things just do not go according to plan. Sometimes there is no plan. Sometimes you just go with what is happening and deal with it as well as possible – or so it seems at the time.

In May 2010, Robin was live trapping raccoons from the building in which his company has its offices. After trapping three adults and releasing them in wooded areas, he heard little noises in the wall of his office. A sewer camera was used to find the source and a hole cut through the wall so the two little kits could be rescued. He took them to the area where he had released the adults in hopes that a mother would return and care for them.

The next morning, after a freezing night with snow (8 May), we both went to see if the mom had returned. The kits were still in the box as Robin had left them. They were suffering from hypothermia. Only a finger would wiggle slightly when we touched them. We had a choice, as we looked at the two tiny creatures that had been rescued from inside an office wall.

Do we let them die or care for them? They may have been three weeks old; one did not have his eyes open yet. We, and his brother, would be the first living beings he saw when his eyes opened.

We held them in our hands to warm them and I rushed into a restaurant asking for “some warm milk for baby raccoons!” The manager immediately got up from his lunch and went into the kitchen, returning in very quickly with warm milk, “no charge”!

Using an eye dropper, we fed these little guys; one did not have its eyes open yet and each was about the size of the palm of our hand. Warmth and warm milk did the job and they started to be able to move. What to do? We named them Frick and Frack and took them home.  Our experience had begun.

We look at the experience of raising these guys as an honour and a privilege. They taught us so much.

Baby raccoons need to have their mom for most of the first year of their lives. There is a belief that their moms teach them things. Our experience has been that they know instinctively most of what they need. But they are small and vulnerable until they are most of a year old. They need protection.

We became “mom”. We fed them kitten replacement formula and, later, organic goat milk from a baby bottle. We cuddled them to give them comfort. We helped them with toileting. We gave them food, warmth and security. We did the things their mom would do – as well as two humans can.

It never occurred to us to put them in a cage.  They had a box with cloths in it for cosy comfort. They outgrew the box and we put them and their box in a “playpen”. When they outgrew their playpen, the bottom of a new composter, we gave them the run of the kitchen. They would go back in the playpen to sleep in their comfy basket. We would close the door on the composter at night and open it in the morning.

We kit-proofed the kitchen as they grew and when they outgrew the kitchen, we kit-proofed the rest of our three rooms.  This was not a small task. Months later, I still would find items that had been hidden so the guys would not break them. A few dishes were broken in their explorations but nothing important.

We learned a great deal from these determined, challenging and very sweet little guys. We miss them terribly. The first four months of a kit’s life is a quick lesson in child development. Watching them strive to achieve – over one barrier after another – the top of the china cabinet!! And looking down at me with an expression of sheer delight, “HAH, I DID it!!!”

And paying attention when they expressed their needs – for more space, for different food, for cuddles, a safe, comfortable napping place, a more raccoon type sleeping nest, rearranging a clothing shelf, time and again, until this human got the message – “this is MY sleeping shelf!”

We were “mom”. They followed us through woods and fields, just as they would have followed a raccoon mom, so close on our heels they kept getting bumped. We saw their instinctive searching for food, always alert to their surroundings, watching for trouble; going a short distance from “mom” but always aware of where to run for protection.  They gave us so many lessons!

Of course there was the night when I stood up and screamed, “It’s 3 am and I haven’t gotten any sleep yet!!!” They were at an age where they took turns sleeping and bopping across the bed, and whoever was in the bed, slipping under the covers and putting their cold noses on some part of “mom’s” anatomy. We blocked the bedroom for a while and later they settled down to sleeping midnight until about 9 am – just like the “moms”. Like most kids do!

But there were so many wonderful moments. I would sit and inspect their beautiful hands as they played/worked and as they slept on my lap. Those wonderful hands would get into everything – because that is their design. Full of nerve endings, the kits learned as much about their world through their hands as through their eyes.

Frick had a cough for a long time. We worried about it – and so did his brother. One day, playing in the living room, as I sat reading, Frick coughed and coughed. Then, as I watched in concern, Frack came over and sat down next to Frick, put his arm around his shoulders and looked right into his face, “Are you all right, little brother?”  I got tears in my eyes.

One early evening, out in the country, we had taken the guys for a walk. Later I thought another walk would be nice so I took one of them out of the car. He climbed back in as I tried to get the other one to come out. Frack became quite aggressive in saying “NO!” I let them stay in the car. After consideration, I realized it was getting dark and they KNEW! “This is not a good time for little raccoons to be outdoors!” was the message they were giving me.  Instinct counts for a great deal.

We learned to listen to our kits. They had much to teach us.

Only in retrospect did we realize this may not have been the best way to help two little guys who would inevitably be returned to the wild. We accepted from the beginning that we would return them to the wild. We believed they needed to grow up to be wild raccoons.

We knew from research that raccoons live only three years on average in the wild and 15-20 years in captivity. We still believed, and believe, it is better for them to have the life they are meant to have.  If we lived WAY in the country, we might have let them maintain our home as a base – a place from which they could go out into the woods and fields and come back until they transitioned themselves, or did not, into a fully wild life. We live in the city.

As they grew, we saw the instincts of a raccoon determining their behaviour: the need to explore their environment, to overcome every challenge, to seek food between the cracks in the floorboards, to wrestle with each other, learning how to live and grow – as raccoons.

Their development was similar to the development of human infants – but much faster!  By three or four months of age they were becoming teenagers. They wanted autonomy but they wanted the security of mom and home.

While they were learning to be raccoons, they were also learning to be house raccoons. They asked for more space. They asked for different food. They used the litter box. They came running when someone came home – just like a cat or dog would.

In our attempts to help them learn to be wild raccoons, we made the mistake, when they were about four months old, of leaving them in the woods overnight. We had left them in this woods, for just a few hours, a couple times – leaving them at 7 pm and picking them up at the same spot about 11pm. They were waiting up on the branch of a large tree – the “waiting tree”.

This time, we left them for 24 hours. When we went to pick them up – no kits! We were worried and went back the next afternoon.  We walked through the woods and called them. NO KITS! I went back the next day and waited and walked and called and searched. NO KITS. We were sad but hopeful. Maybe they met other raccoons and joined them, found a raccoon mom.

I went again the next day and spent most of the day, waiting and searching. No kits.

A week after we left them, we went back “one more time”. There was one little raccoon on the branch telling us in no uncertain terms how annoyed he was, but very glad to see us. He was in such a hurry, this sure-footed creature fell about 6 feet onto Rob’s head. Sweet, gentle Frick came back.

Once in the car: no way he was going in a cage. Frick needed a lap and he would have a lap! In the dim light of the car, I could see the lack of sparkle in his eyes. He looked shell-shocked. I could feel wounds all down his back. He had been bitten from head to tail. The physical wounds were almost healed.

Clearly, he had been holed up somewhere, healing. Instinct told him how to survive. But experience had taught him to come back to the “waiting tree” to find his “moms”. He insisted on being held. He wanted his ears scratched, his tummy tickled. He wanted mom to give him security, safety, healing from the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was about a week before his sparkle came back. We loved him and he healed.

We have never seen Frack again. We went again and again to the “waiting tree” but no Frack. We were very sad. Did he get killed by the same creature who attacked Frick or did he run off with other raccoons. We would like to believe he is still alive out there – but we really doubt it.

What would have been the better thing to do? I thought we were only going to keep them until they were weaned and then we would pass them on to someone(s) who would carry on from there.

We never found the raccoon rescue group which we had thought existed. Researching on the internet, we phoned and left a message with what we hoped was that group. They phoned back and took personal info. The only result was a phone call from “the government” telling us we needed to go to the hospital to be checked for rabies. We felt abandoned and betrayed.

The kits were getting bigger and more active. They needed to have room to move. We had only three rooms and a small backyard. And a neighbour who went ballistic when I took the kits outside to climb the big tree in our yard.

I watched them carefully because I did not want them to get out of the yard, did not want them to get hurt. I, also, did not want them to get into my flower and vegetable gardens. The neighbour brought us info on pest extermination.

We were increasingly concerned about the fate of these two guys. It is against the law to keep them in a home in Montreal. I was terrified someone would see them and grab them as I carried them between car and house. I would protect these little guys with my own body; they were my babies. They trusted us implicitly. We were their moms, their protectors.

Finally a friend gave me the name of someone she thought could help. We took them to a transition house in the burbs. A big cage – about 6 feet by 6 feet, with three levels and a ladder to climb, a sleeping hole – a wonderful raccoon cage.

They were used to more room and we still felt they needed real outdoor time. So, after about a week, we took them to the woods – with the resulting loss of Frack and the traumatic experience for Frick.

After Frick recovered at “home”, we took him back to the transition house. From there, he went to a farm in southern Quebec where he would winter over with other rescued raccoons of his age. In the spring they would be released in various areas which are considered as safe as possible.

Our two guys could have been in that transition house from the time they were weaned, had we known about it. They would not have become house pets. We would not have become so bonded to each other that I felt like a mom abandoning her child when I left him that last time. Three times, he chased after me, made himself into a pancake to slide under the fence, and tried to get in “his” car to go with “mom”. I finally had to ask someone to keep him in the cage until I got away. I wept.

We still miss those guys. We will never have that experience again. We do not feel it was the best thing for the kits. For us, it was a rich and incredibly rewarding experience. We watched two little guys develop into beautiful healthy teenagers. In four months, they tied themselves around our hearts. They were sweet and sassy, determined, challenging, and totally lovable.

I searched for a home in the country that I could afford, to no avail. It would have had to be isolated so I could have taken them to the country and let them come and go. They could have had a home base and a wild life.

We will not, however, do it the same way again. We had our monumental experience. We do not recommend it to others – unless you are in the deep country. We still believe that wild animals need to be allowed to live the way nature intends, even if they only live three years. We had those guys too long. We became too bonded to each other. It was not the best way to handle it but we were unable to find a better way. We did not let them die of hypothermia; perhaps that could be what nature intends. We did not let them starve. We did what we could.

We think of them every day. Frick and Frack live in our hearts and our daily hope for them, “Have a good raccoon life.” Wherever they are.

What I Learned from the Raccoons

Gentle Frick survived: The smaller, gentler of the two, Frick still has a sweet disposition in his transition home, even though Mom abandoned him.

They do what they are genetically programmed to do:. They looked for food, were aware of their surroundings, on guard and Frick had enough sense to hide until he healed enough to go to the “waiting tree”.

They LOVE challenges; they are determined: They delight in achieving their goals: The expression on Frack’s face when he made it to the top of the china cabinet said it all!

To explore is to learn how to find food. They have to investigate, open everything that is closed, see what is inside – and will work until they find a solution, a way in; no secret places for raccoons!

Each one has a distinct personality. Frack was the more aggressive but he never made a sound, unless Frick bit his ear too hard when they were wrestling. Frick was vocal; he chirped and chittered, purred and hummed, depending on his activity.  I could always hear him coming, “HMMMMere I come.”  When we found him on the waiting tree, he made noises we had never heard before! “Where have you been?  I’ve been waiting and waiting! I am SO glad to see you! Here I come! Catch me, mom!”

They want approval. They did learn to adhere to some behaviours – stay off our laps when we are eating was a big one. “NO” had meaning to them. When I was gone all day, Frick came running when I opened the door.  “Here I am! Lap time!” When it was time to go somewhere, “Come on, guys, let’s go!” would bring them out of whatever hiding place they had found.

But not at the cost of being who they are. They let us know when they needed more room to move, when they wanted to play longer, take a longer walk….

They enjoy cuddles, affection. Lap time happened every afternoon before naptime. They came for tummy tickles and ear scratches until they fell asleep on a lap, next to us on a comfy chair or behind a neck up on the high back of the chair. They liked to be next to hair.

They know how to ask for what they want – if we know how to pay attention. They showed us in their own ways and eventually we humans got the message.

I'm right here, mom! 22 September 2010

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From Heartsick to Healthy

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I was poisoned with formaldehyde in the fall of 1999. I walked up one flight of stairs which had just been carpeted that day. By the time I reached the top, a co-worker exclaimed, “You’re white as a sheet.” I felt as though I was going to collapse and held on to the reception desk for support. Knowing it was the odors in the stairwell which were the cause, I left this environment within a couple minutes. The damage, however, was done and will plague me the rest of my life.


A week later, I went to a wholistic chiropractor who cleared some of the chemicals from my body so I was able to function, however, not at the top level. Over the next four years, I had severe ups and downs.


I did not realize it at the time but a lot of things had changed. My ability to process language was severely handicapped. I was hypersensitive to loud noise and to sound in general. I had too many days when it was a struggle to get up and get things done. I was doing less and less and feeling worse and worse.


In 2002, I started a downhill slide to the point where getting off the sofa was a major undertaking.. Some days it took too much energy to turn the pages of a magazine. I felt that I had no life at all.


In the winter of 2004, I said to Connie on the phone, “Life isn’t worth living like this. She responded,, “Maybe we better try de-toxing.” So we arranged an appointment at her home.


Connie, a friend of five years at that time, lived almost an hour away. Just getting there was an energy drain. She gave me a handful of supplements and a horrible tasting drink. After I downed all that, she announced, “Now we need to walk for half an hour.”


I looked at her in horror and said, “But I can hardly put one foot in front of the other!” I gulped and added bravely, “But I will just keep doing it.”


I was desperate. I could not go on living like I had been. I truly wanted to be better or die. So I walked for that half hour. We each had a dog on leash with us – might as well walk the dogs too, right?  I could not do it. She ended up with both the dogs as I plodded slowly forward.


Then, the sauna: I have always hated heat. Even as a child, I had trouble coping with the heat of a Pennsylvania summer. So she adjusted the temperature so it was tolerable.


Well, I survived the first treatment and went back, over a period of two and a half weeks for four more sessions.


At the fifth session, when we went out to walk the dogs, I soon heard Connie saying, “I can’t keep up with you!”  I claimed it was the dog pulling me but the fact is that, by this last session, I must have had my energy back – without really noticing that it had happened!


My energy level was  akin to a hyperactive ten year old. I learned to understand how the children with whom I was working felt when told to “sit still.”  Over the next few months, I managed to loss 30 excess pounds which had been plaguing me for several years. When I was toxic, I could not lose weight.


Parts of my inner life began to heal. My brain worked better, I had a better sense of the spiritual and mystical, which I did not even realize were missing. I even recognized the moments when these important factors returned to me. It felt as though they were being poured into me from a large pitcher. That alone was a special experience.


I was healthy and able to do things. I was back to striding through life instead of dragging myself through the bare essentials. I was joyful!


However, de-toxing needs to be on-going. Whenever, I go out into the world full of chemicals, I have to come home and take a de-tox bath. If the exposure has been heavy, I may need to do it again in the morning. My awareness of my energy level lets me know what I need to do.


I have to pay close attention to what my body/mind needs. The effect of chemicals on the brain can be worse than on the body. The brain can be cloudy as it was for me before I saw the chiropractor. On the hour and a half trip to his office, Connie was driving; I could not have done it.


I needed a window open. I kept thinking, “I need the window open.” But I could not verbalize that thought. I could not get the words from brain to tongue. It was an interesting, and enlightening, experience. When we got back in the van to go home, the first thing I said was “Do you mind if I open the window?” WOW!


I will never be able to stop de-toxing. I am concerned for all those people who climbed that stairway that day. I wonder how many of them had symptoms. How many are still suffering from that exposure?


I consider myself very fortunate to have met Connie before I was poisoned and have her support me through those rough years. I would never have known what was wrong with me. I would have gone from doctor to doctor without finding help.


The Occupational Health Center had no idea what to do. I attended at the suggestion of the staff person who had seen my condition. I went twice and the second time, a physician, whose son had been poisoned by the chemicals in drywall as he renovated his home, suggested I continue with the wholistic chiropractor. He knew of no other way to help.





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