Sunday, June 11, 2006
Rescue Me
Explaining my absence is simple. Summer “break” provides moms with lots of summer and little “break.” And my workload reached a fevered pitch as an eight-month project reached fruition last week. I could leave it at that, but it wouldn’t embrace the entire truth.

Two weeks ago, I locked and loaded a touching animal rescue story into my upload window, the guts of the tale inspired by my anticipation of a little one being delivered all the way from Indiana. The article simply awaited an ending; an ending, I figured, the tiny six-week-old raccoon – and my camera – would provide, without a whole lot of effort from me.

Rehabbing an orphaned wild animal is an enormous task involving ‘round-the-clock feedings, cleanings and medical attention. With a raccoon, one also has to teach him to forage for food in the wild to prepare him for his eventual release. Beyond the physical demands and commitment of time, a rehabber faces the constant pull on her heartstrings as she tries to resist the temptation to totally domesticate whatever needy animal is temporarily under her charge.

Still, I imagined me and my little ‘coon spending hours at the pond and in the creek bed playing hide-and-seek with fish, nuts and berries as I acclimated him to his natural habitat. And, I hoped and prayed I would, eventually, experience the satisfaction rehabbers know when they encounter “their” animal in the wild and it looks at them without familiarity, going about it’s business as a wild animal. There is something both satisfying and magical about seeing first hand that, even when nature’s course is interrupted by the stupidity of human beings, it can be restored.

Human stupidity is what brought this little critter to me. A speeding motorist hit his mother and five siblings on Memorial Day weekend. The only survivor, he might not have made it at all had someone not witnessed the accident, scooped him up and brought him to me.

I fell in love the moment I peeked into the cardboard box in which he’d been delivered, the moment he scrambled into my arms, purring like a kitten. Unfortunately, upon inspection, it was cleared he’d not been spared contact with the speeding car and wouldn’t survive his injuries. We spent five hours together. I kept him warm and hydrated and he purred in my arms until his last breath. When he lost his struggle, I felt crushed. And mad: mad at human beings, so busy with their weekend plans, they could neither slow down nor stop for a mother raccoon crossing the road with her babies. And, however irrational, mad at myself for my inability to stop the acceleration of death.

A few days later, still carrying the feeling of disappointment with both humanity, and myself, I awoke to two stray golden retrievers romping through our yard. I corralled them into our fenced area. They were big, sweet dogs. But, they stunk to high heaven, their fur was matted and filthy and their collars dug dangerously into their necks. Their tags directed me to animal control, which steered me towards their owner. He didn’t pick up his phone, so I drove to his house where I discovered the dogs’ dwelling – a fenced back yard they’d dug out of so many times I stopped counting the holes after 30 or so. I left a note on his door telling him where he could find his dogs.

Again, I was in no position to help these creatures. Their owner broke no laws. They were licensed, vaccinated and well fed. They were neglected by my standards, but not animal control’s. Just as I was preparing to bathe and groom them, their relieved owner arrived to fetch them. It was clear he loved his dogs, but felt overwhelmed by their needs. He said he was taking them to be groomed and trying to address his fence issue. I had no choice but to return them. But, again, I felt I’d failed.

So, these two failed rescue attempts left me both in a funk and in conflict about how to process them. I could blog about my disgust with most of humanity, but I worried it would appear insulting to my readers – all of whom, I assume, are of the human variety.

I could fault myself for being moved by the plight of animals more so than people, but I’ve too long accepted it as one of my eccentricities – and, frankly, it is something I am proud of. So, I’ve been waiting: waiting for a positive rescue experience to come along and reduce the sting of the last two or for a solution to my sense of failure to present itself.

Then yesterday, driving home from the park, both options occurred almost simultaneously. On a busy boulevard near our home, a mother duck attempted to marshal her eight babies through 40 mph traffic and into a nearby pond. We stopped and provided an escort. They reached the pond unscathed.

Not a block away, we happened upon several baby rabbits engaged in a similar journey. We blocked traffic until they made it safely across the road. My daughter and I wondered aloud whether we’d encounter yet another bunch of critters in need of assistance before pulling into our driveway. Fortunately, we didn’t, though we joked about encountering two litters of critters in a row seeming a little Twilight Zone-ish.

Once home, I made contact with a non-profit animal rehab center. The philosopher and I registered our country property with them as an official wildlife release site, promising to keep our forested area in its natural state and even feed transitioning wildlife when need be. I suspect my relationship with this organization will continue in other ways. I’m excited about the prospect – and have lost a bit of the helplessness remaining from my experience with our little raccoon.

[Note: The raccoon photo is not of “my” raccoon, but looks just like him. I took the duck and rabbit photos following their journey through suburbia.]
Rhonda Ruminated at 2:18 PM | Permalink |

12 Ruminations:

  • At 4:59 PM, Blogger Kim Ayres

    With these photos, Rhonda, I'm beginning to think you ought to be linked to Cute Overload

  • At 7:05 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite

    Rhonda, friend of all animals, I thank you on behalf of those who cannot speak. You're very special.

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Charlie

    Oil spills, chemicals, vehicles, guns.

    We all know about mans' inhumanity to man, but why do we have to take the innocent, helpless, and terrified animals with us?

  • At 2:30 AM, Blogger St Jude

    So few people respect their wildlife. They cause no end of harm, either intentionally or through ignorance. I spent many years working at a wildlife hospital and my home and garden were taken over most of the time by all manner of creatures being prepared for return into the wild. Spring would herald the arrival of babies, fox cubs, badger cubs, hedgehogs, and my kitchen would be taken over completely by baby birds. It was incredibly hard work. But it was also the best 'job' I've ever had.

  • At 6:17 AM, Blogger BloggingMone

    That little raccoon is soooo cute. It is a pitty the one you have got did not survive. Raccoons are not native German animals, but about twenty years ago a couple of them managed to escape from a zoo somewhere in the Rhine area. However, they never managed to find them and they got lots of offsring which are now living in the forests and parks. Sometimes they show up in people's houses, but as they are very rare, everyone likes them. I agree that most people are very thoughtless and may think "Well, it was JUST an anmial" when they drive carelessly. But I think it would help if people speak up and make their disgust public. I don't know if you have ever seen a picture of Hamburg, but it has a huge lake right in the middle of the town. It is big enough for small ferries and sailing boats and of course a lot of ducks are living there. there is a four lane road with a lot of traffinc going around the lake, which has little islands with grass to seperate the lanes. For some bizarre reason ducks love these islands and enjoy sitting there watching the traffic. and no matter how much traffic there is, EVERYONE will stop and let them pass, simply because a dead duck would cause a public uproar. It is just considered bad manners not to let them pass. Outside Hamburg, the world isn't that ideal unfortunately.
    I don't know if you are a soccer fan, but Hamburg is proud to be hosting the US soccer team. Most people are having flags on their cars, which were given away for free to support the teams staying in Hamburg during the world championship. At the moment my car is sporting a US flag, because they are having their first match today and I'll keep my fingers crossed for them!

  • At 6:36 AM, Blogger Attila The Mom

    Awwww. Poor babies. :-(

  • At 7:21 AM, Blogger Rhonda

    KIM: Thanks for the link. That's almost more cuteness than one person can handle :)

    RUTH: It takes one to know one - and thank you.

    ADMIRAL: We all know about mans' inhumanity to man, but why do we have to take the innocent, helpless, and terrified animals with us?

    I wish I had an answer to that one. Thank you for understanding.

    JUDE: A kindred spirit! I suspect I'll be volunteering at our wilflife center, too. I imagine badger and fox cubs must be the cutest things ever.

    BLOGGING MOM: Raccoons are generally disliked here because they invade attics and chimneys and the adults are nothing to mess with, so it's refreshing hearing they are cherished elsewhere. And, I love your duck story. I wish people were so considerate in my town.

    I'm not a soccer follower, but I know many here are diehard enthusiast and appreciate your support.

  • At 7:22 AM, Blogger Rhonda

    ATILLA: Thank you.

  • At 9:48 AM, Blogger Nikki

    I'm so sorry about your raccoon. You must have been very upset.

    I think it's really great that you have registered you land for release of wildlife. I don't have enough for that I'm afraid - but -
    last night, we has a deer in our back yard not to far away from our back door. Hubby and I just watched as he munched on our grass. He was beautiful. Later, we had possums and even a shy fox showed up down by the creek. I just love it.

  • At 3:23 PM, Blogger Miss Keeks

    Rhonda (and everyone else who commented), it's good to know there are decent people out there who care about animals. I feel sick every time I see an animal on the side of a road.

  • At 11:54 AM, Blogger Marie Jarrell

    I love mankind; it's people I can't stand. - Charles Schultz

    Ohmigod you are amazing Rhonda. You deserve a purple heart for your incredible sense of integrity and love with your attempt to help these little critters. You can't see it, but I'll bet there's a special place for you in the hall o'critter fame somewhere out/up there. That photo of the raccoon tugs at my heart. I think that animals are now trying to teach us something about them, us, the Earth. I felt so in tune with every word you wrote here...your posts are always so incredibly moving (but then I'm always queen of stating the obvious).

  • At 5:04 PM, Blogger 34quinn

    even though your little racoon buddy did not survive you should have a sence of peace in knowing you helped him to be less frightened and alone in his final moments. And that is a huge thing it Really is.