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Rocky Raccoon - How an orphaned  wild baby Raccoon became a pet and then a wild animal once again

The cardboard box on the table seemed to have a life of its own. It rocked from side to side with a scuffling scraping sort of noise. Three year old Katie couldnít contain her excitement:  "Daddy, Daddy, open the box",  she shouted, jumping up and down and clapping her little hands.

Gingerly, I pulled up first one, and then the second flap on the top of the box. The noises stopped. I peered in and there were two little black eyes peering back out of a cute black and white face. I lifted Katie under her arms so she could see inside. There was a squeal of delight as she saw the little animal in the box: I want to hold it, she cried. Let me have the baby!  I wasnít sure this would be a good idea. This was a wild animal and it had only ever seen a human being once - and that had only been a few minutes earlier. †

The baby Raccoon had been found in a derelict building as it was being knocked down. Its Mother had made her escape as the demolition began, and was nowhere to be found. †

I reached down into the box and gently picked up the little animal, its tiny body trembling with fear. Not for long though. A baby bottle had already been filled and warmed. It took only a few seconds for the Raccoon to work out what the bottle was for. It sucked hungrily at the teat, its little paws gripping the bottle

 "Whatís his name Daddy?" Katie shrieked. The little Raccoon jumped and let go of the bottle for a moment. It certainly wasnít used to noisy children. We all looked at each other, and the answer seemed obvious. There was no discussion, and no other suggestions were made, he was to be forever known as Rocky Raccoon - after the Beatlesí song.

Rocky took to life in our home with enthusiasm, and quickly became a member of the family. Like us he had his likes and his dislikes. He particularly enjoyed eating Apple sauce out of a yellow plastic cereal bowl, but he didnít like corn flakes. A favourite game was chasing his new best friend Katie around the house.†(note: this was written a long time ago - hence the black and white photo. Kate is now grown up!)

Quickly, over just a few months, Rocky changed from a baby to an adult, and as he grew, his chasing game became a one sided affair. When Rocky was small Katie could easily escape. If he did catch up with her, she would climb onto a high stool and tease him. When he was bigger though, things were very different. He was soon able to run much faster than she could, and when he did catch her, he liked nothing more than a rough and tumble - complete with claws and teeth. It became obvious their relationship would have to end.

Rocky was a male and this was to be the reason he had to go. Baby Raccoons - like many animals, are very sweet, fluffy and soft with appealing black eyes and an inquisitive pointed noise that is always looking for something to sniff or explore. Big Raccoons - especially males, are less endearing. They are aggressive, rough and tough with strong jaws and very sharp teeth and claws.†Every evening Rocky would climb into his big wire cage for the night. When he became too rough, we waited until Katie had gone to sleep. Then we put his cage out in the garden - with the door open. For the first two mornings after doing this, he was still there, ready for a dayís food and fun. On the third morning he was gone.†We often looked through the bush around the house, under the Palm trees, in the tangled thorn bushes and around the big old Tamarind tree behind our garden. 

Every time we expected to see Rockyís face peering back, but we never did. 

© R. Attrill