I fell head over heels with a small, imperfect creature. He had difficulty walking as if his hips were giving out on him – yet, he commanded respect.
The warnings over getting too close or feeding this creature went unheeded by me. As I watched him hobble toward me, our friendship grew.
It started many years ago on a hot and humid Virginia day in August. This furry nocturnal friend was forced by thirst to come into our yard looking for water. I quickly put out fresh and cool water for him as well as our bird friends that we feed daily. I had an idea and bought a small bag of dog food. Placing it strategically so my furry friend could come under our fence again and eat. Well, it certainly caught on. Before long his whole family enjoyed nightly dog food and leftovers.
The more familiar this little guy became, the further he ventured toward our back door. Before long I would see his sweet face through our back screen door, looking for food. This gave me an idea, and I cooked two eggs for him. Nothing could have prepared for the hearty appetite he had for these eggs. This started years of trust and friendship. He recognized my voice and my smell.
My friend was a Raccoon. His beckoning brown eyes and bandit face showed up nightly for his eggs. I started putting his eggs right beside the back door. This was his food. He instinctively knew this food was for him and he would show up after it got dark to enjoy his main course for the evening. I kept my distance and respected him as a wild animal.
Before long, as the sun went down most evenings, I watched him hobble from under the fence to our back door. He was telling me he was ready to eat. He looked in the screen door as if to say – where is my food? I quickly cooked him two eggs and threw in a couple of pieces of bacon. He patiently waited. Before long I would notice that he would not leave if I went and sat beside him while he ate. I talked to him gently and had appropriately named him “Rocky”.
Rocky started responding to a “clucking” noise I made as I called him. I would also call him by name – and my husband was amazed to see Rocky show up. I was on the back porch and holding the food plate. He had a hard time using his front paws as his spine was out of line – and I didn’t mind at all. I eventually found a sturdier feeder for him that wouldn’t slide as he ate. I now ignored those who continued to warn me about Raccoons and Rabies. I would have been bitten a long time ago I told them.
My son visited as watched in disbelief as I called Rocky and he came for his dinner from under the fence. He ambled his way to me and his cooked eggs were ready. My son recorded Rocky eating from the plate I held as he ate. Rocky also licked my fingers that had grease or egg residue on them. Rocky somehow knew that my son would not harm him. After a couple of years, Rocky trusted me…and I trusted Rocky. I knew he would not harm me.
I can say that Rocky’s coat improved, it was shinier and healthier. His gait improved as well and his eyes were brighter. The protein in the eggs created a noticeable difference on him physically. I added butter quite a bit as well, peanut butter bread, left over grease, chicken, and dinner misc. loved by all the Raccoons. Raccoons also devoured sweets, chocolate, cookies, stale and left over cake, noodles, rice, bread, hamburger, peanuts – to mention a few.
When we went on vacation, my neighbor graciously continued with Rocky’s two eggs at night. I couldn’t imagine him showing up and his beloved dinner not be ready.
Before long my husband started looking forward to Rocky showing up. On several occasions two weeks went by and we didn’t see him. I was devastated and thought that he had passed…or gotten run over by a car. Then his visits picked up regularly again. We guessed it was mating season and Rocky had taken a break from us for a while. He ate his eggs with relish when he returned ! This was also true of many cold Virginia winter nights. The Raccoons went into the underground pipes to keep warm.
In the past several months, Rocky has slowed down. His eggs are still ready for him. The other Raccoons have followed suit now and meander onto our patio. I then started hearing Rocky growling as I held his food bowl. He may have been old but he stood his ground. The other Raccoons respected him and stayed away. He would look at me with his big beautiful brown eyes and finish eating. I would tell him, it’s OK Rocky, it’s OK. I called him a “sweet baby”.
For many nights I never saw Rocky. I continued to look out the back door and call him from our patio. I waited and had cooked eggs ready. I tried cooing to him to persuade him to come to me. I was heartbroken. With the dish empty to next morning, we realized that other Raccoons eventually ate them long after we went to bed
Then, one night a month or so ago Rocky showed up. He was much slower and I could tell it was an effort to get to our back porch. He came right up to me, looked into my eyes as if to convey his pain. By now Rocky had allowed me to rub the top of his sweet little head. I talked to him as I usually did while petting his head, but something was different. It were as though he came to say thank you and goodbye. He knew it was time. He ate only half of his eggs as he turned around heading back to the fence. He looked back at me and I had tears streaming down my face.
I have not seen my little friend since. I miss him. His little friends and relatives continue to come at night, but none are as special as Rocky. Each Raccoon has it’s own personality.
They are highly intelligent and agile animals.
Rocky was a sweet Raccoon. We communicated. We trusted one another. He made a difference in my life. This one is for you Rocky, my friend.