Dogs, Racoons and Rural living
Living in a rural area as I do means living in the vicinity/proximity of wildlife. We have deer, turkeys, rats, raccoons, snakes and even a mountain lion has been sighted on occasion. My dogs for the most part stay reasonably close by but once they get the scent for something to chase -well the chase is on! At night time I have lights for them to wear. Super bright led lights. Sky my Australian Shepherd wears the red lights and Zulu the green lights so I can easily tell them apart when they are running in the dark.
Last Tuesday when I got home from work at about 11pm after a double shift I had plans to take the pups for a brief walk around our marina. Mostly just over to the beach but not too far from my dock.
We had barely started our walk when Zulu, my 48lb Catahoula took off and ran all the way up to the habour master’s house. I could see his green lights from his collar going crazy as if he was in a fight with something (wild animal) but without the noise from his adversary.
I ran to his aid. (This is the first time I have attempted running since my ankle tendon replacement surgery last July – and I mentally took note of this and mentally said a short prayer for both myself and the pup). I was terrified that he was being injured by his prey which I could only assume to be the most common of our night critters, the raccoon.
Anyone who has encountered the cute little raccoon up close knows that there cuteness is generally accompanied by a ferocious claw and a temperament that is not prone to surrender. They are vicious animals in the up close and personal! This does not mean that I wish harm on the raccoon -only that that their cuteness must be accompanied by a wariness for their viciousness.
Zulu by nature is a hunting/prey driven animal. He is almost 5 years old now and has become far more of a ‘home-body’ than even me. He used to be gone for hours in his hunting explorations but now he comes almost instantly when called, and stays closer to home than my Australian Shepherd (known for her desire to be invisibly underfoot – like in your blind-spot-step-on-the-poor-dog zone!!) Zulu was right in the middle of this audible altercation and not backing down and I was scared and running !
I came upon Zulu and his foe. They were in open space right under me. I was yelling at Zulu to drop the raccoon and simultaneously trying to kick the racoon – they were really right in the middle of the drive and literally under foot. Reason set in with me and I realised that the only sounds of distress were coming from the raccoon. Ideally I would have loved for both animals to walk away unharmed but in this circumstance I had to root for Zulu and pray he would be ok. He apprantly had the raccoon in a death grip and the two of them circled and circled through the brush and up and down a small crest of hill. The harbour masters’ son, Mark, heard our calls of distress -(mostly mine) but the dog’s & raccoon’s as well and came out with a shotgun in hand. He warned me that it would be loud but there was really nothing to be done until Zulu released the raccoon and that didn’t happen until Zulu felt he had won.
Mark yelled at Zulu to get out of the way and then put the raccoon out of his misery. I don’t think either Mark or myself had any pleasure or desire to see any living being having to be shot but as the circumstances warranted this deemed the only humane solution and I do thank Mark for being there and helping to end the altercation.
I was so grateful that my other dog Sky, my Australian Shepherd did not attempt to go to Zulu’s aid or get involved. After it was all said and done the three of us, Zulu, Sky & myself headed back home. Zulu, as if another day in the life and nothing had happened stopped to relieve himself in a matter of fact way. I personally was rather shaken up and in disbelief.
Ever since that day I have found a way to have the pups on leash after about 6 pm. It gets dark around 430 or 5 pm. I really don’t want to be in this situation with either of my dogs again and was an idiot for not having had them on leash at the time. Lights or not raccoons are probably our most dangerous foe in the immediate neighbourhood. Yes there is the mountain lion we have seen and the occasional coyote over the years but in all honesty the most viable threat in the immediate vicinity and regular appearance would be the raccoon. As sorry as I am to see a life lost in the situation (the raccoon’s) I remain grateful that it was small enough (about 10-15lbs) for Zulu to be the victor in this instance.
We live in a remote area where wildlife, humans and pets must find ways to coexist. The raccoons and the rats eat the trash in the outside trash cans and the dogs keep the boundaries defined. The humans remind the dogs that there are boundaries and the dogs remind the humans that there are wildlife. We all have a purpose and a meaning – for today I am just grateful Zulu was the winner and is an especially good rat hunter and keeping those rodents off the docks and at bay!