My pet raccoon…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved raccoons.  Don’t have the foggiest idea when this began, just know that from a very early age I would check out books from the library about them and constantly pester my parents about getting one for a pet.  May have had something to do with rumors that my dad had had one when he was young, but also I’d attribute it to Rascal, a non-fiction account about, yep, a boy and his pet raccoon.

Anyway, when I was about 13 or 14 I got my chance: a neighbor of my best friend growing up (Mike) had a litter of raccoons fall through his ceiling and the mother took off.  Mike and I each paid I think $50 for a kit (Mike shared the same fascination with raccoons); I selected a male and he took a female.  We had grand plans of mating them later on and selling the kits (though I don’t think it was particularly legal to own a wild raccoon in suburban Dallas).

I named him Kipper.  Again, don’t know why, perhaps because the name mimicked the chittering sounds raccoons make.  He stayed in the house until we (read: my dad) built a large cage for him in the backyard; it had a few thick branches/logs set up within so Kipper could climb and a small box/den set up in one of the corners so he could sleep during the days. After Kipper was released the cage would become home to a flight of doves my dad kept (I was never quite sure why he wanted those doves, either).

Kipper was a fun pet for a time – he was definitely unique in the neighborhood.  He would play with our spaniel, Three (her name’s another story), when he was young, much to the dog’s consternation, and he loved to ride on people’s shoulders.  We fed him dog food and bananas and, to appeal to his hunting instincts, we would occasionally dump 5 or 6 “feeder” goldfish in his half-barrel water dish.  He would perch on the rim of that plastic tub and put his paws in the water, grabbing those fish and chomping them down, his poofed ring-tail held straight out for balance.  I would spend afternoons petting him and carrying him through the house, but raccoons are not affectionate like dogs or even cats – he would sniff and occasionally lick my hand, but he was not the type of pet to pine for attention.

In the meantime, though, Mike’s female had bitten a friend of his and the friend’s parents worried about rabies, so his raccoon had to be put down to test for the disease (negative, of course).  I had Kipper for about a year or so, maybe two.  The beginning of the end came one night when I went out to feed him his supper.  When I entered the cage, Kipper darted down the branch from his den and attacked my leg – I mean he bit the shit out of my calf.  I still have the scar from those nasty canines.  I was able to shake him off and slip out the cage, but I was ready to get rid of him at that point.  My dad, however, held off on that decision until Kipper attacked him a couple nights later and bit him on the head.  We packed him up in my dad’s truck the next weekend and dad drove him out to a hunting lease, releasing him by a tank with a pile of dog food and a heap of bananas.  I try to imagine the disappointment he must have felt when he realized banana trees don’t exist in central Texas.  But I’m sure he lived a nice long life.

I’ve always figured Kipper’s aggressiveness came from his reaching sexual maturity, and obviously having no outlet for that.  But it’s also a lesson to me that wild animals should not be kept as pets, no matter how much love for the animal you might have.   I have fond memories of Kipper, but that night he bit me dominates them, sadly.

This past week a couple brought in a baby raccoon to my wife’s clinic – it had been attacked by dogs and had a broken jaw and leg.  I was able to go in and hold it for a bit – they had named it ‘Radar’ (I suppose that works) – and it brought back some memories of Kipper.  I was also able to introduce Radar to my older daughter, who now tells me that she loves raccoons.

Yeah, me too.

2 Responses to “My pet raccoon…”

  1. What a cute kid you were! You still look like that!

  2. What a terrific story and lesson regarding wild animals as pets. I love that you still have the photos. My son is doing a book report on racoons for his third grade class and asked me if anyone ever keeps racoons as pets. I know he will enjoy reading your story.

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