Buddy was a treasured family pet
Like most farm families, our three children grew up with a wide and continuing assortment of pets. Through the years there has been innumerable cats, several dogs, including a charming Peek-A-Poo, who was almost like having another child; she was so delightfully human-like in her antics. And, being a farm family, our youngsters occasionally adopted some rather unique pets, including baby goats, lambs, ponies, calves and rabbits. Some, as I remember, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about, such as the turtle that constantly got loose and became lost in the house for days at a time. Then there were the garter snakes that our oldest son had for a “brief” time.
But the most memorable pet was Buddy, the raccoon. Buddy was given to a friend when he was just a tiny baby. Buddy had been rescued from a floating log in a rain swollen river.
At first, Buddy was fed milk from a doll bottle. But it wasn’t long before he ate from a bowl. He enjoyed many different foods, but especially loved sweets. Bananas were a great favorite.
As Buddy grew, he firmly established his place in all of our hearts! His curiosity was enormous. Nothing new escaped his inspection. There was the evening I found little buttery coon tracks (which look very much like tiny handprints) all over the kitchen. Someone had forgotten to put the butter away!
Another time his curiosity got his head stuck in an empty jar. What a time we had getting him out of that.
We soon found out that the old tale that raccoons won’t eat unless they can wash their food is false. We learned that they have no salivary glands and if water is available, they moisten their food to make it easier to swallow. Buddy would very daintily dip the food in the water and carefully eat. He was far neater and fastidious than our own children.
The first time Buddy was offered a graham cracker, he carefully dipped it in his water bowl. When it disintegrated, he searched the bowl in complete bewilderment. However, he soon learned to eat crackers dry, and then get a drink of water.
Can you imagine a man in a tiny crawl-space under a house coming face-to face with a full-grown boar coon? A plumber had been called to our house to do some repair work in a small space under the house. He had to crawl under on his stomach and who should be there but Buddy! There was a loud thump when the startled plumber tried to move too quickly and struck his head on the pipes overhead.
Visitors to our home showed mixed reactions upon seeing a raccoon in the house. Some left rather hurriedly. One lady just kept sneaking sideways glances at him, not really believing what she saw. She never mentioned it; just seemed to be trying to convince herself that he really wasn’t there. Most people, though, after their initial shock, found Buddy very delightful.
One day when Buddy was about two years old, a neighbor boy came to visit bringing his dog. The dog frightened Buddy and in the ensuing scramble, Buddy bit the boy. Not badly, but enough to enforce our growing feeling that a full-grown male coon might no longer be an ideal pet. We knew he was not the least aggressive, but acted only in fright and self-defense. However, we could not bring ourselves to return him to the woods and fields. His tremendous curiosity and complete trust of humans would surely get him killed. Nor could we bring ourselves to cage him. We finally found a zoo with a large natural environment. It was in a very remote mountainous area in a large state park. Here he would have plenty of room, be safe and well cared for.
Even so, it was a very sad day when Buddy was taken to his new home. We all tried desperately to convince ourselves that this was the best for everyone, but the youngsters were not the only ones shedding tears that day.
We did go back a few times to visit our little masked friend. He seemed quite content in his new home, especially when several more raccoons were added to the area.
Several months later, someone broke into the enclosures, opening all the gates and releasing all the animals into the open reaches of the park. A few were recaptured, but not the raccoons. Buddy was at last in the real wild, on his own and I’m sure very capable of taking good care of himself. Even though, we still missed him and knew we could never see him again, we were all a little relieved and secretly happy that he had been allowed to return to his natural home.
In a sense he will always be with us. Whenever I see a wild raccoon, I hear his loving chirp again and see his bright little eyes as he bounds in endless mischief. Buddy will never be forgotten!
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