I feel I should preface this story by telling you that, despite incidents like the one I’m about to recount, my parents are determined to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary come this September.
My father is a notoriously mushy animal lover. He claims that if he could do it all over again, he’d design fighter jets for the Air Force, but I’m convinced he’d like to be Jane Goodall. When my mother met him, he had a pet turtle that lived in a pot near the stove. Things didn’t end well for the turtle, but let that not become representative of the fate of animals to come. Over the years he’s rescued mourning doves, sparrows, rabbits, and families of squirrels, all in addition to presiding over our own pack of terriers. But last week, my father’s dogged determination to save all creatures great and small nearly got him killed…by his wife and daughter.
It was just after 10:00PM on Wednesday night. Top Chef All-Stars was still recapping last week’s episode when my 4-year old Irish Terrier started whining and barking as if to warn us the end of the world was coming.
“She probably wants to go out,” my father said as he pulled on his snow boots, acting both martyr and chaperon.
Only minutes passed before he was dragging the barking dog back into the house.
“Aww! There’s a baby raccoon under the porch! And it’s crying. It must be hurt,” he cried.
I’ve never seen my mother move so fast.
“Leave it alone. LEAVE. IT. A. LONE! It might be Rabid. IT. MIGHT. BE. RABID.” It’s hard to know who was more vexed — the dog who wanted to make mincemeat out of the raccoon, or my mother who wanted to make mincemeat out of my father.
“Kathleen! Get me a box and the pick-up-stuff claw,” my father cried over the protestations of both the terrier and his wife.
“Kathleen! You will do no such thing. Come here! Tell your father he’s being an idiot. He won’t listen to me. Tell him to call animal control!”
“Dad,” I said calmly, “call animal control.”
“Oh, but it’s crying. Maybe it’s just separated from it’s mother. I can save it. Get me the drop cloth.”
“DAD! Leave it alone. We have dogs. It’s a raccoon. That’s a wild animal. Call animal control. It could be rabid.” I swear, it was like trying to negotiate with a deaf hostage taker who was demanding a get away car and amnesty but had turned off his hearing aid.
“Why don’t you call animal control. I’ll wait here with it.”
“No! You will stay away from it! It could be RABID,” my mother and I commanded, in a scary synchronization.
Soon my father was outside with the guy from animal control, searching the hedges for a potentially rabid raccoon with what amounted to two key-chain flashlights and a vaulter’s pole.
After 30 minutes, my father stomped snow and pine needles into the house. “It looks like the raccoon went back to its mother. I don’t think it was rabid. Just lost. Happy Ending!”
The raccoon did not go back to it’s mother. There was no happy ending.
12 hours later, the sun was up and my father, 2 men from animal control, and an armed policeman were in a stand off in our yard with a now certifiably crazed and rabid raccoon. The raccoon was exterminated.
“So, ummm, Kathleen, do you want a Davey Crocket hat to go with your fur coat?” he said as he came back into the house. “I have to go back out and do some paperwork with the police officer. Something to do with discharging his firearm.”
My mother and I turned to look at him, “I Told You So” dripping from our eyes like venom from the snake’s fangs.
“While you’re at it,” my mother hollared, “You can search the yard for raccoon poop. We don’t want the dogs eating it. And you know, in 50 years, one ‘I’m sorry, you were right’ wouldn’t kill you!”
“Well, I’ve made it this long without one, so you never know… it might.”