Wild life = exciting activities vs Wildlife = undomesticated animals.
And sometimes they intersect in my life in the wilds of Massachusetts. For many years, living in New Haven, Connecticut, wildlife was the possum shuffling around the trash cans, the deer sprinting through the park or the occasional sighting of a golden boa wrapped around the neck of a teenager showing off. Then I transplanted to a quiet lane in a small town.
Helped by our preying cats, terrorized mice will sometimes find themselves plunked down in front of a TV. A porcupine ambled by our back deck as visitors lingered with a smoke. A wild turkey strutted across the front lawn. A frog, fresh from our goldfish pond, arrived in our front hall. Last week, a chipmunk took part in chase around and around (and around) our screened porch pursued by our Chocolate Lab and Lhasa Apso. However, none of our wildlife visitations are as memorable as what I’ve come to call “the night of the raccoons.”
Our 11 year old Sheltie, Sweetie, had developed canine dementia–basically doggie Alzheimer’s. Like those with the human variety, she would sometimes wake in the night, confused and anxious. The only way to get her settled down was for one of us to sit with her in the family room until she fell back asleep. This went on for months with many nights spent dozing in a recliner, waiting for her anxiety to recede and sleep to take over.
One night, she wanted to go outside before we settled in so I walked to our back slider doors and flipped on the porch light. If we didn’t keep her within sight, she was at risk for wandering off, also like humans, confused and disoriented.
As the light brought the porch into bright view, ten bandit masks looked up at me. A gang of raccons, all twice the size of our cats, overflowed the deck. Some peered out from under the step, some were pressed up against the slider glass, blinking into the glare. Then as if a leader had given a signal, they all turned and ambled off the deck, up the stone wall and into the woods, turning over night watch to me. As I settled into the recliner next to Sweetie that night, I wondered if the raccons had come before, keeping guard over our restless dog. Sweetie is gone. The gang never reappeared. But I was grateful that they shared my worries that night.
Sometimes wildlife is just life.