Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You Sir (Madam) Are No Davy Crockett!

Although I grew up in upstate New York spending my summers swimming, fishing and boating in a spring fed lake,  I am basically now a city girl.  I have lived in Los Angeles for almost 35 years and am pretty good about navigating the issues of a major international city.  Traffic, parking, crime, car chases, lines at Starbucks I can handle.  What I do not expect to handle is confronting wild life at my front door. 

A few months ago my son opened the front door to a skunk. The critter had moved into our neighborhood and apparently was the origin of the middle of the night smell which I thought was someone's espresso machine.  I heard the skunk sprayed one of our neighbor's dogs.  So far we have been lucky since our old Aussie mix has lived outside for his 14 1/2 years.  

Last night, however, our cockalier, Novella, who stays inside, went crazy barking at the front door  around 9 p.m.   My husband and I both looked out but no one was there.  After about a half hour of Novella's incessant yapping, I looked outside and saw what I first thought was our tabby cat.  Then I saw another larger animal.  I figured the skunk had returned and the cat was getting away.  So I turned on the light to discover a huge raccoon.  This raccoon was as big as, if not bigger than, Novella, who weighs about 25 pounds.  I yelled at it to scare it away and then another huge raccoon appeared.  And then a third, all as big as each other and running amok around the cat dishes.  I yelled again and banged on the window.  They moved away for a nanosecond and then came right back as bold as can be, all the while looking at me as if to say "What? What?".  Then I opened the door and tried to shoo them with a broom and they came right up to the broom and started to charge the front door.  I slammed the door and they started pounding their clawy paws on our door.  I felt like we were under siege by a local gang --fearless and bent on retaliating for any gesture we took against them.

Until now my experience with raccoons has been limited to the cartoon kind and the virtual kind.  These guys were not like the ones in Off the Mark and they certainly did not go away with a few clicks of a mouse like the ones chewing up your neighbors' crops in Farmville.  These guys were thugs who dared us to try to come after them.

Poor Novella was so spooked by the raccoon experience that she barked at regular intervals all night--about every 15 minutes--even though the marauders had moved on to scavenge other environs.  We put her in a room as far away from the front door as we could and she still barked and yapped every 15 minutes.  It was as if she could still smell them and was upset every time she re-experienced their presence.

Today, after getting suggestions from friends that included firearms, tanning and raccoon en papillote, I called the city to find out if they would do something about these critters.  Animal control left me a message that their trapping expert was out until tomorrow so I am hoping we get through tonight without any more raccoon drama.  I had visions of coming home tonight after dark and having the gang of 3 waiting for me at the front door, demanding food or other vigorish.

Instead I turned the corner to see first a city employee of some type in an unmarked car which gave me pause.  Had our neighbors from hell called the city about Novella's raccoon-induced barking fit last night?  Then I realized all the street lights were out--for blocks.  We are having a bad wind storm and I had already played dodge ball in my car with large branches or palm fronds on the way home.  I walked into the house to find my poor mother in law alone and disoriented in the pitch dark.  Luckily I had just bought some new flash lights this weekend at Costco (so I had a lot of them) and was able to give her one while I lit candles throughout the house.  

Raccoons and no electricity.  I felt a bit like a frontier woman who had no idea what to do in the frontier. How would I heat up dinner? Luckily the lights came back on in a half hour and I am reminded of how far we have come from the frontier as I threw my Whole Foods turkey meatloaf in the microwave.   And no, I am not interested in a raccoon coat or hat!

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