During the Hell of 2014, I wrote a series of mini adventures about a raccoon I named Gus. It served as a good distraction from everything going on, a way to lighten what was a very, very dark time in my life. I figured I would share his story with you.
Because I spent the majority of 2014 living in the hospital with my mother, my best friend Natalia house sat (and cat sat) during my absence. It is with her that our story begins:
The Adventures of Gus The Raccoon:
~A Windy Day~
One blistery spring day, Natalia came home to find my mother’s bedroom door wide open to the elements. Her first assumption was, of course, that someone had broken into the house. But I knew that on very windy days if that door wasn’t shut properly, it tended to blow open. She called me in a panic so I stayed on the phone with her until she tentatively scanned the house to make sure no one else was inside. A few hours later, I received a frantic phone call with Natalia on the other line speaking in tongues. Apparently, a raccoon had wandered into the house and when she closed mom’s door, she closed him in.
Now, I want you to image Natalia completely losing it when she sees Gus scurrying about Mom’s room. Natalia grew up in Lviv, Ukraine. I’m not certain she had ever seen a raccoon in the distance let alone up close and personal. To be fair, Gus hadn’t missed many meals. He was a formidable raccoon. She was unwittingly reenacting the scene where the main character is hysterical and someone has to slap them back into making sense. I managed to convince her, through a series of screaming conversations, to go downstairs and open the door again so the raccoon could go out the way he came in. I was at the hospital so I called my friend Colleen and dragged her out of bed to try to put a lid on the situation or to administer said slap if necessary. (We do what we must.) It was close to midnight when Natalia discovered Gus so by the time Colleen got involved it was quite late. Colleen decided to call the police. When she suggested this course of action, I laughed. I didn’t think there was a snowballs chance in hell they would respond to such a frivolous call. I was wrong. The cops showed up and did a clean sweep to make sure Gus was gone. He was. But there were casualties. The organic, artisan cookies my mother purchased at the store had sustained a heavy hit. Gus seemed to have a particular affinity for them. A bourgeois raccoon. Who woulda thunk it.
~More Cookies Please~
As the insanity of a very large wild raccoon frequenting the backyard became a reality, we thought it prudent to keep the cats in the house for a bit. But the weather was so nice, we felt a little guilty not letting them out at all. So we left the backdoor cracked open to allow them to go in and out.
I arrived later that afternoon and proceeded to assess the cat food situation. I came home every weekend from the hospital to replenish the supplies for the cats and pack a new set of clothes for the upcoming week. During Gus’ first foray into the house, he had raided the back room and had eaten basically everything he could get his grubby little hands on. I was fairly certain that we had cleaned up everything but when I went to the back room, I found the cookie package open and crumbs everywhere. It crossed my mind that Gus might be in the house. “Nah…that’s not likely. Maybe that’s just the remnants from last week.” I thought to myself “We leave that backdoor open all the time….nah he’s huge and the door is only open a little bit….nah can’t be….Can it?” So I put it out of my mind (after looking over my shoulder to see if he was there watching me) and went on about the business of the day.
Later that evening, I opened the back door to feed the stray cat, Spike, and the motion sensor light came on. Gus was sauntering up the hill. Not running, not upset. Just walking like he was waiting for dinner to arrive and now that it had, was coming for his share. He walked towards me and I said “Hey Gus. Stop. You don’t need to come any further.” He ignored me and continued to walk right up to me. So I backed up into the house. (Not that I was afraid or anything, but he IS a wild raccoon.) He walked over to the screen door I was standing behind, stood up on his hind legs and proceeded to give me the most pathetic look I had ever seen.
He said “Please may I have some more cookies?” I replied “I’m so sorry Gus but I just can’t feed you. You’re a wild raccoon. I just can’t go there with you. You have to leave.” He gave me an understanding nod, got back on all fours and left. It broke my heart to turn him away. He was such a cutie pie.
~Gus Rekindles A Friendship~
Along with her other responsibilities during my absence, Natalia fed Spike twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night. He lived in the little tv stand that resided directly outside of the backdoor. We kept a bed for him in one of the cubby holes and some food and warm milk in the other.
They say that raccoons are very smart and apparently Gus was no exception. He knew that we fed Spike every night so he was strategic in waiting for the food to be put out. It was suggested that Gus considered himself one of the Jones Clan and was therefore entitled to dinner. There may be some truth to this theory.
If Natalia left Spike’s food out and Spike wasn’t around or didn’t finish, Gus would come over to partake of the bounty. The few times I met him he seemed pleasant enough so when she told me that she thought he was too aggressive I asked her why? She proceeded to tell me this story:
During her daily chores, Natalia caught Gus eating out of Spike’s dish. She rattled on the screen door (from the inside, of course) in an attempt to scare Gus away. Unfazed, Gus continued chowing down on the delicious cat food until the dish was empty. At this point, he finally noticed that Natalia was trying to get his attention. (Because of her continuous door rattling. So, who is really at fault here?) He sauntered over to the screen door (he really does saunter – I think it’s because he is soooo fat.) and stands up on his hind legs to say “Is there anymore to eat? Or perhaps some cookies, please?” (As far as raccoons go, he is very polite.)
Now….Gus is really big. I’ll give you that. But if you are behind a enclosed metal screen door, how scared can you possibly be? It’s not like the raccoon can get you. Logic says, close the main door and go about your business, right? Not Natalia. No. Natalia decides she needs to scare him away from the door by doing what? Rattling on the screen door window. (Because that worked so well before.) So you know what Gus did? Gus came over to the door and scratched on it like a dog! HAAAA. I would have paid money to see the look on Natalia’s face when he did that. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable response to me, something akin to knocking on the door – raccoon style….but then again, maybe I’m a bit biased. After that, Natalia only fed Spike if he was waiting at the door.
~Just saying ‘Hello and…do you have any cookies?’~
Unbeknownst to me, the downstairs door was left open. I walked into the kitchen (UPSTAIRS) and there was Gus strolling out of the sunroom. I hollered – from being completely startled (not from fear or anything -hehe)
Gus looked at me and said ‘I came by to say hello…and to see if you had any of those delicious cookies but I can see that I have caught you a bit off guard so I will find my way back outside. Have a nice evening.’ (Like I said, very polite) If you could have seen the look on my cat Maki’s face when Gus walked past him you would have pee’d your pants. Imagine him staring at me, his mouth wide- open frozen in disbelief like a statue unsure of what he should do. Gus then waddled back downstairs and out of the house. The other cats seemed completely nonplussed.
Good ‘ole Gus. lol.
~Gus Says Goodbye~
I came home late one evening and pulled into the driveway. My headlights illuminated two bright dots in the backyard. It took me a moment to realize it was Gus during his evening stroll. So I got out of the car and headed over to him.
‘Hey Gus! What’s up?’ Gus paused for a moment and said. ‘I was just talking with the guys (he meant the cats who were all inexplicably hanging out with him) and they told me that you are moving.’
‘Yes, we are moving to France. I wish you could come but I think maybe you will be happier here.’ Gus seemed somewhat pensive. I continued, ‘I have a going away present for you. We will have a feast tonight!’
Gus, who is known to take things in stride, replied ‘I think a feast is a splendid idea. But will there be cookies?’
‘But of course! There will always be cookies.’
Farewell my friend.