It was just after 8:30 on a low key Thursday evening. Libby was upstairs fast asleep, Justin was working late, and I had just pulled a pizza out of the oven. It was cooling on the stove top as I brought up the latest "American Idol" on DVR and settled in for what was shaping up to be a perfectly lovely evening spent cuddled up on the couch. It was much needed. The previous week had been a tad intense for the LaBar household. A backed-up and overflowing sewer pipe in the basement had brought on the headache Monday afternoon, and a teething, generally miserable baby had made sure that stress carried on straight through midweek. But for now, I could just relax and just breathe a bit as all was quiet.
And then, it wasn't.
I paused the DVR to listen closer to what sounded like ice falling off the roof. It was a thudding, rolling sound and after a few seconds, I knew what it was. Our ice maker has a tendency to back up every couple of months. It's a simple fix, and I headed in the kitchen to take care of it. I opened the freezer and started rooting around until...
There it was again. That weird sound. But now, with my head shoved inside, I realized it for sure wasn't coming from the freezer. It was coming from...behind me? I turned my head and stumbled back as my eyes landed on the source. There, a mere few feet away with only the glass of my kitchen/deck door separating us, was the biggest raccoon I've ever seen. It was on its hind legs (if that's what raccoons have?), its arms stretched high above its head, and banging on the door with its awful, teeny paw.
I lost my damn mind.
I raced into my dining room, where I frantically texted my next door neighbor and dear friend Renee.
So excitement. Much drama.
Renee called me instantly and assured me everything was going to be OK. From my spot cowering in the dining room, I respectfully disagreed. Renee and her (incredibly understanding) husband Paul offered to go out on their deck to shine lights and make noise to scare it off. I heard a muffled version of their attempts from my hiding spot but after a few minutes, it became evident the raccoon could not have cared less. At one point, it kind of moseyed to the top of the deck stairs like, "Alright! Alright! I'm out!" We were about to declare victory, until it turned around and resumed banging on my kitchen door. "I'm back, guys! Fooled you!"
"There's something wrong with that animal," Renee, back on the phone with me, said. "I think you should call someone."
Not wanting to be more alarmist than I already was (as a person who was actively hiding from an animal that had no way of gaining access to the inside of her home), I ran to my computer and Googled the non-emergency number for my local police. The woman who answered listened to my extended apology and explanation of what was going on and told me I needed to call 911.
I sighed. I really didn't want to do that. I could only imagine how hard the officers who fielded that call would roll their eyes. "You're telling me a RACCOON is OUTSIDE A HOUSE IN SUBURBAN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA? Like they are, all the time, every single night? CALL THE FEDS!"
But my scaredy-pants-ness got the best of me, and I made the call. The dispatcher who answered was super nice, and within minutes of hanging up with her, two officers were coming up my walkway. Again, I apologized profusely and directed them to the steps leading to my backyard.
I returned to my hiding spot but not before doing something I'm not entirely proud of. I'm going to have to ask you to give me a break here. I was scared. I wasn't thinking rationally. I have a BABY to protect for God's sake (see what I did there to make you feel bad and not judge me?). I went downstairs to the door that leads to the patio beneath the deck, and I made sure the door was locked. Because in my mind, this particular raccoon could open doors. And attack me in the face and menace my sleeping child. I, for one, did not want that, so yeah, I checked the locks. Go ahead and judge. But just know this: YOU WEREN'T THERE. (Though if you were, you probably would have mocked me to my face for this. Justifiably so. Sigh. I digress.)
I will admit I was not privy to all that happened next, as I was still hiding in the dining room. But both the police and Renee tell me the following went down: The officers came up my deck steps with their stick/noose thing and a garbage bag. The raccoon saw this, thought "Oh, heck no!" and flung itself off my deck onto the steep hill below.
Even in my distressed state, I died laughing when Renee sent this text.
I breathed a sigh of relief, until the officers came back to my front door and told me they had good news and bad news. The "good" news was that the raccoon wasn't rabid. It was, in fact, "very healthy" and "likely pregnant." The bad news was that it definitely lived under the shed in our backyard, as they'd watched it head straight for a burrowed hole near it right after its deck dive. It had likely been there for months.
"OK," I said. "Then what exactly made it attack the house tonight?"
"Probably the garbage on your deck," one officer said.
"There's no garbage on my deck!" I screeched indignantly. How dare he? I would never let garbage sit idly on my deck. Ugh! The nerve!
"Well, there's a bag with a bunch of garbage in it that the animal was eating, so, yeah, there is," the (extremely patient) officer said*.
*He was right. We had a get-together for Libby's baptism weeks prior, and put the garbage on the deck until we cleaned up at the end of the day. Closer inspection the day after the raccoon attack showed we'd missed one bag, and though the snow had covered it for a few weeks, it was now essentially an inviting buffet for the furry perpetrator.
Their best advice was to call someone to come and "get rid" of the raccoon. Which I have not done yet. I guess I just feel like it's been there for so long, and I never even knew it existed until it came looking for food somewhere I never typically leave any. Does that warrant a death sentence? (Plus, I'm already dealing with the cost of the aforementioned overflowing sewer pipe, and the expense of a raccoon hitman isn't exactly within budget.)
So I've (foolishly) decided to wait and see if it becomes a real problem before I do anything drastic (which, of course, I know it will). But it's not as if nothing came of it all. As Renee put it during one of her last texts to me that night: