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A tale of raccoons and rabies

Working backward through our time in Canada and on the road from there to here, I arrive at the story of Wednesday night, the second of our two nights there. We had climbed a mountain on Wednesday and were quite tired and were all bedded down in our tent. We weren't so foolish as to have food in our tent, but nor were we bright enough to have stowed all the food in our Animal-Proof Vehicle.

On the picnic table we had left our water bottles standing. Between the tent and the car we had left (but with the lid on) our cooler, which contained milk, yoghurt, peaches, and bananas. Beside the picnic table (this is the one I'm most ashamed to confess) we had left, tied to a tree, our bag of trash.

So, CRASH goes the cooler lid! Rattle rattle! There is clearly a PROWLER out there. The ninja girl and I are the only ones awake, and she says to me, as the senior person up, "Will you go see what that is?" CRASH CRASH! So, not as brave as I ought to be, I wake up wakanomori and say that something or someone is outside by the cooler.

Brave Wakanomori goes out and curses. It's raccoons. Raccoons have opened up the cooler and are eating the peaches and bananas. He shouts at them some more. What was most disconcerting, he said, was how uninterested they were in him. It was like, "Oh, hello. Yes, we're just eating here. You enjoy your shouting and arm waving now, okay?" But at last he drives them away and puts the cooler in the car. (Van actually. I have to confess that it's a van. But there are six of us.)

And an hour later... noise of rustling. Noise of plastic. Noise of something falling. Wakanomori dashes out again--they are now investigating the trash bag, and this time they've brought reinforcements. He uses a folding chair like a lion tamer to drive them back while he unties the bag from the tree (during which time they HISS at him) and puts it in the car (I mean van).

Throughout the night, we could hear them rampaging around other people’s tents, coolers, etc.

The next morning we surveyed the damage. One of the water bottles had fallen under the picnic table. The cooler had a raccoon hand print on it. What about the yoghurts? Their foil tops seemed unpunctured. What about the milk? No sign that that carton had been tampered with.

So now comes the great train of… how many levels of clean have to be engaged in before I can guarantee that there are no RABIES anywhere. If I pick up the cooler with plastic gloves and wash it with boiling water and acid, and if I then wash my hands with antiviral soap (is there such a thing?)... then am I safe?

You have to understand that I have a pathological fear of rabies. I watched lots of Westerns as a kid. Mad dogs… certain death accompanied by agony and madness… yeah, pretty scary. I used to have nightmares about being bitten by cute kittens and getting rabies. For every good piece of news I learn (oh, the shots? Just a few in the arm, not 50 in the stomach), there’s a bad piece (you can get rabies from bats without even noticing you've been bitten).

Of course, there’s no guarantee that those raccoons even HAD rabies. They probably didn’t—they were behaving like perfectly normal raccoons, prowling around at night, not stumbling and blinking around during the day.

And none of us were bitten or scratched.

But who knows how long the evil rhabdovirus can linger around, evilly infectious? If the raccoons were rabid, and they licked the milk carton, and then we poured the milk on our cereal and ate it… would the virus survive our stomach acids?

Those are the thoughts of the rabies-o-phobe.

We did use the milk, by the way. And we didn’t get rabies shots. If I asked for rabies shots, I think the doctor would probably give me a course of valium instead. So, if you hear of a family of six contracting rabies, you’ll know how it happened. Well, if I get rabies, I’m going to ask to be put into an induced coma like Jeanna Giese, the only person known to have survived rabies without having gotten the shots… athough no one else on whom her treatment has subsequently been attempted has survived.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 26th, 2006 10:45 am (UTC)
LOL!! You're NOT going to get rabies. I PROMISE. LOL!!

And I'm saying this as someone who's HAD rabies shots, and narrowly avoided a second round when I was a kid. Both times, I had to actually get the &$%#@ bitten out of me by something.

And if you think raccoons are scary, you really should make the acquaintance of a really annoyed possum. ;)
Aug. 26th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
Male possums invading a tent during mating season to have their love fight! What fun!
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
Wow! You and deponti have actually been bitten by something! And actually had the shots! I stand in awe...

I read that spelunkers sometimes get prophylactic rabies shots because of the not-being-able-to-tell-if-you've-been-bitten-by-a-bat thing.

I still have to clean the cooler. It still has its little raccoon hand print on it.
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
Well, to be fair, I didn't require the entire series - just a week's worth - and I had them in my butt, not my stomach (don't know why that was - I was just 4 years old at the time). It was a preventative measure, mostly, because I was bitten in the face (near the brain) by a dog, and the owner wasn't sure when it last had its shots. The second time was when I was bitten by a wounded squirrel I was foolishly trying to help - it didn't understand, and was terrified, and tried biting off the tip of my index finger. It's head was sent away for testing, and it was not rabid.
Aug. 26th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
I read a story recently about a group of sea kayakers that took bear chests on a trip, not for bears, but for raccoons.

Once when I went camping with some Girl Guides I told them to take their rubbish into the tent with them at night if they weren't going to dump it. They thought this sounded gross, so left it in the vestibule, thinking it was safe because the vestibule was zipped up. Next morning their rubbish was strewn all over the campsite. Marauding DUCKS had crawled under the vestibule to get to the rubbish. There may have been possums involved as well, but I actually saw a duck in action.
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC)
Ha ha! wakanomori got a kick out of your story about the rampaging ducks. But fowl can be foul, can't they--I can remember some pretty agressive chickens I once had the misfortune to bother, and one of my daughters suffered the anger of a parent swan when she approached its cygnets...
Aug. 26th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
ROTFL.....very funny post.....baby kittens are very dangerous....still giggling. I've had a few run-ins with racoons too. They get angry when you have the gall to want your FOOD BACK!
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah, what's with that?! Next time I'm going down to the river and seize whatever it is they're washing there and see how THEY like it!
Aug. 26th, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC)
If you washed with acid, I don't think there'd be anything left of you...
I bet that there is a million in one chance that a rabid raccoon licked anything you may have touched.... But, the likelihood that YOUR raccoons
that were acting like all the other "normal" raccoons gave you rabies is
slim to none. In any case, if I do hear about your next ambulance trip to the ER, I'll know it wasn't the mushrooms this time.
Love yah!
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, just stay clear of me if I start foaming at the mouth... what's that you say? I do that normally? Hmmm.....
Aug. 26th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
As boy scouts we were always told to tie the trash and hang it over a tree branch suspended in mid-air. One time on a camping trip we woke up to see a bear trying to push a dumpster down the road.

Thanks for the Jeanna link
Thirty-seven days after the bite Giese developed symptoms of rabies.

Let's see...this was the 22nd...Wed. I take it....so let's see 37 days from August 22....about Sept 18th we should know something :/
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:18 pm (UTC)
My sister terrified me about bears and food. And you must have read A Walk in the Woods, right? By Bill Bryson? He was pretty funny on bears!

I'll have to post something extra normal around Sept 18 :-D
Aug. 26th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)
I think you are in danger only if they come in close physical contact with you (scratch ot bite) but don't quote me on that...
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
That's what I'm hoping--but if my posts get weird, you'll know why! (At least, that's the excuse I'll be using... "don't mind me--I have rabies.")
Aug. 27th, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
You da best!
You crazy giirl!!!! This is the funniest post I have ever read!!!

Can you take that car van thing, drive down the mountain and eat McDonalds in town??? That's my recommendation.

And funniest is a word, right?? Most funny? Anyway, stay safe and rabies free!
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
Re: You da best!

Funniest is definitely a word!

Actually, we did eat at McDonalds on our way home the next day. And then the following day, we had poutine, great Quebec comfort food:

french fries, covered with gravy and melted cheese!!! I kid you not--doesn't get much more comfort-food-ish than that, huh!
Aug. 27th, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
Re: You da best!
French fries
Melted cheese......

Poutine is now my new obsession. I am going to find it and I'm going to make it my own. My God in sweet heaven, that sounds goooooooooooood!!
Aug. 27th, 2006 06:28 am (UTC)
A trip made memorable...
What's a trip in the woods without a story to tell and an event to remember! Thank the racoons and sleep in peace - well let's see - Sep 18 is it - will wait to hear from you! :) But I do hear you on your worries about contamination you can't see! And the million injections!
Glad you had a good trip and will remember this when we go camping.
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
Re: A trip made memorable...
Yes: main lesson: store all food out of reach of animals! Although note what sufitom has to say about bears... I guess a bear might have tried pushing the van down the road! (But then, maybe bananas and peaches wouldn't have been so much of a lure for a bear... I hear they prefer candy bars...)
Aug. 27th, 2006 07:29 am (UTC)
enjoyed the post and the comments very much indeed...I also want to tell you, you WON'T get rabies, don't worry! I was bitten by a dog once as I was cycling and had to take rabies shots...but I think in your case the chances are remote...

However, if your next post goes, "Grrr...bark! bark! growl"...I might think I was wrong...
Aug. 27th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
Wow, and in India there are more rabid animals to worry about! Your comment and sin_agua's comment comforted me... actually I know I shouldn't worry, really, it's just leftover childhood terror :-)

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )



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