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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.

Comments

asakiyume
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 :-)

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