Friday, May 29, 2009

There She Goes

There are three words I string together with alarming regularity these days: "Where's my daughter?"This day started early and emotionally as we dropped her at the airport for a month-long trip to the Rockies. At 17, she's now a veteran of these western sojourns. Two years ago, she flew to Los Angeles alone for a three-week stay at UCLA. Her mother cried for hours. Somehow, she didn't seem to miss home that much. Last summer, she spent some time in the mountains exploring her belief system but was home more than she was away.This time, she's going to work at a summer camp in the mountains, and that surely should be a worthwhile experience.
I have to admit there was a lump in my throat as she walked through the security gates at the airport. I told my wife this might be a dress rehearsal for next year when she will have graduated from high school and presumably will be leaving for a distant university. This will be a month after I hit 50, so start preparing the IV valium right now.
She will be home for four days next month, then will turn around and head west again for hiking and camping in a different set of mountains. Then, she will be home for a couple of weeks before a trip to foreign soil in planned. It's shaping up to be a busy (and expensive) summer. She's growing as a person. There's more to education than books.
I don't know how the boyfriend feels about all this traveling, but I certainly know my wife and I have mixed feelings about it. Maybe all this absence is preparing us for what comes next.
Where's my daughter? I don't know. Over the next year and a half, we might find the answer to that question.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pressures and Pauses

This is simply a perfect way to spend a good chunk of Sunday afternoon.Life can be stressful for a 17-year-old mind and a power nap wth your kitty can really help. Things are spinning wildly in my daughter's world. Incomprehensibly, she is wearing a senior ring, which means we're slightly more than a year away from the unthinkable: my baby's departure from the family home. It seems the magntitude of all this is starting to seem real, particularly since so many of her friends are a year older and their absence from her daily life is imminent. This includes the boyfriend, who plans to attend a university just 70 miles away; but there's no question the dynamics of their relationship will be significantly altered.
Aside from being sad about the people in her life hitting life's highway while leaving her behind for now, she still has the pressure of her own final exams to endure. Aspiring to her own academic adventures, she nonetheless faces the prospect of college visits with trepidation and some resistence.
Before her senior year begins, her own plans will take her to distant compass points. An ambitious summer of church camp, wilderness adventures and a missionary trip to foreign soil lie ahead. There's a chance she's keeping herself busy just so she won't have the time or energy to contemplate what comes next.
I just hope we can hang onto to her a little longer.
She should stay home more. A girl needs her rest.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Developmental Milestones

Let's start with something we've learned from rescuing baby raccoons from the clutches of death a few weeks ago: When you have baby raccoons in your back yard, you can't enjoy a good book on your patio without uninvited help. I'm hoping as you read this you're thinking, "Good to know." I mean, I wish someone had told me. Sometimes, you learn life's little lessons the hard way. Glad to be of assistance.
We've settled into raccoon routine, but there has been a break in the monotony. Finally, they've started the transition to solid food. Just like any babies, they're wearing it as much as eating it, but their intake technique is improving by the day.The little guys have doubled in size since we brought them here and they seem to be actually cuter than they originally were. Their climbing skills have kind of reached a plateau, but that's okay. One milestone at a time, I suppose.
They're a little easier to tell apart now because one has a lighter-colored tail than the other. There are behavioral differences, too. One runs faster and the other just can't seem to stay away from the patio furniture.Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Am I right?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lots of Life in the Ol' Back Yard

My determination to write about something other than the raccoon caper led me to the back yard, which is supporting life abundantly. High in a tree there rests a dove, who is nesting with her eggs. Her piercing eye, highlighted by a blue halo, keeps careful watch on the goings on beneath her. In another corner, my garden seems to be thriving. The evidence suggests we will have a bumper crop of tomatoes. There are bell peppers, blackberries, cucumbers and cantaloupe on the way, too. That is if I can keep the raccoons out of there. It always comes back to the raccoons these days. The little furry friends achieved a major developmental milestone today. They climbed into a tree all by themselves. They worked hard, too. I can tell you that raccoons pant, raccoons yawn and raccoons like to sleep in trees. I can also tell you I was proud when they made it all the way up the trunk and into the limbs. One is quite obviously stronger than the other, and the smaller one actually fell out of the tree to the ground about six feet below. Undaunted and determined, it climbed all the way back to join its sibling.
I guess a rising raccoon lifts all varmints.
The only reason I bring this up is because they climbed the same tree in which the dove is living, but she never moved a feather. After all, this post is about her, not the raccons.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Family Affair

I keep thinking, "I have to post about something other than the raccoons." Then, I go somewhere, like to an after-work reception for out-of-town visitors and people just want to talk about the raccoons.
Then, something else preposterously cute happens popular demand: more baby raccoon photos.Yes, the dog has decided our little varmint visitors are not to be eaten. Indeed, for her they are a source of great amusement. To our amazement, she has been bringing toys and balls to them trying to convince them to play with her. While they don't grasp that concept, they are having a high time chasing her. The funniest part is, she lets them catch her. Since she's approximately thirty times their size, that's their only hope. They are gettting nimbler by the day, however. Oh, and maybe the most interesting development in this whole menagerie management escapade we have going on involves the family cat. Her disinterest in this whole enterprise has been steadfast until today. I guess she finally had to see what all the fuss is about, so she got out into the yard to hang back and observe.
To give you a little insight into the personality of our dog, the pink wading pool you see is hers. Once the temperature reaches about 70 degrees, she basically demands it. She lies flat in the pool and uses it to wash her toys. That's raccoon-like in a way, I guess. Maybe they're meant for each other.The dog and the cat are best friends, so who can blame the little black & white furball if she's jealous of this budding interspecies love affair?It appears there's plenty of infatuation to go around. Pretty soon, the raccoon kids be able to outrun the dog. At that point, we expect the cat to sit back smugly as if to say "Don't come cryin' to me."

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sibling Adventures, Raccoon Style

A significant portion of Mothers' Day has been spent in the back yard. The mother of my children continues to be endlessly entertained by the baby raccoons. She actually took a break from her coonfest to prepare lunch for her mother. After a nice midday family meal, the ladies retired to the patio to watch the animals romp in the back yard.
There are encouraging coon signs from one of our pair. It has found the shrubbery and likes to root around in there. This morning, it climbed into a bush and moments after this image was captured, fell quietly to sleep.
The sibling raccoon isn't quite so advanced. It followed the other into the bushes, but couldn't climb the branches. This youngster seems to enjoy life's finer things, like lawn furniture. The round-the-clock feedings are getting tiresome, but it's interesting to watch these little guys grow. The fun to trouble ratio is still tilted in their favor, so they may be around a little while longer.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Pet or Pest, Or In Between?

stand-up raccoon
Originally uploaded by Darrell
This image sums up the current relationship between my wife and the baby raccoons I rescued one week ago today. It's fair to say the the little critters have dominated our lives since last Friday. There have been round-the-clock feedings, visits from friends and neighbors and photo shoots. It's like having a baby in the house, except you know the commitment is short-term.
The reaction is across the board, too. Many people are urging us to find a way to keep them while more are strongly advising us to get rid of them as quickly as possible before we regret having them around.
Look at the little guy holding the hand that's feeding him! I suppose there's a real danger that eventually he will bite it.
Maybe we have received a sign from a higher power. The Great and Powerful Google has placed an ad on the top of the Daddy D page:
What are they trying to say?

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Reclining Raccoon

It was a hard day in the yard for the varmint babies, who earned a moment of rest.
They're getting stronger every day, thanks to the devoted care of their bottle feeder. They're learning how to walk and they're getting the concept of climbing. The only thng is, they like to climb on the person who has been feeding them.
Admittedly, it's kind of creepy, but it's cute, too. They know who has the food. They know her voice and they have begun to make little raccoon noises when they hear it.
While my wife is nurturing them, I am challenging them. Hey, if they can climb a leg, they can climb a tree. Right? So, I've been been trying to teach them to find their way up a trunk. Our research tells us it's too early for that, but at least one of these raccoons is special. I mean, there's some cosmic reason we have baby raccons. There must be. I stuck close, though, because they just aren't strong enough yet to reliably cling to the tree.
It's all perfectly silly and borderline irresponsible, but it's been fun. My wife is finally openly admitting that she's really enjoying caring for the baby raccoons.
The raccoon rescue is still all the rage. Today at work as I walked the halls at least four people asked about them. It's been a fun ride so far...kind of like hopping onto a foot on your way to being fed.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Forgotten Citizen

There is still rampant fascination about the raccoon babies, much to the disgust of one little green-eyed monster.
The family cat seems to be lost in the shuffle. While her canine counterpart continues to be curious about the raccoons, the cat will have none of it.
She won't go outside where they are. She won't even look at them. Her disinterest is epic.
I kind of like that about her. She's staying away from us, too...remaining aloof except when demanding food.
As for the babies, there's not much new to report. They're eating well and getting stronger. We tried a climbing lesson the other day, but it's still too soon. They're still around, not that the cat cares anything about it.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

The White Hot Spotlight of Celebrity

The baby raccoons are on the brink of going commercial. Legendary Shreveport photographer Neil Johnson saw them here or elsewhere on the web and got all charged up. Neil struck gold, (or, more accurately...purple) when he photographed a baby armadillo on a white backdrop. That session begat "Purple Felton," an image which has been used in myriad advertising media around town.
So, when Neil saw our raccoons, the lightbulb over his creative head came on and he thought, "friends for Felton!" So, he reached out and did his best not to beg us to bring the raccoons to his studio.
Happy to have our little friends immortalized by a professional, we packed them up and hauled them downtown, where they were forced into the light. For a raccoon, this can be disconcerting, particularly if he's only about three weeks old.
Neil gamely fired off a few frames, but was disappointed because his new masked models just aren't quite ready for prime time. They couldn't stand for more than a few seconds and their fur is still kind of spriggly.
So, Neil is trying not to beg us to hang onto them just a little longer so they can get where he wants them to be.
Maybe they need an agent.
Maybe my wife needs an agent. To say she has been the primary caregiver to the raccoons would be unfair. She's been the exclusive source of nutrition and research. Don't let her kid you, though. She's really into it. With the children hardly around anymore, she needs something to take care of. her background as a neonatal nurse seems to be helpful in this endeavor. Think about it: the first decade of her career was spent caring for struggling newborns. I recognize that look on her face.
Maybe she can be to the raccoons what Billy Ray Cyrus has been to his daughter Miley. I guess we should change their names from Cory and Topanga to Hannah and Montana.

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Coon Daddy and the Dog

It sounds like a 70's sitcom doesn't it? "Tonight, after an all new episode of Three's Company, a madcap comedy about those crazy Cajuns: Coon Daddy and the Dog!"
Instead it's just me, rescuer of baby raccoons, amusing myself on a soggy Sunday by letting my golden retriever check out the kids.The internet communities in which I dwell are abuzz about all of this. Some people have suggested these guys would be great in a stew. This led me to ask how big they have to get for us to wind up with stew and a couple of hats. Many more have warned us of the inherent dangers of hanging onto wild animals. The word "rabies" has been used a lot.
There's something about them, though. One of my favorite characters in modern literature, Detective Dave Robicheaux, has a pet raccoon. I know we have to let them go. The working plan is to take them to a petting zoo north of town. The folks there have agreed to raise the little guys and set them free. Right now, they're so cute and a source of such fascination that we simply haven't taken them yet.
Speaking of fascination, the dog is clearly showing a little more interest than she did at first. I'm convinced she's thinking something along the lines of "stew," too. But so far, she has resisted the canine urge to devour our vistors.
I'm not going to advocate any fate which has the potential to result in the little guys' imminent demise. I didn't save them to eat them or wear them.
They are getting stronger every day, and this includes their claws and teeth. My wife has been dutifully caring for them, but multiple bottle feedings daily is getting tiresome. I suspect once the work week wears on for a couple of days, it will be time to say so long. But you never know how these things go. The raccoon babies might be a hit. Coon Daddy and the Dog could get picked up for a 13-episode arc.

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It's Not Avian Flu, Is It?

We got to spend some quality time with The Happy Couple, which pleases us. When she's not grinding college classes or bonding with sorority sisters, our son's longtime love interest works fulltime at a specialty store.
She told us about the topic of a meeting called by her manager. It seems the boss wanted to discuss precautions made necessary by the spread of the "swan flu." At first, the staff thought they had misunderstood her. After all, this is the deep south where vowel sounds can often become ambiguous. But, she said it time and again, "Swan flu."
Apparently when people started snickering, she asked what was so funny. She was asked, "Are you saying 'swan flu?'" She said, "Yes. Isn't that what it is?"
I can't begin to tell you how simultaneously amusing and alarming this is. You know what this means, right? The manager was calling a big meeting to dispense wisdom, but her malapropism makes it abundantly obvious that she had not read a single word about the Swine Flu. She was just making up some crap based on something she heard.
I don't know whether to laugh or call the CDC.
I hope nothing catches on fire in the store. The workers might have to use a distinguisher. The good news is, the manager is a stickler for getting to work on time, so the staff uses good punctuation. I hope these little zingers aren't beyond your apprehension.
Still, just to be safe, stay away from swans until further notice.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Raccoon Boon

It's Day Two of the Raccoon Rescue and not suprisingly our little ringtail visitors have names. Happy Couple II and some visitors spent quality time with the furry refugees, doing the late-night bottle feeding. The group engaged in a spirited debate about whether to give them names and if so what names to give them. Somehow, they settled on Cory and Topanga. I couldn't tell you which one is which.
Nocturnal by nature, Cory and Topanga apparently had an active night in the kitty carrier which is their temporary home. In the morning light, we let them wallow around in the grass. As best they could with their developing legs, they tried to follow us around.
One is obviously sronger than the other. Interestingly, the "weaker" of the pair is the better eater.
It's not every day you see baby raccoons, so they're all the rage for now. The cat got all worked up about it, as you might imagine. The dog showed only a passing interest. A couple of sniffs, followed by a conclusion that she would not be allowed to eat them and they couldn't play with her, she just walked away.
The raccoons will get cuter by the day. I know at some point they must go away. The longer they stick around, the harder it will be to make that happen.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Babies Wearing Masks

Unexpectedly, we are caring for babies at our house. I stumbled across a pest control crew doing what they do, but they weren't dealing with rats or roaches. They were relocating some baby raccons. By "relocating," I mean they were going to take them somewhere and "control" the "pests." By "control," I mean something slightly more permanent. It's not a coincidence that another term to describe a pest control crew is "exterminators."
I just couldn't live with the idea that these fine professionals would lop off their little heads or something, so I made a snap decision. I had no idea what I would do with baby raccoons. I just knew I had to save their little lives. So, I took them home.
The family sprang into action, running off to the pet store to get tiny bottles and kitten food. Then, I went to the Facebook family for advice, posting a status update which said "I just rescued baby raccoons from certain death. Now what?" The reponse was immediate. There were many productive ideas. Here's what seems to be working out: a local petting zoo said they will take them, raise them and then release them. In fact, they are working with two raccoon babies now, and they said "What's two more?"
So, another day or so of bottle feeding and then the little masked refugees are off to the care of professionals. Here's hoping they keep their heads.

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