The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 10, 2000


A confused raccoon catches a ride on the family dog

February's spring-like weather brought a confused raccoon out of its rock pile burrow at the edge of my yard. It was unlucky enough to be trawling for tidbits under the deck when I let the dog out for his morning ablutions. The raccoon took off for the trees with the 100-pound dog on its heels, barking wildly.

They reached the big oak at the same time. Facing off they hissed and barked and hissed. I'm yelling to my daughter, "Get my boots!"; to the dog, "Come, Toby!" Fool that I am, I took off, rope in hand and nightgown flapping around my knees.

The dog, though outweighing the raccoon five to one, knew better than to take on those bared teeth from the front. The raccoon knew its long-term safety depended on getting up the tree.

But every time the raccoon turned to the tree to climb, the dog bit its behind. Pulled down again, it would turn on the dog. Hiss, bark, hiss, bark! "Come, Toby, come!"

After three or four rounds of having its behind bitten, the raccoon took another tack. It sprang for the dog, grabbing with teeth and claws at the dog's back. Toby, squealing, spun like a tornado with the raccoon hanging from his shoulder. The image of this huge spinning dog with a raccoon riding on its shoulder will be vivid in my mind forever.

Frightened and losing his bearing, the dog spun into the tree, knocking himself silly but jarring the raccoon loose. The raccoon landed just far enough around the tree that it could climb without having its butt bitten. Up it went.

Toby the dog lost interest at once and went sniffing off for other adventures. I, on the other hand, could not let it go. I watched for the raccoon from every angle, every window, through an inch of snowfall for a day and a half. My daughter was sure it was dead at the top of the tree just out her bedroom window. "Gross."

Eventually the raccoon toddled off, leaving clear tracks back to the rock pile. Toby seemed none the worse for his adventure. No skin was broken, his rabies shots were up to date, and he was already on antibiotics for an ear infection. He is fine.

Have you seen any early spring visitors? Betsy Fell is still collecting sightings for inclusion in the wildlife database for the Open Space and Recreation Plan. I keep a running list on my refrigerator and periodically send it to Betsy at 21 Patten Lane, by email at She will welcome your stories, but the database just needs the animal name, date and locale. Keep watching.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito