One fall day my dad brought home a baby raccoon. It was a present for my sister. We lived in Alaska at the time and had never seen one before. None of our friends had ever seen one either. I know some of you immediately said “yuck!” I recognize now that they are sort of pests “down south.” But not us, we squealed and played with him constantly.
He was awfully cute. He had little fingers that were always fiddling with things and made the cutest trilling sound. As the months passed he got bigger and bigger, he had run of the house and used a litter box. He could be a little grumpy and I preferred my sweet old dog. My sister never stopped loving and cuddling him though. They were buddies.
Ernie was a neighborhood curiosity. The kids LOVED to come meet him, pet him and give him things to fiddle around with, like I said, his hands were fascinating. It was because of this curiosity that our time with Ernie came to an end.
Our family had gone skiing for the day. Our rabbits comfy in their hutch, the cat, Ernie and the dog snuggled in the house and off we went. It took us all day, we left early in the morning and came back long after dark. When we came back that evening we found the rabbits dead, the cat hiding, the dog cowering and the raccoon snarling at everyone.
While we were gone, a couple neighborhood boys broke into our house. I learned from my friends what happened because word-of-mouth and bragging passed quickly. I will not share what what was told to me, it haunts me and I don’t want to pass that along to anyone else.
I will never forget my brother coming in the house holding his stiff bunny and crying. I will never forget my sister backing away from Ernie when he snarled at her. I will never forget the flash of anger on my normally gentle father’s face. “Where do they live?” My dad asked me when I reported what I had learned. “Show me!” We walked the two blocks, my fathers face clouded anger and his stride long and quick, I ran next to him to keep up. I will never forget standing under the streetlight on that dark night and pointing at the house.
“Go home now,” he commanded. Every ounce of me wanted to stay and watch what was going to happen. I had never seen my father so angry. But I was a good girl, so I turned and ran home.
Ernie was never the same again. He was mean and snarly and even a little scary. One evening my parents sat us down and said that they were going to send Ernie to an uncle of my dad’s who would release him back to the wild. They were very convincing. I think I was 25 when I realized what really happened to Ernie.
We did not let this stop us, many other pets inhabited our lives over the years. Ducks, chickens, turtles, hamsters, Nibbles the rabbit, Purdy the Parakeet, Emma the cat, Alfie and Gator big dogs you could wrap your arms around and dress in your clothes. So many family friends over the years.