DANCES WITH WORDS: Celia: another raccoon, another story

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Nick Wolochatiuk

In 1972, Gino Ferri, a fellow Toronto teacher, asked if we’d be willing to babysit Celia for a couple of weeks. Celia was his pet raccoon. Little did we know how much we were to learn about the behaviour of raccoons.

Like any two-year old, raccoons are ever curious, like to be kept busy and are always looking for snacks. To keep Celia occupied we’d give her a large cookie jar, filled with nuts, bolts, screws, pebbles and a few Cheerios. Just like Alice (the Credit River ‘coon I told you about last year), Celia had ever-busy hands. She was content to sit on the kitchen floor, the jar between her legs, her little hands exploring the contents of the jar until she was able to ferret out an occasional Cheerio. It looked as if her black mask prevented her from exploring with her eyes. Her paws made her ultra-dexterous, but she could not text because she did not have opposable thumbs.

Robbers and raccoons tend to be nocturnal. When we’d go to bed, Celia would sometimes rob us of our sleep. She’d shuffle onto our bed, sit on my chest, then use her dexterous little paws to pry open one of my eyelids, as if to ask, “Are you in there? Let’s play!”

In frustration, one night I locked Celia in the bathroom. Sometime later I was jolted awake by a clatter, a loud chatter, followed by the sound of a flush, then a ferocious scream, which would best be translated as “#!!XX&***$!!” (raccoon expletives). She had climbed the shelving above the toilet, slipped, fallen onto the toilet flush handle, then into the swirling waters of the toilet bowl.

Celia liked going for bike rides. Her hind legs would rest on my shoulders, her front legs wrapped around my head, her paws tending to obscure my vision. To the casual observer, it would look as if I was wearing a Davy Crockett hat.

Geographic location: Toronto, Credit River

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