Two nights ago, just past 11 pm, the dogs took off for parts unknown.
That was my fault.
Ed had taken their fence collars off because it was time for everyone to go to bed–go to bed, not light out for the territories, I thought we all agreed on that—but then the dogs were agitating to be let out, so I let them out.
Why did I let two young, hyperactive field Labs outside after 11 pm without their fence collars?
Because autopilot. The dogs want out, I let them out.1 Presto chango. There’s no intervening thought process.
After I let the dogs out, I forgot about them (autopilot) until Ed came into the bedroom and said, “Are the dogs in their crates?”
One thing led to another, and the rest of the night turned into a lost-dog-finding lollapalooza that culminated in my registering 3,300 steps on my new FitBit before dawn. Thirty-three hundred steps, two hours sleep. Good times.
Moving on to the raccoon part . . . around 2 am I was awakened by what sounded like multiple dogs screaming — screaming, shrieking, squealing — it was an unbelievable racket; at least two blocks away but still loud enough to wake me.
It had to be Luke and Lucy, who sounded freaked out of their minds, but what kind of animal were they fighting?
More importantly, were they winning?
Both dogs eventually made their way home, but not without igniting a second drama when Luke showed up without Lucy. Lucy is Luke’s half-sister. She’s younger and smaller than Luke, probably small enough and young enough to lose a fight with a coyote–definitely too small to prevail against two coyotes–and she is devoted to Luke. And she wasn’t with him.
She finally turned up an hour later, sporting a minor injury to one paw but otherwise none the worse for wear, although she refused to leave the house the entire next day. Which is not like Lucy or any other member of her tribe. Field Labs live for the outside.
So yesterday I was filling Katharine in on the night’s events, and the subject of raccoons came up, probably because it had crossed my mind that Luke and Lucy might have been shrieking at a raccoon. Turns out the raccoons in Katharine’s neighborhood are an incredibly scrappy lot. They fight all the time. They used to fight just in warm weather, but now they fight year round. It’s like West Side Story, only for raccoons.
Plus they’re loud. They’re so loud Katharine had actually made a tape of a recent altercation. So naturally I Googled loud raccoon fight, and behold.
This popped up, too:
Given the fact that raccoons spend so much time screaming and yelling and carrying on that they’ve become famous for it on the Internet, I’m thinking it had to be a raccoon Luke and Lucy were fighting, not a coyote. Raccoon, or raccoons, plural.
Anyway, this afternoon, while working with one of my students, I came across a Daily Language Review exercise that included the word “raccoon.”
Googling to make sure “raccoon” has two c’s, I found this:
RACOONS PASS FAMOUS INTELLIGENCE TEST—BY UPENDING IT:2
In the new study, the researchers presented captive raccoons with a cylinder containing a floating marshmallow that was too low to grab. Next, they showed the raccoons how dropping stones in the water would raise the marshmallow.
Two of the eight raccoons successfully repeated the behavior, dropping the stones to get the marshmallow. A third took matters into her own hands: She climbed onto the cylinder and rocked it until it tipped over, giving her access to the sweet treat.
“That was something we hadn’t predicted,” and indeed, had designed against, says study leader Lauren Stanton, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wyoming.
“It reaffirms how innovative and how creative they are in problem-solving.”
Adds Suzanne MacDonald, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, “I thought it was very raccoon-y that one of them figured out how to just tip the whole apparatus over”—much like they do with trash cans.
That is a fabulous descriptor!
I’m trying to think of something I can apply it to other than a raccoon.
1. Comma splice intentional. ↩
2. News flash: Some sites spell raccoon with two c’s, some with one. I don’t know why. ↩
Also very raccoony