Critter Encounters

Now that summer break is almost over, I finally have time for a long overdue post! I never know what our summer adventures will teach us and this summer we've learned a lot. Our Volunteer Odyssey was an incredible learning experience that introduced us to some of the most inspiring people in our community. (I blogged all about that experience here.) But I couldn't let the summer slip away without a post about another amazing Memphian!

Earlier in the summer we discovered we had a raccoon living in the attic. Wildlife removal is quite expensive and I wasn't very keen on the idea of having strange men in and out of our house, checking traps. So, Jorma and I decided to buy a live trap and catch the little booger ourselves! What we weren't counting on is that our first catch would be a baby and that the mother would abandon ship, er... attic, after the tragic caging of her little one. Though legally I'm sure we were never supposed to release our attic raccoon in just any secluded countryside, ethically there was NO WAY I was going to leave a baby to fend for himself. Now what?

Well, a series of phone calls and web searches led me to a list of wildlife rehabilitators. If you live in Memphis, go ahead and pin this for future reference!  Little did I know how lucky I was to select the first Shelby County woman on the list. Within an hour of calling her, Janie Kathryn and I were driving to her house.

When we pulled up to the unassuming house on the edge of Germantown, we had no idea what we were in for. Claire and her husband Joe showed us around their home, where they were rehabilitating about a dozen baby racoons, and a few baby bunnies and opossums. It was amazing. They were amazing! They took time to teach us about the animals. They showed us the obstacle course used to acclimate the baby raccoons to climbing trees in the wild... occupational therapy for the little critters who might otherwise fall into an urban life of knocking over garbage cans. I was blown away by Claire's kindness and passion for helping these sweet babies. Janie Kathryn was blown away by all the critters to hold and that Claire and Joe were happy to feed her addiction to creature education. Did you know that raccoons bathe their food before eating it? Watch this video for a laugh!

One of Claire's rescued raccoons has become part of the family. Gypsy, the umm... most robust raccoon I've ever seen is also the most lovable. She has been living with Claire and Joe for quite a while and is in the process of becoming an education animal. You might see her at Lichterman Nature Center one day! Veterinarians think that Gypsy might have suffered cognitive damage at some point in her life, causing her to be mute and very docile. She is so gentle and lovable, Janie Kathryn and I instantly fell in love!
Ever since meeting Claire and Joe, I've thought a lot about them and how lucky we were to find them. Not only does Claire provide a valuable service for our community, she and her husband are simply delightful people. So, when we trapped an opossum in our attic a few days ago, I knew who to call! Claire was so kind to help us again, even though the little baby we dubbed Opal the apple-eating opossum was actually an adult male. We changed his name and that's (oh)possum, in case you didn't know.)

I hope to take my Girl Scouts to meet Claire and her creatures this fall. I am certain there is a badge to be earned! If you'd like to learn more about Claire and how she helps orphaned wildlife, you can visit her website!

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