Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 14, 2013

Tim Preston: Unwelcome wakeup call: 10/15/13

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — I could make a pretty entertaining story from some of the more unusual situations I’ve been in, although Monday morning’s wakeup call takes the cake when it comes to things out of the ordinary.

I had been up and down all night and my wife had somehow managed an “Are you OK?” each time I disturbed her rest. I had been up for a while during the late-early morning, thinking I was annoyed at the dog for making so much noise, when I again shut my eyes about an hour before the alarm was set to go off. As these things happen, it seemed I had just gone back to sleep when an incredibly loud crashing sound saturated the darkness of our sleeping quarters.

“Are you OK?” my wife asked with genuine concern, thinking I had taken a spill in the floor.

“That wasn’t me. I think it was the dog or something,” I said, with the desire for sleep still commanding my brain and body.

She grabbed her phone and shined its light around the room, allowing my groggy self a glimpse at something noticeably out of place. When she clicked on the bedside lamp, I got a better look at the situation.

“There’s a raccoon hanging from our bedroom ceiling,” I said, apparently without so much as a hint of excitement.

“A what?” she said.

“A raccoon. It’s hanging right there,” I said, prompting her to look upward to verify there was indeed a raccoon with its rear end dangling in the air less than 10 feet from where we were lying. The animal, which was surprisingly pretty and had a beautiful coat, was hanging onto an electrical wire with its front paws and seemed to be only concerned with getting back up into the hole it had made in the ceiling, which apparently happened when the oversized mammal stepped onto an otherwise unsupported section of ceiling tile.

We estimated our unwanted guest weighed in at about 20 pounds and feared the electrical line would snap under its weight, leaving us with an angry and half-electrocuted raccoon in our bedroom floor looking for answers. Anyone who has ever had an encounter with a wild raccoon knows they are not to be trifled with, and this one looked as if it were more than capable of ripping a sleepy reporter to shreds.

At this point, you might think we both went into complete panic. To our mutual surprise, however, we both seemed to kick into problem-solving mode. The real problem was neither of us had ever experienced a late-morning interior raccoon encounter and we couldn’t come up with a solution for the circumstance. Compounding the problem, the animal had fallen between ourselves and a big back door, as well as being directly in the path between myself and the family Ruger. And, for reasons I’ll never understand, our dog never looked up and simply seemed confused by our sudden up-and-at-’em maneuvers. I can only imagine the fallout from a 40-pound family dog vs. 20-pound wild raccoon in the dark of our bedroom, so I was quite pleased when the canine obeyed and allowed me to lead her to the kitchen.

I must confess I am guilty of having no “off switch” between my personal and professional life and I had a phone in my hand from the moment I identified the coon in the ceiling. Accompanying each and every “What do we do?” thought was “You have to get a picture of this for the paper.” I had the phone’s camera activated by the time I got the dog into the next room, but the raccoon had by then managed to get a grip on the wire and a foot back up into the upper ceiling. I pointed the camera upwards just as the raccoon disappeared back into the crawl space and promptly posted a nice photo of the overhead access hole on Facebook.

I can’t say we panicked at that point, but I will say reality set in.

We had been awake for about three minutes when we thought, what if that thing had been above our bed when it fell through? What if it hadn’t had that wire to cling to and fell to the floor? What if it, like many raccoons, was infected with rabies?

I can only say I am thankful we did not have to answer any of those “what if” questions, other than, “What if it comes back?”

I’ve heard from several people who have experienced raccoon home invasions and all warn me we have some work to do before again sleeping soundly with no fear of gravity-powered mammals crashing into our dreams. The mammals are also notorious for leaving abundant amounts of their waste products in places like my ceiling, they said, adding the potential for serious illness if not properly dealt with.

I’m not sure how things worked out at home after I left for work. As I was heading out the door, I saw my wife was wide-eyed and on point with a scoped Ruger ready to fire into the ceiling if she so much as caught another glimpse of our bandit-faced buddy.

I’m borrowing a trap from a fellow raccoon sufferer when I get out of work today and may be making calls to friends seeking another place to lay our heads until the threat is removed.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.