Saturday, August 11, 2007


A lot of summer mornings, I love to get up early while the world is still quiet and just enjoy the stillness. Sometimes it's nice just to sleep in. Today would have been the latter except that after a while, I realized I was hearing a noise that didn't quite fit. There was too much regularity to the sound to be the wind in some shrub near the house. Curiosity (of course) forced me awake to investigate.

What I had decided must be chewing (and pretty big chewing at that) turned out to be a mid-sized raccoon (maybe 25-30lb), probably enjoying the apples that have started dropping from our tree. Mind you, although I enjoy a fabulous mountain view from my back patio, the downtown Bellevue skyscrapers I can see through the trees are walking distance away, so the fact that there are raccoons in my suburban backyard always strikes me as funny. I know they live here. I just don't always expect to see them.

I don't know if it's the same one or not but a while back, we actually had a bit of a raccoon problem. For a long time, I just thought our two cats really were eating 2-3 bowls of cat food a day from the self-filling dish I put out for them in the garage. Then one evening, tall person noticed a bandit face and little paws peering through our patio door from the dark. At that moment, we both realized that "Rocky" was getting into the garage through the cat door and was responsible for eating much of the cat food so I moved the dish indoors.

I didn't move the large container of food though, and so Rocky pretty quickly adapted to lifting the lid off of the storage container. Our next move was to lock the lid in place with bungie cords. A couple of mornings later, I found the entire 20lb container moved from the doorway to between the cars, tipped over on its side. Thankfully, the bungie cords were still in place but it was clear that Rocky was not only motivated and persistent, he was pretty clever too. I didn't want to give him another chance to figure out how to open the storage bin, so we moved it indoors and hoped he wouldn't be interested in looking inside for it.

As far as I know, Rocky hasn't been in our garage lately, so having him enjoy some of our fallen apples outdoors isn't such a bad trade-off. I'll probably be back to sleeping in when I want since I won't feel such a compelling need to get up and investigate now that I know what's making that noise. And next time I want to hire a tech support rep or a QA tester, I'll know where to find a character with the kind of ingenuity and persistence I like to see in those roles.

Send your stories of close brushes with nature or thoughts on hiring practices to me at

Which critter embodies your best/worst traits?