Our first raccoon experience was a tiny, toothless furball that fit in your hand - Meeko. Fed with an eyedropper, she eventually graduated to formula mixed with baby rice cereal, then canned dog food added (she didn't like cat food), to straight dog food. This was supplemented with assorted fruits, vegetables, nature's yummies (and yuckies!) and treats. She was especially fond of dog biscuits (you couldn't give her the biscuit FAST enough!).
As you may have guessed, we also have a dog - a golden retriever named Duke with whom Meeko forged a wonderful bond of friendship. I should point out that it is in the best interests of both raccoons and dogs to keep them separate for many reasons, not the least of which is diseases and the fact that they are natural enemies. That said, it was amazing to watch the friendship between Meeko and Duke as it evolved. As a very young juvenile, she would struggle to keep up with Duke while I brought up the rear when we went for our nature walks. Duke would keep stopping to look and let Meeko catch up. And Duke barked like a worried mother when Meeko first started to climb trees. As Meeko got older, they would take turns chasing each other, wrestling, or playing one of Meeko's favorite games - steal Duke's toys. Often, they would be play-fighting in Duke's doghouse and, when you yelled at them, these two angelic "we-weren't-doing-anything-wrong" faces would come peeking out at you.
Then the time came when Meeko was ready to be released into the wild. After her release, Meeko was sighted daily at first, then less and less often as she became acclimated to her new environment. We had released her into a beautiful place here in Florida with a river and streams and a forest laden with acorns. A place without cars and the dangers they pose to wildlife. A place without dogs and very few people. A place without Duke. A place without me. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, but it is also one of the best things I've ever done. Meeko has successfully returned to the wild, and that is where wildlife truly belongs.
Just recently, a year and a half after her release, Meeko was still being sighted. A bittersweet pride fills me.
Several years have passed since Meeko entered our lives.
Many raccoons have come and gone since, touching our lives.
But Meeko will forever hold a special place in our hearts and never be forgotten.