Viewer discretion is required when reading this episode. Many people have always asked me how there was a funny side to this story? There is humour of the darkest sort, but it wasn’t during the attack, but afterwards trying to get to hospital!
One Raccoon Too many!
In the later months of the English summer of 2004, you would have found me doing what l loved doing the most – running my business!
Tuesday 27th July 2004
TSKA Exotics as it was known at the time – aka The Specialist Keepers Association – Exotics was a brokerage that specialised in exotic animals. I was a licenced professional that would import, export and quarantine, as well as sell on behalf of private and commercial keepers to other private keepers but also game parks and zoos. I had both a national and an international client base and that year the business was already on its 11th year of trading, it would dissolve in 2010.
I was a sole trader, and as such had no one work with me. My dog pack was always by my side, numbering six dogs, of which Scrappy Doodlepip was one and she is indeed the very last pack member next to me. I make mention to this as it is somewhat important to do so, not the dogs part, but the being alone part.
These were the days when l was pulling away from society and the undiagnosed Aspergian within was not yet recognised, that would come and would explain why l felt the need to be away from people.
In addition to the animals that l sourced out for my client base, where l was l had housed my own private exotic species collection. Amongst this were many lovely species that whilst were not classed as the usual domestic pet were more of the exotic species of pet such as my Coatimundis, African crested porcupines, brushed tailed porcupines, Meerkats, prairie dogs, opossums, possums, squirrels, rodents, North American porcupines, Egyptian bats and my raccoons – Batfink and Damson!
I did name all of my animals, because each had a very specific character to their very nature, and l loved them all. Batfink and Damson l had since kit, in fact l with my ex-wife had hand reared them.
Back in 2004, many species in the UK were kept under licence, notably the DWAL – Dangerous Wild Animals Licence, and so too were my raccoons. I say this because in the years to follow many species were removed from this licencing on the premise that they did not need to be under regulation. I was one of the many who battled to keep certain species licenced because of the dangers they could pose, having experienced carnage first hand.
One of the rulings of the licence was to have the species under lock and key, because they were considered ‘dangerous animals’. Every time l entered the enclosure l had to unlock it and when in had to snap the lock shut, upon departure open the lock and once outside, lock the enclosure again.
Every day l made the time to go in and play with Batfink and Damson, they had a very large enclosure but as they were hand reared, they were very used to having the contact with me, and l tried to never let that drop, but also because l thoroughly enjoyed their company, their behaviour and their soft cooing sounds as we all played. Inside their enclosure they had a water feature and one of the skills if you wish of raccoons is their need to wash everything, be this their food, pebbles or even as on that day, a twenty pound note, which had just been stolen from my pocket.
July 27th 2004 will always be firmly etched into my brain as the day that everything went so horribly wrong!
From a stolen to washed twenty pound note, to a friendly and playful request to having it back a nightmare struggle of around three and half minutes ensued where Batfink went from playful pet to an aggressive and savage wild dangerous animal. Damson, always such a gentle soul, was screaming in fear and hugging the back of the enclosure, quite possibly like me terrified that Batfink so beautifully kind and equally gentle had suddenly flipped out over something so trivial as his friend asking for something back!
In that short period of time, an animal weighing roughly 25kg had launched its entire body mass [36” in length] against me, using his teeth and claws combined to render me useless! In those few minutes, l nearly lost my right thumb, the little finger on my left hand, had my wrists slashed and the inner tendons to the elbows were bared and shredded. In that same time, l had several bites on mostly my hands and arms, but also on my neck and inner thigh! Three and half minutes is all the attack was, could only have been. Any longer and l would not have come out alive, it is that simple.
The sounds of my screams mixed with the snarling of Batfink were incredibly loud, above that l could hear the din of my dog pack going nuts behind the screened door of the building, terrified as much as their old man who was yelling for help from anyone, and all the time trying to calm and console a brute of an animal who wanted to end me over of all things … a twenty pound note!
I was once bitten by a friends dog who managed to sink its teeth into my cheek, and the pain from that was nasty, but the thrashing pain of feeling your flesh torn from your body is excruciating, of hearing tendons being bitten and crunched upon is deafening, of hearing your own screams for mercy intermingled with the gurgling of an attacking animal is not easily described. If that is not enough to contend with, experiencing high levels of pain that cause instant dizziness and threaten to cause you to blackout is a hard one to combat, and keep at the foremost of your mind, that IS something you most assuredly do not wish to have happen!
And yet, still if that is not enough … to know that you are simply losing too much blood for your own good is not healthy. The blood loss in that short time window was horrendous, it was a case of just pumping and spraying from all areas, and was quite frightening!
I managed to extract myself from his grip only by biting him back! The raccoons’ fur coat is particularly dense even for that time of the year, but lighter than had l been attacked in the winter months, and so when l bit him, l bit him hard on his back and the shock made him let go, at which point my own adrenaline kicked in, l hurled myself at the door, discovered it locked and with mangled hands had to unsnap the lock at the same time as kicking away a ferocious raccoon with my booted feet. Finally, the lock came free, l gave the animal a sharp shove and flung outside the opening and clanged it shut behind me, at the same time that a blood smeared raccoon with bits of my flesh hanging from his mouth hit the door!
It was the most surrealistic moment seeing a bloodied mouth with bits of ‘you’ stuck to the teeth and something l shall never forget.
I locked the door and collapsed on the grass outside, panic over but aware of shock creeping in fast and knew that with the amount of blood loss l had already had and was still experiencing l had to get help fast. My mobile phone was inside the building with the dogs and l had no wish to have to handle a frenzied situation with them, so the only choice that was available was to run to one of the nearby farms.
Where l had my business was alongside the River Welland just outside Spalding in Lincolnshire, it was an old French styled walled in farm, l had two farms on either side of me, each roughly a mile away from where l was ragged and bleeding. Luckily it was a sunny day, and luckily l was pumped by adrenaline. The first farm l ran to across a recently ploughed but otherwise hard field, took me about twelve minutes and by the time l got there all l wanted to do was collapse, and to my horror, found the farm empty.
From this point l thought l had best run to the other farm, but chose to use Cradge Bank road which was the rat route used by farmers and one of the more indirect roads which led to Spalding, in the hopes that maybe as quiet as the road was some passing traffic may stop to offer assistance.
I was wrong!
One old farmer passed me and must have thought my attempts at flagging him down were me simply looking bloody and waving hello!? By the time l arrived at the second farm, l was worse for wear, the blood flow in my arms and especially my right wrist had been stemmed slightly by the use of my tee shirt which l had taken off to use as a bandage. But by now l had run two miles and all l wanted to do was stop and lay down.
Wandering into the farm stead the first thing that greeted me was an aggressive looking dog who looked like it wanted to eat me, and l told him in no uncertain terms to bugger off, which is what led the farmer who l knew not from toffee to come storming out of his house and demanding that l leave the premises!
My pleas for help despite my appearance fell on deaf ears at first, until he got closer and demanded to know why l was bleeding on his forecourt.
I explained the situation briefly and asked for a lift to the hospital to which he replied..
“Why should l? I am actually having my lunch, can it wait, is there no one else, do you not have your own car and WILL you STOP bleeding onto my drive!!”
I have to concede at this point of being somewhat distressed and couldn’t help my anger levels from rising!
“Because l think l am bleeding to death you muppet!”
“Well why are you bleeding?”
“Do you think this kind of questioning could wait please?” I asked of him.
“Well what happened?” Mr l am not moving an inch asked.
“I was attacked by a raccoon!”
“Don’t be daft man, you are delirious, we don’t have raccoons in this part of the world!” he sneered.
“I do, l have licenced raccoons next door!”
“Ah so it must be those buggers killing my cats then!!” [Truth be known a later investigation revealed it was actually wild mink killing his cats.]
“No, they are locked up in an enclosure, not being funny, but l am in quite a bit of pain do you possibly think we could discuss this on the way to the hospital?”
“Well l am not sure, if your so called raccoons are running around, l think my dog might be in danger!”
“No, they are still inside the enclosure, the locked enclosure!!”
“You are in no position to be rising your voice against me mate, thought you needed a lift, with that attitude you can fucking walk!!”
With that Mr grumpy as fuck walked back into his farmhouse and slammed the door shut.
I had to knock on his door and when he answered politely beg him to help me, and only after l apologised half a dozen times for raising my voice did he agree to giving me a lift to the hospital!
If l thought my troubles were over, l was sorely mistaken, he wouldn’t let me into his car because one of the cuts on my right wrist opened up and sprayed blood onto his window screen and he flipped, he freaked out. He demanded l get out of the car and promptly ran off back into his house and came back with a newspaper and told me to wrap up my arms and then ushered me into the trunk of his Land Rover with the dog blankets and bits of farming gear … but at least we were on our way to the hospital roughly 45 minutes after the attack ..
.. except we weren’t!
All during the ten minute journey l could hear him grumbling about missing his lunch and crazy raccoons, and missing cats, and then he promptly dropped me off at a friend of his at their own farmhouse, with the explanation that this man was loose in the head and had been attacked by a wild dog! The first farmer then departed saying he was missing his lunch.
This new person was just as annoyed about my arrival, but at least called an ambulance for me, then promptly laid newspaper down on the floor, went to the shed, fetched an old chair and sited this onto the newspaper and instructed me to sit on the chair and to NOT bleed on the kitchen floor. I found myself in an even more awkward position now as l was both drowsy and needed a wee, oh how joyously typical l thought. I might be dying in a strange house with my arms wrapped up in newspaper feeling sleepy and needing to pee!
I asked for help with this, and the man just looked at me like l was an alien, who said no.
So then l wet myself which was not well received!
The ambulance got lost, and so l had to wait a further twenty minutes for them to find me, and then listen to them berating the farmer for not simply getting me to hospital! For him to answer, why should he? He didn’t know me, and as l wasn’t family or a friend, he was doing ample because he had to take his lunch and l was making him late and the bloody ‘thing’, yes he called me a thing, had just pissed on his kitchen floor!
Finally, l was in the ambulance, when the strangest thing occurred, they developed a flat tyre, and so had to call out another ambulance to pick me up! At least l was now bandaged, and feeling less like death, and my humour had returned slightly and YES l could see the funny side to it all, albeit l was perhaps the only one who could.
I did eventually get to hospital and underwent the various x-rays to discover l had serious tendon damage that may never heal because of the delay in getting to hospital apparently, was tested for all sorts of thing and was just about to experience the tests for rabies despite me saying there was no need, when thankfully my local Environmental Health Officer [who issued the licence] arrived and confirmed there was no need.
I learned that as was the case with dog bites they couldn’t sew up the wounds and they had to heal naturally. Although up until the EHO arrived they were all quite content to believe l had been attacked by a wild feral dog, as there were no raccoons to be found in this part of Lincolnshire!
Eight hours after the attack, at around 6pm l was finally able to return to my poor dogs who had been inside the building probably scared half to death if they would ever see their Dad again, but they did and we all lived onto fight new clumsy accidents together!
PS: I found after the attack that could no longer keep my raccoons, l lived with the fear that l would be attacked again. Batfink was back to himself that very day and anyone else who went in to their enclosure never experienced any problems with either one.
Damson was still fine with me, but l couldn’t separate them up as that wouldn’t be fair.
In December of 2004, l managed to find a small family run zoo in Norfolk that accepted them. When the legislation came around to remove certain species l was at the forefront of the fighting to keep raccoons on the licence, sadly however the vote to keep them on was lost in favour of those wanting to keep them like a cat or a dog.
For me, it was just another case of atypically bad luck.
As they say ‘Shit Happens!” But as l say these days it was simply a case of One Raccoon Too Many!”
Guy or Bloke, Your Choice