It was just another night, down in the park, drinking with friends. It’s a nice feature of Toronto that there are so many forested areas within the city. We always preferred to have a few beers in the company of nature rather than the awful bar scene.
On the way from the Beer Store, driving by a pet shop, I had noticed a free sample bag of dog food. I thought it might make a nice treat for my old terrier, so I put one in my knapsack.
I drove down the forested path into the valley, the beers clinking in my knapsack. As I descended the air got cooler and the light was fading. I was looking forward to having a few cold beers with some good friends.
We ended up sitting around a picnic table in the gloom at the valley bottom. We were sitting in a clearing surrounded by trees, quietly enjoying conversation. The silence of the valley was suddenly interrupted by terrible screeching and aggressive snarling.
The horrid noise was coming from a pack of raccoons. They were moving through a clearing from one grove of trees to another. I could see them nipping at each other and it instantly came to my mind that they were hungry.
Remembering the dog food, I stood up and brought it out of my bag. Somehow the raccoons were aware of my intentions, and immediately ceased their terrible racket. They approached our group quickly but cautiously, creeping along through the grass in that weird light the moon gives off deep in the forest.
I stood up and started throwing out handfuls of dog food pellets. The raccoons surrounded me, snuffling in the deep grass and making satisfied crunching noises. One of my friends took a handful, knelt down and held out his hand. A raccoon approached slowly, and finally placed a paw on his open hand. With the other paw, he took pellets, one by one, and ate in a dignified manner.
Eventually, my dog food bag was empty, and the crunching ceased. The raccoons started to peacefully disperse, and I turned toward my beer. After a sip or two, I suddenly felt something behind me. It was a sudden, sure feeling and I turned around without thinking.
Behind me was one of the larger raccoons, and for some reason I knew it was the matriarch. She sat alone on the grass, her companions having retreated into the forest. Our eyes met for a long moment and again a strange knowing came over me and it was if I could hear a clear “Thank You” from her. She then turned away and retreated back into the woods.
A few weeks later, we were in the same place on a similar night. I felt the same feeling from behind, and turned again. There in the grass was the same big female raccoon, looking up at me with those expressive eyes of hers. I had brought nothing but beer this time, and I felt badly about it.
“I’m sorry” I said, making an empty hand gesture.
She walked off alone into the woods. I never saw her again.