Our neighbor, Peg Howard, taught kindergarten. Like many such classrooms, hers featured a small menagerie. The source of many of her critters was the Children’s Zoo in Pittsburgh. They made many of their “baby animals” available for educational purposes at the end of their season.
One year I was invited to accompany Peg on her annual animal gathering expeditions. I enjoyed the ride down to the zoo because Peg was a very interesting person. She shared my interest in the emerging space program. She could speak with great authority on primitive tribes.
We arrived at the Children’s Zoo and I found it quite different from the busy hive of activity I was familiar with during my visits nearly every summer. Many of the cages were empty and the staff was sparse. It took only a few minutes to gather the quarry. I imagine that all was pre-arranged. I helped Peg load the caged critters into her station wagon but kept the one most captivating beside me in the back seat. On the way home I discovered the raccoon was not for her classroom but instead it was for me.
The next several weeks were full of excitement. I spent most of my day with Boopsie. I caught crawfish in the creek for her. I took her for walks. She was the talk of the neighborhood. She liked to cuddle and sing her sweet little song. She was as fine a pet as any of the many cats and dogs I had through the years.
After a year she began to change and become a bit more “wild”. No longer the little sweet pet, she was more distant. One day she pulled herself from her chain and went to the woods. My mother was walking innocently back home from the Howards when my pet jumped out of the tree and attacked her. My father was able to lure her down and get her back on the chain. She was very, very violent. My father explained she was in “heat” whatever that was and due to her refusal to either be settled or leave our yard, he had no choice to “put her down”. I begged my father claiming that shooting her was too extreme, but he said that the alternative of poison was much crueler. I went to my bedroom and cried. I heard the shot. I cried and cried.
I love wild animals. I allow groundhogs to excavate my yard, deer to eat my flowers, and the old bear to dump on my driveway. I admire them from afar as it should be. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, goats, and horses need us to care for them. Wild animals should be left alone.