The masked intruder was a raccoon, and the expensive security system was our ever-vigilant Australian Shepherd mix dog, Scout. She drove the raccoon up one of our eucalytptus trees and thereby rescued us from …something.
The sight of possums around the neighborhood has never been a surprise. In fact, Scout arrested one of those a few nights later. But a raccoon? What’s next, an elk? We have a nice big waterfall and pond in our backyard which looks very forest-like. I wouldn’t be surprised if I looked out one evening and saw Bambi lapping up some water.
These nocturnal encounters with wildlife put me in mind of two things. First off, it’s remarkable the degree to which nature has adjusted to the intrusion of man. The typical suburban Garden Grove-Stanton-Westminster home has a fair-sized backyard, and lots of those yards have fruit trees and swimming pools, which seem to attract all forms of nature from ducks to even coyotes.
The coming urbanization of this area will probably cut into the ability of animals to get their dinner from these parts, but it will still be decades and decades before avocados and oranges disappear from the landscape altogether.
And hidden in some corners of our communities are spaces that harken way back to our rural heritage. While working on a story on Stanton’s plans for a new downtown, I came upon an area where someone was raising chickens and other fowl, right there in the yard. A true forester could likely point out many more.
The other thought that popped into my mind was the idea that animals have jobs. If you reduce human’s existence to its most basic, we spent most of our time earning money to provide for food, shelter and rollover minutes. Hammering that down even further, we work to eat.
Animals have been doing this since time immemorial. That raccoon was doing what nature told him to do: find some food and then wash it in the stream. He took the food from one of the fruit trees that abound in our neighborhood and was doubtless doing some kitchen prep work in our little pond when the po-lice (Scout) showed up, demanded to see a permit, and ran him off.
Finding food is the critter’s job, and he (or she) never gets to retire from it. That’s why the smartest animals, the dogs, figured out that hanging out by the fire around humans and getting their leftovers was a better career choice than running through the woods dodging mountain lions.
Dogs provided warnings of intruders and were eventually trained to take on other tasks. Scout, of course, in addition to being a delightful companion, is our watchdog. She patrols the property most every evening, keeping other fauna away. In exchange for that, she’s paid with more food than she should eat (we really need to put her on a diet) and access to all rooms at all times.
Now, I know that doesn’t compare to dogs that pull their unconscious masters from burning buildings, or Cairo, the dog who parachuted into the Pakistani compound with SEALS on the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. But in her own mind, I’m sure Scout sees herself as a kind of canine Marshal Dillon or John McClain.
Having said that, I’m still wondering what the cat’s occupation is. Marble came to us as a semi-wild feline and she never really got her housecat card. She’ll curl up next to you and when you pet her, she’ll usually bite you sooner or later. If you even just walk by and pass her in the halls, a cat “arm” will sometimes snake out and rake your leg or wrist.
I finally reached the conclusion that Marble is unemployed. She’s like one of those unmotivated slacker in-laws or old college buddies that moved in “just until I get back on my feet” and never moved back out. Firmly established in the household, Marble sprawls on the furniture, eats up the pantry and does just about nothing other than stay out late partying and coming home when she darn well feels like it.
The one role she might have had – rodent control – has been superseded by the Orkin man after the unfortunate incident with field mouses. Management (that’s us) restructured, and she’s permanently redundant.
I’ll bet this is fairly common. The labor department makes a monthly estimate of people’s job status: the unemployment rate is a big political event each month. But I’ll wager if you did the same kind of census for domestic animals, it would be easy to tell who’s the workers and who just sheds and sleeps.
Just ask the raccoons.