Raccoon bites dog, then owner

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

CAMANO ISLAND – A rowdy raccoon trying to make a meal of a wiener dog turned his teeth onto a 70-year-old woman who defended her dinky daschund with a flurry of footwear.

Betty Garrels had just opened her back door Monday night to let the little dog out for a nature call. But when Buddy bounded down the steps, a raccoon was waiting eight feet away.

The screeching raccoon, which weighed about 40 pounds and was three times bigger than Buddy, jumped on the daschund.

"He was trying to kill him, of course.

"It was vicious," Garrels recalled. "I was so upset I was screaming my head off."

Garrels grabbed a pair of walking shoes from the steps and whipped them at the raccoon. She then grabbed a pair of moccasins and threw those, too.

"I was throwing everything I could grab," she said.

All but one shoe missed.

Apparently, the raccoon wasn’t intimidated. Or amused.

As Garrels started to walk down the steps, the animal lunged.

"The raccoon let go of the dog and came after me, up on the porch. And he got me," Garrels said.

The raccoon jumped on her right leg and bit her, leaving at least four puncture marks. Her leg is swollen and bruised.

"It was just like lightning. I couldn’t believe how fast this animal was," she said.

But just as quickly, the raccoon turned back to Buddy and started attacking again.

Garrels picked up a green plastic watering can and threw it at the raccoon.

"It was enough to make him let go of the dog. Thank God," she said. "It was pretty much a miracle that the dog wasn’t killed … . If I would have gotten into it with him, he would have killed me, too. There’s no doubt about it."

Buddy now sports stitches on his right leg and down his back.

Garrels, who lives on Sunset Drive on the northwest side of the island and owns Nick’s espresso stand in Stanwood, was taken to Providence Everett Medical Center’s Colby campus for treatment. The raccoon wasn’t found, so it was impossible to determine whether it had rabies. That meant Garrels had to get shots.

Rabies vaccine to treat Garrels was sent to the Everett hospital in a taxi from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She began getting the shots early Tuesday morning: a shot in each hip, in her shoulder and in the wound.

"This is not fun," she said.

It’s not unusual for raccoons to bite humans, said Dr. Jo Hofmann, deputy health officer for the Snohomish Health District.

"Of all the wild animals out there, this is probably the most common" for bites, she said.

"They’re used to humans and pretty intrepid. They will come pretty close to you if they think you’re a source of food," Hofmann said.

Bites often occur when people try to break up a fight between a household pet and a raccoon, or when they try to feed the animals, she said.

There have been no reported cases of raccoons testing positive for rabies in Washington, although rabid raccoons are relatively common in the eastern United States, she said.

Garrels said she has four additional hospital visits for shots, the last in mid-August.

Even so, she’s upbeat.

"I am so lucky, and the dog, too. I feel so blessed, ‘cause it could have been so much worse," Garrels said.

She has advice, too, for folks who think raccoons are cute and cuddly:

"Stay away from them. They’re darling, but they’re also a wild animal."

You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to

kelly@heraldnet.com.

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