By Judith Shields Louis
Call it serendipity. Call it karma. Call it just dumb luck.
At a book signing on Sanibel Island in March 2012, I fell in love. A neighbor had already been to the local book signing taking place and called me, telling me I’d regret it if I didn’t hop in my car ASAP and go. Well, I went, and was enchanted with what was there. My new love was 2 years old, 10 pounds, furry, and masked. His name was Trouper, and he was a blind raccoon.
Trouper was in the arms of his mom, Dot. And accompanying them was Kyle, the author of Trouper’s book. Trouper’s story was a real tearjerker!
He was only 8 weeks old and in the rough of a golf course in Wilmington, NC, when a man found him and beat him in the head with a golf club and left him to die. Fortunately, a friend of Dot’s witnessed the attack and called her to come and take care of him. Dot was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and was the perfect choice for a caregiver. Trouper was in terrible shape, and it took heroic efforts on Dot’s part to save the little kit. She named him Trouper because of his struggles learning to stand, walk, and ultimately run. The outcome of the beating left Trouper blind and unable to smell, grasp, or feed himself. Dot fed him by hand and gave him water with an eyedropper.
Unfortunately, his handicaps meant that he could never be released back into the wild, and release is the goal of all wildlife rehabilitators. Also, North Carolina prohibits veterinarians from treating raccoons, and requires that they be released at 6 months. Since Dot had completely bonded with Trouper, she knew she’d have to relocate or Trouper would be killed. They relocated to sunny Fort Myers, FL, a fortunate choice for many, many people.
After about a year of searching for someone to document Trouper’s story, Dot found Kyle, who was already a published author of two children’s wildlife books. Trouper, The True Story of a Blind Raccoon was published in late 2011 and was an instant success.
When I met this wonderful trio, I was struck by all the paraphernalia that seemed to be required for both Trouper and the book sales. There were tables, tablecloths, chairs, signs, posters, easels, and books. Then there was Troupers gear; car carrier, stroller, playpen, equipment bag with food, water, eyedropper, nail file, towels, and poop bags. WOW!
I found the array so daunting that I couldn’t imagine how long it took to set up and then dismantle all this stuff. That was when I had my “aha” moment! I had just found out that Dot no longer drove. That meant that in addition to all the schlepping of equipment, Kyle had to pick up Dot and Trouper whenever there was a scheduled event and return them home again. I thought very quickly and realized that I could perhaps lend a hand. I asked if they needed help with the driving and set up. Apparently this was a longed for lifeline, and my offer was immediately accepted.
I don’t consider myself selfish, but I’m definitely introverted and tend to spend a lot of time alone. I’d also been a widow for 12 years when I met Trouper and was long overdue for something meaningful outside of my narrow world.
I drive Dot and Trouper, buckling the little guy in his carrier to the rear seat of my suv. I help Kyle set up, sell the books, and most important, share Trouper’s story. People are nearly always wide-eyed, gracious, and generous when meeting our little boy.
Trouper is now 7. He walks, runs, swims. His most endearing habit is a gentle purr when he’s happy.
As far as I’m concerned, Dot and Trouper are miracles, and I feel blessed (lucky) to be a part of their journey.