One night last week, I went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, long after Kim, Hannah, and Coleman had retired for the evening.  Since the three of them were sound asleep in the master bedroom (not an unusual arrangement in our family) I claimed the next available space upstairs and crashed in Hannah’s room.

Just as I was about to be transported to the land of Nod, a short, distinct burst of sound caused me to bolt upright in the bed, eyes wide open.  A raccoon!  Even though it sounded like it was right there in the room, I reasoned that it had to be in the attic just above my head.  I sat still, waiting to hear it again, but there was only silence.  After a few moments, I got up and went to the computer and Googled “raccoon sounds” just to confirm my diagnosis.  It was spot on!

It is not unusual for us to see raccoons around our house and elsewhere in our neighborhood at night.  They had nearly chewed through the “twist-lock” lids on our plastic garbage cans which we purchased after they consistently dumped and scattered the contents of the old ones.  They ripped into bags of bird seed on the patio.  As a result, I purchased a plastic container for the seed.  The raccoons quickly mastered dragging it around the yard until the top popped open.

But, raccoons in the attic took the issue to another level.  They had encroached upon the sanctity of my domicile.  This was personal!

Armed with a flashlight, I slowly opened the attic storage space door in Hannah’s room and cautiously walked inside.  I had witnessed a raccoon viciously fight with coon dogs on a hunt with my grandfather, and I had no desire to tangle with one in close quarters.  But, I saw nothing.  I heard nothing.  I moved boxes and bags, looked in crevices between joists, and… nothing!  No chewed up cardboard, no shredded insulation, no droppings, no raccoon.

I convinced myself that somehow I must have imagined the sound as I was drifting off to sleep.  What kind of weird, semi-conscious delusion was that?  Anyway, I turned off the light, crawled back into bed, pulled up the cover, closed my eyes, and THERE IT WAS AGAIN!  This was nuts!  It seriously sounded like it was in the room with me.  Hannah had been going through things in the attic earlier that day getting ready to leave for college, and I remembered her commenting at one point that she thought she had shut the attic door but later found it open.  Great!  I looked under the bed, looked in boxes in her room, and looked in her closet.  Nothing!

Maybe the sound wasn’t coming from inside the house.  I took the flashlight into the front yard and looked in the tree outside Hannah’s room.  I walked all the way around the house.  I spotlighted as much of the roof as I could from the ground.  It was 3:00 a.m.  I expected a neighbor to call the police.  I rechecked the attic (with no success) before deciding to crash on the couch downstairs in the living room.  I had to get some sleep.

The next night, I got Kim and Hannah to sit with me in the dark on Hannah’s bed so that they could hear the critter for themselves.  We waited a good 15 minutes and heard nothing.  They got bored and left.  Only moments after they walked out of the room, I heard it again.  I now knew that I was going to have to call a professional, either an exterminator or a psychiatrist. 

The following day was extremely hectic, and I didn’t have a chance to place a call to The Skunk Whisperer.  (Seriously!  Follow the link to his website.)  I was very tired that evening from lost sleep.  Kim and Hannah were diligently working in Hannah’s room getting college stuff ready, so I went to bed early in Coleman’s room.  At least it was at the other end of the hall from my taunting, haunting menace.  I couldn’t believe it.  I heard the disturbing sound three times during the night, but I was too exhausted to even get out of bed and went back to sleep each time, determined to call in the professionals the next day. 

Morning not only brought the light of day; it also delivered embarrassing illumination as to the identity of my raccoon.  The previous night after I had gone to bed, the girls heard the sound while working in Hannah’s room.  Though initially startled, they quickly determined the source of the noise.  It was…

An Air Wick Freshmatic!  

That’s right!  It was an automated air freshener dispenser!  No one told me that Hannah had one.  No one had ever demonstrated what they sounded like when the aerosol canister was completely empty.

So, why did I hear the sound three times in Coleman’s room that night?  Kim and Hannah were so amused by their discovery after I went to bed that they placed the Freshmatic on the floor right outside Coleman’s door, expecting me to excitedly burst out of the room with another news flash as soon as I heard it again.  Such sweet girls!  They didn’t factor in my exhaustion, so the revelation had to wait until the next morning.

So, no raccoon, no Skunk Whisperer, no attic repairs, and no psychiatric evaluation. 

Just another humbling experience, life lesson, and reminder.  I can be so confident (so very, very confident) about what I thought I heard; and I can be so very, very wrong!          

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