Get Out of Jail Free Card

Get Out of Jail Free Card

July 24, 1989 was a busy day. My parents left that morning for a vacation in Ireland. I was on my days off from the Park Police working on going through some of my old stuff in my parent’s house in Maryland. I just completed my field training after graduated from the police academy. I was married the month before and had moved to New York City where I was stationed. My older sister Lynne was visiting with her family from Colorado where they were on their 6-week vacation traveling across country.

It was a warm sunny humid Maryland day. We were on the brick the patio adjacent to the house. My niece Patti was out in the back yard behind the large purple azaleas bushes in Mom’s flower garden playing with their dogs, BJ and Bear. We were having iced tea when we heard the dogs barking loudly. The dogs’ barks had a sense of urgency about them. I went into the yard with my brother-in-law Jim. I heard and saw the dogs barking and growling at a large raccoon. I remember thinking it was odd to see a raccoon out in the middle of the day. The dogs placed themselves defensively in between the raccoon and Patti. The raccoon was chasing Patti in an aggressive manner. I immediately thought of the old Disney movie, “Old Yeller.”

The raccoon was foaming at the mouth and acting antagonistically, which was not characteristic of a raccoon. It also acted odd in its strange rhythmic drunk-like lumbering walk. The raccoon was demonstrating all of the signs of rabies. The dogs continued defending Patti as Jim picked up a piece of broken red brick and threw it at the raccoon’s face, which was 3-4 feet away. Jim’s shot was accurate as the brick hit the raccoon square in the nose. The impact of the brick had no effect on the raccoon. The raccoon continued to attempt to advance forward despite the two large fluffy Samoyeds barking, growling, and bearing their teeth.

Jim said, “You’re a cop, why don’t you shoot it?”

I answered, “Good point.”

So, I unsnapped my off-duty Smith and Wesson 5-shot revolver. I aimed, let out a breath, and slowly worked the trigger twice shooting the raccoon two times at point blank range. Both hollow point rounds hit the raccoon center mass. The raccoon was bleeding, but the shots had no effect as it continued to move forward. I had just graduated from the seventeen week police academy and was adept at target shooting, so it was a little disconcerting to have my target still moving.

I looked at Jim and said, “I hit him.” I shot the raccoon three more times before he finally stopped. The raccoon died slowly growling.

Jim said, “I think you got him.”

We checked on my niece and the two dogs. We detected no bites or scratch marks. I buried the raccoon to prevent any contamination. We sat around the rest of the day talking about what a strange occurrence it was. The dogs demonstrated their loyalty protecting my niece just like Old Yeller did in the Disney movie by guarding the Coates Family from the rabid wolf. And just like Travis had to pen up Old Yeller, my sister’s family had to pen up BJ and Bear.

My sister, Lynne and her family drove to their vacation home at Chincoteague, Virginia. Lynne and Jim notified their county health department about the contact with the rabid raccoon. They were told to monitor their daughter and dogs for possible rabies. They were ordered by the health department to quarantine their two dogs for the entire time they were on their vacation. Jim had to build holding pens for the two dogs in the yard. The pens had to be relocated to the garage when it rained. After several weeks, the dogs’ quarantine was up and they were released. The Accomack County Health Department came out for several impromptu inspections to verify compliance with the holding pen rules. The health department sent out a bouquet of flowers with a Monopoly “get out of jail free” card for the dogs when the quarantine time was complete.