Carol Ashbrook loves helping others, so evident by the Hope Ride, and has a wonderful heart for animals. When at home or walking, she is often with Merle and Pearl, her two dogs. Recently, she noticed a raccoon off to the side of a roadway. It was obviously hurt and in need of care. Carol could not leave the animal there, incapable of fending off other animals in its condition.

Thus, she called UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators, well known in the Hope community and where the star groundhog, Hope, resides, who recommended Paws, Wings & Other Things Wildlife Rescue in Martinsville, Indiana at 317-263-1131. On the other end of the phone was the kind and helpful voice of Katja Kimball, Kat. It wasn't long before Kat's husband made the hour drive to pick up the raccoon. They then took him to a vet's office before taking him to a safe and secure home in their complex.

Rowdy, Carol's choice of names, has fully recovered. He was recently released with his integrated group to an 100 acre site with a river running through the area. There is no hunting or trapping allowed. The site belongs to one of Kat's friends. Carol and Kat are hopeful Rowdy's journey will be long lasting.

Carol's story reminded me of another raccoon story within a book a former student and good friend of mine, Ken Seim, is writing. With some friends on an interesting adventure one night, they ended up with several raccoons. Ken decided to keep his raccoon for years until he found a girlfriend and Gooney a boyfriend. Ken has several pages about Gooney within his extremely interesting book, "On Thin Ice,” and he granted me permission to share part of that story:

“I remember one time watching nervously as Gooney waddled out onto a limb forty feet in the air. She slipped but was able to hold on to the limb with only her two front paws. Frightened, she trilled her loud 'HELP ME' call. I'd learned how to imitate her and trilled back. It seemed to calm her as she pulled herself back up onto the branch. When she finally came down the tree, Gooney excitedly ran to me as she was boasting, 'Hey, did you see what I just did?' I was quite relieved Gooney did not get hurt, and we continued in making other memorable experiences together.”

Gooney and Rowdy each inspired writings with Carol's “Wildlife” poem below:

“Found you in a roadside ditch
Your gaze completely gone
Confused deciding which was which
Lines were quickly drawn

“Fever up to 105
Coat soaking wet
You were lucky just to be alive
Living without a net

“Tell the doctor to get here quick
Ain't no time to kill
Nobody wants to see you sick
But we all know we will

“You've really got yourself to blame
Over the edge again
Taking chances, playing the game
Throwing caution to the wind

“Returning to a new stomping ground
May be just what you need
For that is where your comfort will be found
Living crazy in the weeds”

Shelley Young, a volunteer writer for “HSJ Online,” reminds us in her “Fresh From The Farm” columns about the importance of tuning in to nature and animals. She ended her last article with the following words, “Look around. Find your blessings. They're there. You just have to look.”

As I stopped to take time out from my busy schedule to listen to the sound of bullfrogs close to where we live one evening, I was thinking about Shelley's wise words and how fortunate I am to live in an area plentiful with nature, animals, and good people. Like Shelley, it gives me a peaceful feeling. I know Carol and Ken agree.