Trouper, a three-year-old blind raccoon, knows perseverance through being a survivor of animal cruelty and facing the up-hill climb from a near-death experience.
Roughly 50 Bay Oaks Summer Campers were treated to the mammal's life story and rehabilitation via a slide presentation by Author Kyle Miller and a detailed account by Owner Dot Lee.
The two ladies met at CROW, where Miller was a volunteer. Later, she penned "Trouper The True Adventures of a Blind Raccoon" as an instructional book for children.
Bay Oaks Summer Campers and instructors surround Trouper and Owner Dot Lee in Beach Library’s conference room.
"Wild raccoons are wonderful to watch, but do not get near them," warned Miller. "Our bottom line is to encourage everyone to love all animals."
At 8 weeks old, the then-unnamed raccoon was found near dead at a golf course in North Carolina, the result of being beaten over the head with a golf club, After examination, he was found to have suffered brain damage and to be blind and deaf.
Lee, a wildlife rehabilitator, did not think the animal would survive the hideous act, but began caring for it nonetheless.
Just when the raccoon appeared destined to be euthanized, after not responding to treatment for five days, he lifted his head and yawned. Lee then named him "Trouper" for his ability to "keep on keeping on especially through tough times."
Lee began communication with Trouper by humming on his head to relay a sense of calm.
"The first thing I did when I picked him up was blow on him. He knew it was me," she said. "I'd hum so that he could feel the vibration."
Though he remains blind, Lee noticed Trouper might have regained his hearing during a storm. The animal reacted to thunder.
"So, I tested his hearing and, sure enough, his hearing had come back," she said. "Boy, was I happy."
Lee then moved to Florida where she could get a special permit to keep Trouper as a pet. A wild raccoon known for destruction, dangerous behavior and disease does not make an ideal companion, but a captive raccoon could make a great teaching aid.
"She wanted to teach people like you to respect and protect wildlife," Miller said to the campers.
Trouper is now known as an "animal ambassador," a living example of the good and bad side of how people treat wildlife.
"When you come across a raccoon, the first thing you do is slowly back up until you can tell an adult who can call the appropriate authorities to take care of him," instructed Miller.
Lee then showed the campers how she feeds Trouper. Due to the effects from brain damage, the raccoon cannot feed himself and needs to be hand fed every two hours. For his third birthday on June14, Trouper got to dine on cake and ice cream at his public birthday party at CROW.
The ladies then explained some raccoon facts to better familiarize the campers with the animal and his kind. But, Trouper is not your average raccoon. Since he is domesticated, he is expected to live near 20 years old as compared to a wild raccoon that lives 2-3 years. Like his wild brethren, he has hands and lifelines on his palms, but he cannot feel for food or water due to his brain damage.
In fact, his brain damage limits him to many things, but not one of his most favorite things listening to CD music through a pair of specially made headphones. His favorite music is opera.
"When we have to go someplace like the vet's office, I turn his music on and he gets quiet," said Lee.
Now, regarded as a rehabilitation in progress, Trouper is giving back to society as a visual, living aid - one that has endured the worst and keeps on keeping on.
"He didn't get any respect," said Lee. "That man didn't give him any respect. But, life is the best it can be for Trouper."