In theory, I’m all for survival of the fittest. But in practice, well, it’s a bit harder.

We have two injured animals that frequent our deck. One is a squirrel, the other a raccoon. Both are disadvantaged when it comes to getting around.

Our squirrel, who I call Lefty, has damage to his right front leg. It looks normal enough, but he doesn’t use it when he walks — only when he has to climb or to run from danger. He tries to use it when he’s eating and wants to hold food in his paws, but it doesn’t work very well; it trembles a lot and seems to be hard to manage. We suspect it was broken at some point and didn’t set properly. When I see him on the deck, sometimes I’ll throw him something special, like an oatmeal cookie. I used to worry about him getting enough food, but I’ve since decided that he does fairly well on his own.

My raccoon friend is another matter. I totally look out for him. He might do okay without my intervention — I hope he can, in fact, because one day I’ll move away and he’ll have to — but I worry for him, and so as long as I’m here, I’m giving him special treatment. I’ve dubbed him Limpet, because he has a pronounced limp that helps me tell him apart from the others. He looks incredibly lopsided when he walks, with his whole back half swaying side to side with every step. He looks positively spastic when he runs. I don’t know how he manages it without falling. Sometimes the leg gives out on him and he ends up sitting down momentarily, but then he just gets back up and keeps on walking.

It’s not easy to feed a single raccoon — partly because it’s unusual to see only one raccoon. They tend to congregate where food can be found, and somehow, they all know where the food is. (I think they follow anyone who looks well-fed.) And it doesn’t work to tell all the other raccoons to go away. (I tried, but if I make enough ruckus to really scare them off, Limpet will run too. Sigh.)

But lately, Limpet and I have stumbled on a strategy that works fairly well. In the late afternoon or early evening, when most of his brethren are still asleep, Limpet comes scrounging around the yard, picking leftover squirrel food (corn and seeds) off the deck. He usually backs off when I open the door, but he doesn’t go far; either he trusts me and knows I’m not going to hurt him, or he realizes that he’s got to take chances if he’s going to stay fed. I’ve gotten good at throwing slices of bread like frisbees, so I can get it fairly close to him. He also likes baked potato skins. Those are pretty hard to throw, but he’ll come after them wherever they land.

I must have a bit of Mom in me, because I really enjoy feeding my Limpet. He’s a bit skinny now, but I’ll fatten him up. Let’s just hope I don’t turn him into a carb addict.

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