The yelp was a bit jarring. The sound cut the air like a grinder through coffee beans -- directly behind Cedar Bean's Coffee Joint on an otherwise lazy Sunday springtime morning in Cedar Grove, NJ. At first, I believed a local pet or squirrel had been nabbed by a merciless hawk or another predator, as the cries became more erratic and hopeless as the moments ticked by.
Barista Taylor was concerned, and Barista Ivo was looking at me like I was a monster for not single-handedly rescuing and adopting whatever was wailing outside, and customers were visibly worried. I saw something drop from a tree and bounce off the ground. I assumed the worst: imagining that a hawk had found a nest of critters, and taken a pup, and the parent (or parents), during their struggle to protect their kin, had fallen to the ground and become injured. It was not shaping up to be a spectacular morning in the forests of Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Worse yet, I knew Ivo would never make another little heart on a latte again if I didn't act quickly.
I wandered inside, defeated and confused. Not only because I hadn't finished the first of my usual six-per-morning coffees, but I didn't know what to do next. This was Mother Nature. And she can be cruel -- just look at the platypus. I sadly closed the back door. I didn't want anyone to hear the final cries of a distressed creature when the perceived threat made its final move to checkmate.
Curiosity, however, got the best of me and I puttered out behind the shop again. Maybe there was something I could do. The screeching sounds were close, and then simultaneously farther away at the same time. I inched closer to try to examine the little clump of fur huddled near a tree but my view was obfuscated by a fence. Again, fearing for the worst, I made a sound to see if the critter would react. A tiny, shivering head popped up, startled by the sound, and then went slunk down into the grass.
Squinting, I could make out a tiny, stubby snout and black fur around pinhole eyes. Having seen the new Guardians of the Galaxy film the prior night, it was immediately clear to me... it was a raccoon pup that had fallen from a nest... It was baby Rocket, for goodness sake! To make matters worse, there were two of them. To make matters even worse than that, their screeching would certainly soon arouse the interest of a local fox, hawk, or worse. Without Groot, these rascals were in serious trouble.
At the insistence of my wife Sharon, I decided to visit our neighbor, Pam, who owned the yard, and the fence and thus was proprietor to this raccoon family as well. She called the Cedar Grove Police Department who were immediately dispatched to investigate our belief that these pups were in mortal danger. We all huddled around the pups, doing our best to remain hopeful that the mother of the creatures would soon shimmy down the tree, excuse itself, and take the two pups back to the safety of their nest for a firm scolding and a meal of whatever trash these things eat in the wee hours, just like a Disney film.
The momma raccoon peeked out from the safety of her perch and glowered, but never came.
In due time, a member of the animal unit arrived. Her demeanor immediately calmed the baby raccoons, and she picked them up one at a time and gently placed them into a carrier. They were taken to a rescue unit where they are being fed a healthy diet of nourishing food instead of old coffee grounds from discarded bags behind Cedar Bean's Coffee Joint.
We know that soon, they will be released into the wild, and given a second chance at life, all thanks to the help of neighbors, our local law enforcement, the Animal Control Unit, coffee, and a little empathy. We may never see them again, but I expect that these woodland creatures will forever be grateful for our help every time they dig into a trash can, tear open a bag of old diapers, or eventually save the galaxy from certain doom with the rest of the Guardians.
Just like it's supposed to be.