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Onix dares to follow in Bucky's prized hoof steps

August 17, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

No, no, please, a thousand times no. Not another critter on the lam story.

Didn't we learn our lesson with Bucky the Deer? Now we have Onix the Raccoon. Pretty soon we will have news choppers hovering overhead and graphics and dotted lines with the subhead "Raccoon's Path."

I can't take it.

Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Heather Lynch has to be wondering why she didn't pick a career as a systems analyst or something. Here she is again, explaining to the public that wild animals can't be pets.

Well, they can be pets, but Maryland law says they can't, so that settles things.

Last we heard from Heather, she was wearily explaining that you can't have a deer in your foyer (unless it's stuffed) and expect the DNR to sit idly by and do nothing about it. Bucky, you remember, was taken in by a family who said they saved it from Most Favored Roadkill status as it stumbled around Eastern Boulevard.

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The family wanted to save it, but the DNR wanted to kill it so it could be tested for something akin to Bubonic Deer Plague. Well, that led to a volcanic eruption of public angst, and negotiations that, for intensity, made the Iranian hostage crisis look like traffic court. Bucky was eventually, and surreptitiously, set free in the wild, where he was immediately eaten by wolves.

Now comes Onix the Raccoon, the 13-year pet of a Keedysville couple that wandered off from a cage and was picked up by the Humane Society (the raccoon, not the couple).

So, as they say in the horror flick business, it's all happening again.

Some things Onix has going for it, some things it doesn't. On the negative side of the ledger is the name "Onix." It's an OK name, but frankly, it is not a cute name. "Bucky" was a cute and playful name. "Onix" doesn't sound like anything you would want to cuddle. It's just a little too abstract and scientific. If the family could travel 13 years back in time, they might do well to choose a name like "Spunky" or "Binky" or "Pamela Anderson."

On the plus side, a raccoon is a moderately cute animal. Not as sympathetically cute as a fawn, perhaps, but more so than a muskrat. They get cute points for washing their food, but lose some of these for their regrettable habit of rummaging through trash bins.

So now Onix, if that is his real name, is a political prisoner of the Humane Society. Since you can't debrief a raccoon, they can't unlearn him of his domestic ways and set him loose in the wild. And without a permit, a family cannot keep a wild animal as a pet.

But Onix's owner, C.J. Giffin, put up a good point. If the Maryland Department of Natural Resources had been around and wielding authority in the days of the Pharaohs, there would be no such thing today as a domesticated dog or cat.

But the DNR isn't about to be drawn into the argument of who should have domesticated whom, or whether the whole situation might have been different if Ramses II snuggled up next to a Procyn Lotor instead of a Felinus Whateverus.

So if the poor beast can't be relocated to some kind of educational petting zoo, it's going to have to be - how to put this delicately so as not to upset the children - well, let's just say that Davy Crockett is going to wake up with one cap too many.

Fortunately, Giffin isn't the only one who is Hooked on Onix. Yes, the raccoon has an attorney. Jerome "Ranger Rick" Joyce said last week he will represent the raccoon for free because, "as a child I always wanted a pet raccoon."

Well, yes, lots of kids have wanted a pet raccoon. But, to be brutally honest, most of them got over it by age 12. No, I don't mean that - it's just that I'm bitter that a raccoon gets a lawyer for free, while I can't find one that will represent me for any price.

Joyce points out that the Giffin-raccoon relationship has lasted longer than most marriages - which is true, but then again, when was the last time you saw a raccoon buy his wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday? And please, they only live to be about 16, anyway. (Raccoons also have a top speed of 15 mph - who says I don't do research?) So Onix is like on Social Raccoon Security.

I hope we can "bend the rules" a bit and "look the other way" so we can "gloss over" this unpleasantness and move on to other clichs, such as, all's well that ends pelt, I mean welt, I mean well.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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