Nikki Robinson and her mother Linda are no strangers to fostering wildlife.
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They’ve taken care of a variety of animals, but none as often as raccoons. Among all their furry friends, they’ve never met anyone as special as Little Hands.
The mother-daughter duo started helping animals about five years ago when a friend of Nikki’s had an orphaned raccoon they weren’t able to keep.
Having always wanted to work in wildlife rehabilitation, Nikki was ready to take over. Because she worked full-time, that wasn’t realistic to do alone, but thankfully, Linda could help!
“I asked my mom to help with many of the daily feedings. She was hesitant at first, but then I told her it was really in lieu of any grandchildren I would be giving her,” Nikki said. “Well, once the baby starts nursing from a bottle and looks her in the eye, she melts, and it instantly becomes Mama’s coon.”
Two years later, Nikki discovered 14-week-old Little Hands on the side of the road.
“We rescued him from the traffic and tried to find a wildlife rehab that would take him but everywhere was full and all they could offer was to ‘take it to a vet to be euthanized’ or ‘let nature take its course outside,'” Nikki said.
So, just like they had done before, they took care of the baby raccoon themselves.
Like many of the animals they rescue, Little Hands was unsure of his new environment at first. He was dehydrated, hungry, and understandably a little scared. But with some care and love, they were able to fully release him into the wild after about two and a half months.
“Little Hands has always been a calmer, peaceful raccoon,” Nikki said. “Very loving and compassionate, even as he matured. But still wild enough he thrives on his own.”
The releasing process doesn’t take place all at once. Initially, most animals will come back at night for the food Nikki and Linda leave outside. When they do, it’s strictly to get the food; they stay away from all humans and leave again right away. Eventually, they stop coming back… with one exception.
Three years later, Little Hands still loves to visit for a late-night snack! Even better, he clearly doesn’t just stop by for the free food – he also loves to get attention and pets!
“Sometimes, we wouldn’t see him for a month, and then on a clear night, he would show up and even let us approach him,” Nikki said. “But the first thing he would do, sometimes even before sniffing his food, is he would climb over to Linda on the swing, sit beside her, and want pats from her. He liked his lower back and chin rubbed the most.”
Although they don’t know for sure why he is different from the others, they think it may be because of how young he was when they brought him in, making Linda’s place truly feel like home. Whatever the reason, they’re just happy their little friend still visits!
“Pure joy,” Nikki said when asked how she feels when he returns. “And every time he came back it was a more and more joyous occasion, especially because he wanted our attention as well as our food which was all that much more special.”
Although taking care of wildlife isn’t easy, Nikki and Linda couldn’t love it more. In fact, they’re trying to open a wildlife rehabilitation center.
“I am working on getting more licenses and training for the different species. But in the end, we take the raccoons because no one else will due to their abundance in nature already,” Nikki said. “Every animal deserves a chance, right?”
Not everyone should be taking in animals – these two did their research and went through all of the legal requirements, including getting licensed. But according to Nikki, you don’t have to foster animals to make a difference.
“Be kind,” she said. “We share the planet with so many creatures that need to be respected. Creatures that we mostly don’t understand, but are capable of complex social systems and emotions we often think are exclusive to humans.”
What a powerful reminder! Share this story to thank Linda and Nikki for all the amazing work they do.
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