Have you ever met Rachel Borch? Through the years of I’ve always been in awe of Rachel. As a young girl Rachel was the Spelling Bee champion here in Knox County. You may also know Rachel as the young lady that went for a run in Maine last summer and met up with a rabid raccoon. I recently had the chance to ask Rachael how she was doing, and I asked her if she would be willing to share with us her thoughts.

Rachel recently graduated with a B.A. Psychology and a Journalism minor from Eckerd College.

We wish Rachel all the best.

Norman Medina DDS

Dentist, Seasons of Smiles Dental

(The bite marks in my thumb, a few days after the attack; by now, they’ve healed into scar tissue and are fairly difficult to see, or I would’ve included a recent picture. Disappointing scar, but at least I have a story!)

Teeth: they may be a blessing or a curse, depending whose perspective you’re coming from. Sharp ones are lifesaving if you’re a predator; not such great news if you’re the prey.

If you’re lucky enough to find your choppers in decent working condition (thanks, in no small part, to the longstanding efforts of Dr. Medina and his team,) chances are you put them to use several times a day, for the purpose of facilitating the ingestion of vital nutrients. Seems innocuous, right?

Most omnivores, as a matter of fact, utilize them for similar purpose. Unless, of course, the omnivore in question happens to have rabies, such as the raccoon I encountered while running a woodland trail near my home in Hope a little over a year ago.

Even so many months later, I am afraid will never forget the terror in the raccoon’s eyes or the flash of its spindly little teeth just moments before it sank them into the tender flesh of my thumb. A healthy animal would not generally attack or even approach a human, but this one was rabid and apparently bloodthirsty, as evidenced by the readiness of its tiny, vampire-like fangs.

You may have heard what happened next. Perhaps you read about it in an article someone shared with you, or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about, in which case you may be in for a little rollercoaster. I’ve recounted this story before to various news outlets, but the only firsthand account that exists in its entirety was published last summer in Vermont Sports magazine. You can, and I (only being a little bit biased) strongly recommend that you do, read it here.

In any case, I had to momentarily set my vegetarian ethics aside to address the situation, which was no joke; having a body part enmeshed in the jaws of a ferocious rabid animal is every bit as terrifying as it sounds, and the raccoon’s needle-like fangs made this bite especially painful.

(A helpful infographic, demonstrating exactly why a raccoon’s bite generally cuts a bit deeper than a human’s, not that you should have to worry too much about being bitten by either…. But then again, I guess you can never be too careful. I’m living proof… )

Raccoons — colloquially referred to as “trash pandas.

Raccoons — colloquially referred to as “trash pandas,” for good reason — are true omnivores, in the sense that their diets consist of a wide variety of foods, ranging from berries to nuts to small fish to human food scraps. Basically, they’ll eat whatever they can get their nimble little hands on, which generally amounts to a pretty balanced spread; of course, a rabid ‘coon is somewhat less discerning.

While humans are also technically omnivores, our teeth are best suited for chewing and grinding plant materials or already cooked foods, so the efficacy of our incisors in a physical skirmish is questionable. A raccoon’s teeth, meanwhile, evolved in a variety of shapes to stab, tear and crush, while their jaws evolved to hinge widely and clench forcefully. I learned this firsthand — no pun intended — the hard way, when I realized that extricating my thumb from the raccoon’s mouth would be all but impossible.

It’s kind of a rollercoaster, so buckle in.

Unable to “bite back” so to speak (not that I would because ew, rabies) and knowing that the deranged animal was unlikely to be deterred by any sort of retaliation anyways, I had to take secondary measures (which, if you still haven’t, you should definitely read about it. Like I said, it’s kind of a rollercoaster, so buckle in.)

Regardless of how violently the scuffle went down, I’m thankful I was able to make it out relatively unscathed and rabies-free — although, considering how much pain I actually endured, it would be nice to have a slightly more obvious scar to show for it. Still, at least I made it out alive, which is more than I can say for my misfortunate furry nemesis.

Dare I say perhaps that raccoon bit off more than he could chew?

(N.B.: While I’m here, I may as well amend a couple misprints in the Vermont Sports article: It states that the attack occurred a quarter mile away from my house, but the true distance was three-quarters of a mile. Also, I misattributed Parks & Recreation to the wrong network; the show aired on NBC, not CBS. Mi dispiace.)

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