Maine's Bangor Daily News has graciously provided us all with what could prove to officially be the story of the week/month/year/infinity: the harrowing tale of a vegetarian Maine jogger's run-in with a rabid raccoon that started with a pleasant jaunt through the woods on a "beautiful day" and ended with a raccoon belly up in a puddle and a vegetarian haunted by the vision of what she once considered a "cute, cuddly forest animal" but now brings to mind something out of "Pet Sematary."
The story begins with 21-year-old jogger and non-eater of meat Rachel Borch hitting the trail for a jog on a warm afternoon, thinking to herself, "What a beautiful day." That beautiful day would quickly turn bloody (not really that bloody, but there was blood). Here's how BDN's Alex Aquisto describes the beginning of the insane encounter:
In the midst of appreciating the weather and scenery, she looked ahead and noticed a raccoon obstructing the narrow foot path, baring its tiny teeth.
Suddenly, it began “bounding” toward her, Borch recalled Wednesday afternoon during an interview at her home on Hatchet Mountain Road in Hope.
“I knew instantly it had to be rabid,” said Borch, who remembers ripping out her headphones and dropping her phone on the ground.
What felt like a split second later, the furry animal was at her feet. Borch said she was “dancing around it,” trying to figure out what to do.
Borch tried to describe what that little freaky creature most resembled: "Imagine the Tasmanian devil," she said. "It was terrifying."
The crazed raccoon began "lunging" at her, the narrow path not allowing Borch the room to run past the little "devil." At this point, Borch resigned herself to getting bitten, so she took the fight to the woodland creature:
Figuring she would have the greatest ability to defend herself if she used her hands to hold it down, she decided that probably would be the best place for the aggressive animal to latch on.
The raccoon sank its teeth into Borch’s thumb and “wouldn’t let go.” Its paws were scratching her arms and legs wildly as Borch screamed and cried.
Unable to pry the raccoon's jaws off her thumb, Borch noticed that her dropped cell phone had landed in a puddle of water and had an idea: drown the hateful thing.
"I didn't think I could strangle [the raccoon] with my bare hands," explained Borch. "With my thumb in its mouth, I just pushed its head down into the muck."
She then held the raccoon, belly up, under the water for what felt like forever. "It was still struggling and clawing at my arms. It wouldn’t let go of my thumb," she said. But finally, "its arms sort of of fell to the side, its chest still heaving really slowly."
"If there hadn’t been water on the ground, I don’t know what I would have done," she said later. "It really was just dumb luck. I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. I’m a vegetarian. It was self-defense."
Convinced that the raccoon was no longer a threat, she extricated her thumb from its jaws and "bolted as fast":
Hyperventilating and in hysterics, she pulled her thumb out of the raccoon’s mouth, “and then I just bolted as fast as I could through the underbrush,” she said.
Borch remembers looking back once to see if the raccoon had started chasing her again.
“It felt like [Stephen King’s] ‘Pet Sematary,’” she said.
Borch ran three-quarters of a mile — bare-footed because her shoes were soaked — and screaming the whole way, thinking, "Oh, God, what if I just start foaming at the mouth and can’t find my way back?"
Her mom took her to the nearby medical center for treatment, while her father went to get the corpse, which he stuffed into a perfectly named "Taste of the Wild" dog food bag. (I'm beginning to worry this is a hoax.)
The Maine Center for Disease Control confirmed on Wednesday that the raccoon indeed had rabies, so naturally Animal Control issued a statement freaking everyone out about the likelihood of more rabid raccoons out there haunting the trails.
"Not to scare people," Hope Animal Control Officer Heidi Blood said, but "when there’s one [infected], there’s typically another." If left untreated, she pointed out, rabies infections are "100 percent fatal." Yikes.
Aquisto ends her delightful story by noting that Borch has absolutely zero advice for anyone who stumbles into a rabid animal like she did.
"I always thought of raccoons as this cute, cuddly forest animal," she said. "I just will never look at them the same way."