I have a soft spot for raccoons.

Those bandit-mask eyes, little black nose and ringtail are endearing to me.

I must have a karmic connection with raccoons, because we frequently pass through each other’s lives.

I see them in our green space, out and about in town, and we’ve even had them visit our house.

I usually come away from a raccoon encounter having learned a neon-light lesson.

This week I was driving on a busy street, thinking about the appointment I was nearly late for. I was only half tuned in to the business of driving. I saw the red smear on the asphalt, and my stomach did a little flip flop. A few feet away lay a dead raccoon. My eyes welled with tears and I felt an overwhelming sadness.

But I kept driving. There was nothing else I could do.

This wasn’t my first experience with raccoons falling victim to traffic. Some years back I was driving on this same street and saw a pair of young raccoons, both lying dead in the middle of the road.

I had the same immediate reaction: tears and sadness and a feeling that someone had just punched me in the stomach.

Raccoons are sometimes associated with cunning behavior. They can be ferocious fighters, and are extremely smart. They’ve adapted pretty well to urban life, busy streets and distracted drivers notwithstanding.

Some cultures attribute certain shamanic characteristics to the raccoon as a totem animal: curiosity, adaptability, manual dexterity, cunning and resourcefulness.

For me, the message may be simpler.

I’ve been tired this week and feeling overwhelmed with a long to-do list. I think seeing that raccoon in the road was a reminder to me.

Slow down and tune in to my surroundings and especially, to myself.


Do you have an animal that keeps showing up in your life? Do you believe that animals are sent to us as teachers?