15. June 2010 · Comments Off · Categories: Animal Stories

Although we are deeply involved in trying to SAVE OUR WILDLIFE CENTER from eviction (read more about it) we still want to share with you the daily miracles that are occurring at our wildlife center. Yes, we are still open and accepting animals daily despite our uncertain future. Please enjoy the unfolding tale of Tiny Tim.

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(all photos and video were provided by Jack Gescheidt, photographer, and Amy Pfaffman, Tim’s caregivers!)

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Tiny Tim had broken his back and both his rear legs were paralyzed. Because our job is to release the wildlife animals back into the wild, giving them a second chance, this was a very grave situation for this baby raccoon.  Paraplegic animals do not survive in the wild! Something had to be done.

Tiny Tim’s miracle began when he was brought into care with our own “Rancho Raccoon” team and, under the supervision of raccoon team leader, Megan Isadore, placed in the care of two very wonderful fosterers, Amy and Jack, who gave Tiny Tim the extra care he needed.

Here is a video of him at the beginning of his stay with Jack and Amy:

Tiny Tim’s plight caught the interest of Dr. Andrew Sams of The Sams Clinic, an orthopedic specialty vet practice in Mill Valley, who has donated consultations about our rehabilitation raccoons, and provided great veterinary guidance. The Sams Clinic has a neurosurgeon on staff, Dr. Lisa Klopp, who looked at the spinal x-ray and examined the 9-week-old raccoon. Dr. Klopp determined that the fracture would need to heal for a month, and agreed to perform a laminectomy to free the spinal cord from the compression causing his paralysis. Tiny Tim needed back surgery!!

During his month-long healing time before his surgery and after, Tiny Tim received physical therapy from Amy. Amy exercised Tim’s back legs several time a day, helping place them under him, supporting him minimally. Tim barely needed the help; he was determined to do everything a normal raccoon does. While Amy patiently placed his legs under him for walking, Timmy was on to leaping and climbing, never mind the falling. We were worried that he would further injure his spinal cord — but not Tim. He refused to be anything but what he is…a wild raccoon youngster. Amy’s therapy included roughhousing using a raccoon doll so he wouldn’t get too used to playing with humans.

About a week prior to surgery, we rescued a female raccoon a little younger than Tim. Her mother was hit by a car, and she was found crying by the body.

This little girl wanted no part of humans. She’s a normal 12-week-old raccoon who would rather do almost anything than cozy up to us scary monsters. But when we placed her with Tim, they bonded within hours. Tim was so happy to have a REAL raccoon to bite, and she was delighted to have someone of her own kind to cuddle with. And Tim’s human team was equally relieved Tim could learn from his own species.  This put an end to our concerns about Tiny Tim’s prolonged recovery and extended contact with human caregivers.

Finally the day for Tiny Tim’s surgery arrived. Although over the course of Tim’s month of healing he had recovered some use of both legs, he still needed the surgery to repair the damaged spine. Dr. Klopp, Tim’s neurosurgeon, said she’d never seen a smaller spinal cord. She had to perform delicate manipulation to get her instruments to work for a 3-pound raccoon kit!  Thanks to the hard work of Dr Klopp, plus two surgical assistants, and an anesthesiologist, the surgery went great!

Three hours post-surgery, Tim was up and about, and even PLAYING with his new sister! His caregivers watched him like hawks and made pen modifications to ensure he wouldn’t fall and jar his tender spine. Nevertheless, Tiny Tim and his sister had to be repeatedly constrained to allow Tim’s staples to stay intact over the following 10 days!  Thanks also to Amy’s daily physical therapy, we are seeing improvement in Tim’s abilities. Based on these improvement, and on our experience of raccoon healing, we predict Tim will be released as a normal, wild young raccoon.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in this amazing rescue! Thanks to Dr Sams Clinic, Dr Klopp and her surgical team, Jack and Amy, and Megan.

We will be posting a video of Tiny Tim post-surgery as soon as possible.  Thank you for your interest!

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