Wendy Hook and her husband Ron have an unusual pet. He tears apart their furniture and eats human food. He can open cupboards and climb to unlikely places. His relatives are some of the most reviled creatures in big cities. He’s Dennis, the raccoon.
The Hook family has cared for Dennis since he was a newborn, when their landlord found two baby raccoons orphaned in her barn and asked the couple if they wanted to take them home. Wendy and Ron agreed.
“They were just the sweetest things I had ever seen,” Hook said to the Toronto Star.
One died in infancy, but Dennis, who had an injured leg, survived. He’s now a year and a half old and weighs 14-kilograms.
And while Wendy and Ron have happily adopted Dennis into their family, the couple is worried he could be taken away at any moment.
According to municipal bylaws in Saskatoon, where the couple moved at the start of October, it’s illegal to keep a raccoon as a pet. Wendy only learned of the bylaw when she approached city hall to get Dennis licensed earlier this month. Since then, she and Dennis have fled to a friends’ place just outside of the city limits to protect the raccoon.
“I’m really getting tired of feeling like a fugitive,” she said, adding that, “he is the most affectionate animal that I’ve ever had.”
Like a cuddly cat, Dennis likes to sit on the Hooks’ laps and sleeps in their bed at night. (And like a curious cat, Dennis can be destructive. The couple had to install childproof locks on all their cupboards and store away breakable décor items.)
And even if raised from newborn, raccoons are still wild animals with wild tendencies. They have razor sharp teeth and are prone to biting, hard to housebreak, and can become aggressive during mating season. In captivity, raccoons can live for up to 20 years
If the city will not make an exception for Dennis, the Hooks are prepared to pack up and leave town. She’s already made calls to other places and one town south of Saskatoon has invited her to plead her case to city hall.
“I just can’t imagine what that poor little guy would go through if he was taken away.”