Imagine yourself out for a run, or a walk, through the forest. A mile away from the nearest house, you spot a raccoon in the trail in front of you. Though it’s an unusual sighting in broad daylight, more unusual is the animal’s response when it sees you. It bares its teeth and charges at you. Brambles and vines and rocky bumps in the path ahead and behind make it impossible for you to outrun it. It leaps toward you and, as you attempt to push it away as it lunges, it clamps its teeth on your thumb. You scream and try your best to pull the animal’s jaws apart, but your strength does not match that of the clawing animal. As you wrestle with the biting, clawing, scratching beast, you notice a puddle of water at your feet. In a desperate effort to make this nightmare end, you thrust the beast under the water and push with all your might. You hold the animal under for what seems an eternity. Finally, its legs go limp and its grip on your thumb loosens. You’re able to release yourself from its clutches. Almost paralyzed with fear, you run back down the trail from which you came and reach your house. Some of your housemates call 911 for help, while others take to the trail to find your attacker. They find the drowned raccoon, bag it, and take it to the authorities, who determine it was rabid. You must now get a series of injections to save your life; without them, you will surely die. But the nightmare is nearly over, but not completely. You will live to tell the tale. The authorities caution you, and everyone nearby: when there’s one rabid raccoon, there will be more. Beware the forest trail.
[This may sound like something I’d make up, but it’s actually pretty faithful to a story I read about yesterday in an online newspaper in Maine. Today, the internet is alight with stories recounting the horrible encounter.]