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May 27, 2013 / Andee Frizzell

Urban Wildlife

red pandaThe other night there was the most fantastic thunder and lightning storm here in Toronto. As this is a weather phenomenon not seen in Vancouver, I headed out on the fire escape to watch the spectacle. The dark skies were shattered by brilliant white bolts of light and the thunderous claps that followed each performance, shook the steps I was sitting on.

It was during one of these illuminating light moments that I came face to face (literally) with a nasty, garbage raccoon perched high in the tree beside the fire escape.

I am hoping that it was the booming thunder clap that followed that sent the raccoon scrambling down the tree and not the high pitched, girlie scream that escaped me when I saw him. I bolted through the back door, breathless, heart racing and my underpants in need of checking!! It’s not often I find myself face to face with unpredictable urban wildlife, unless of course, you count happy hour at the Cactus Club.

The situation reminded me of the last time I came face to face with natures wild.

I was travelling through China on a fashion show tour. We travelled through 15 cities in one month. There was a day of travel, half a day for sightseeing and half a day for the show. The following morning we’d be off again.

Myself and a male model named Jonathan, were the only two of our 20 person group even remotely interested in sightseeing. The other 18 models were much more interested in nurturing their hangovers.

The organizers of the tour decided to capitalize on this fact and Jonathan and I were given our own interpreter and were met at each new city by local TV stations and local officials. We toured the highlights of each city on junk boats, rickshaws and were granted passage into forbidden Buddhist temples.

In one of the last cities on the tour, we were invited to visit a Panda natural habitat sanctuary. Unfortunately, minutes before leaving our interpreter was called away to mediate a dispute between one of the other models and the hotel, something about putting bubble bath in the swimming pool.

Jonathan and I boarded the bus with a few dignitaries and a film crew. The Panda natural habitat sanctuary consisted of high brick walls topped with walkways that overlooked tranquil, overgrown bamboo filled pastures where the Pandas lived.

We were ushered, by impatient pointing and a little shoving, to follow two of the natural habitat staff into an ‘office’ of sorts, located near the entrance of one of the pastures. Once entering the ‘office’ the two staff went about donning us each with a pair of plastic gloves and shoving apple slices into all the available pockets of our clothes. Without a word spoken to or by either of us we were escorted to the entrance door and literally shoved inside the enclosure. The heavy iron door slammed shut behind us and was locked from the other side.

From above the film crew angled their cameras towards us and started making excited, pointing gestures towards the lush bushes in front of us. Suddenly the whole forest of green began to move and shift. There was rustling from every direction. Jonathan and I stood there frozen in expectation of the worst, armed only with apple slices and plastic gloves for protection from WHATEVER was moving towards us. I had never pictured the ending of my life would be a scene from Jurassic park but here it was.

Then the first furry face poked his head out of the bushes. He looked like a raccoon with a different mask on and had red fur instead of black. The little creatures emerged, sniffing the air and checking us out. The two of us just stood there trembling, unsure if we were about to be eaten or cuddled to death. The pack of Red Pandas got a whiff of the apples and it was all over.

All over us that is. They came from every direction, sticking their claws into our pockets and extracting the slices with pickpocket precision, crawling on us and even snuggling into our arms while they ate the sweet treats we had to offer.

Once the apples were gone, so went the band of Red Pandas leaving us grinning from ear to ear over the magic of the moment (or by the fact we hadn’t been eaten by a diabolical wild creature in front of TV cameras).

Please resist the urge to comment on the fact I was sitting on a metal set of stairs during a lightning storm. I recognize that this was very, very stupid but in hindsight, that was most likely the least stupid thing I did last week!



Leave a Comment
  1. arcticgoddess / May 27 2013 12:51 pm

    I can just see you being protected by a couple of rather attractive Goa’uld System Lords…then again, maybe you would have been the very first Wraith Queen to witness high pitched screams from two former tough System Lords as they raced back inside ahead of you…

  2. Slam / May 27 2013 1:06 pm

    Well the raccoon could have been one of your fans/stalkers dressed as a raccoon. I know that when I dress as raccoon to covertly visit to my favorite actor, the view from that tree is perfect…


  3. Slam / May 27 2013 1:08 pm

    Well the raccoon could have been one of your fans/stalkers dressed as a raccoon. I know that when I dress as raccoon to covertly visit to my favorite actor, the view from that tree is perfect…


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