Pumpkin the raccoon might be Instagram’s unlikeliest star, but she definitely owes some of her fame to her furry sisters, dogs Toffee and Oreo.
Fans love the Bahamian rescue raccoon for her antics around owner Laura Young’s house and photos of cuddle sessions with the dogs. Young talked to CBS News about her new book, “Pumpkin: The Raccoon Who Thought She Was a Dog,” what makes Pumpkin a bit like a cat and Pumpkin’s naughtiest moment.
How did you come across Pumpkin?
So nearly two years ago, my parents live in the more rural area of Nassau and there was a family of raccoons in the trees, and for a week straight it was super windy. My mom noticed her dogs were by the tree being a bit aggressive and went and investigated and found Pumpkin. She waited for the mom but they had gone and [the mom] never came back.
We got her checked out. She had a broken leg. We had friends and vets helping her and nurturing her and figuring out what was best, and she came to live with my husband and myself and Toffee and Oreo -- the dogs.
How big was she back then?
She could fit in the palm of my hand. She was very, very tiny. She had only just opened her eyes. She was very small and malnourished. I’m not sure how long she’d been at the bottom of the tree and she had a little broken leg.
Is the leg fine now?
She’s completely fine. She’s healed. I think it gives her a little stiffness when it rains, but she’s fine.
Was it hard to raise her?
We had amazing vets and amazing locals here who had some experience with raccoons help us, guide us, get her on the bottle, get her used to that … She was so tiny we had to pee her like a kitten and rub her tummy with warm water. We don’t have wildlife centers here that can take care of an amimal like this. She needed 24/7 care. We had to wake up every two hours in the middle of the night to feed her. We wanted to give her her best shot at surviving.
Would you say she’s tame?
She’s totally tame. She’s still a wild animal, though, so she can still get grumpy and we give her her space but she does things like a dog. She was raised by my two rescues and follows them everywhere but she’s a wild animal and we respect that. Sometimes she doesn’t want to be cuddled and we respect her, but she’s in our house and she’s adorable.
How can you tell when she’s in a bad mood?
She kind of skulks away. She doesn’t want to play. She’s kind of like a cat in that mannerism -- she doesn’t want too much fuss and she’ll make little grunting noises.
But she’s normally cuddly.
Oh yeah, she’s very cuddly. She’ll sit with us on the couch and paw at us, play with the dogs. Sometimes when I’m in the bed reading, she’ll come and cuddle with me under the covers and purr and she’ll cuddle with the dogs. She’s a little cuddle monster when she wants to be.
Does she make a lot of mischief?
After having Pumpkin, I’ve discovered how intelligent raccoons are. The worst thing she’s ever done, which is in the book, is she flooded the entire house because she figured out how to turn on the tap because she wanted to play with the water and she ran it all night while we were sleeping -- for over eight hours. We woke up and our house was a flood zone, so that’s probably the most mischievous stuff she’s ever done.
Is she closer with Toffee? There are more photos of them together.
Toffee’s much more social. Oreo, our other dog, is a little more skittish and camera-shy and she’s also more the mother. She’s more the one to scold pumpkin when she does something wrong but they play and they romp. Oreo’s like the mother and Toffee’s like the big sister playmate. They’re always playing together constantly.
What does a dog scolding a raccoon entail?
It’s funny because I’ve noticed whenever Pumpkin, if she’s going toward the kitchen to do something -- we’ve had to baby-proof the kitchen because she knows how to open the cupboard -- so if she sees her going there, she’ll bark and go up to her and push her away. Or if she’s doing something that she doesn’t like or doesn’t want her to do, she’ll give a little bark and Pumpkin will stay still and go up to her and give her a little nibble on the nose, like, “I’m sorry.” That’s a daily occurrence.
Did the dogs take to her in the beginning?
Yeah. About a month after she was rescued, she came to stay with my husband and I, and the dogs instantly took her under their wing. Oreo was very protective of her and tried to nurse her at one stage. She was always cleaning her and licking her and Toffee was very encouraging in her walking outside. When Pumpkin fell, Toffee would stand over her and protect her. From day one, my dogs have been really incredible with her.
I love the video where she’s sitting and staring straight ahead and you’re flicking her nose and she’s just sort of batting it away.
What you can’t see there is that she’s touching a pillow with her hand and when she’s doing that sometimes she gets in a trance and you can do anything to her … She’s a rascal and we adore her. She is a character.