When a Maine runner named Rachel Borch headed to the woods for a trail run recently, she wasn't expecting to encounter a raccoon—much less an aggressive, rabid one.
That is exactly what happened, though, she said. And the ensuing battle—which ended with a terrified Borch drowning the animal in a puddle with her bare hands—soon went viral, shared among runners and non-runners alike.
Today an already unusual story took a strange turn as an attorney representing the dead raccoon's family announced plans for a wrongful death lawsuit.
"For humans, apparently, this tragic story is somehow funny," William Burrows, a prominent woodland lawyer, told a gaggle of reporters this morning near the scene of the incident. "For the family and loved ones of Stewart, however, this is no laughing matter. This is a case of cold-blooded murder, plain and simple."
Stewart is the name of the deceased raccoon.
"Compounding this tragedy," Burrows continued, adjusting his tiny eyeglasses, "is the way the media have presented the so-called facts, taking Ms. Borch at her word without even the pretense of hearing the other side."
In Borch's telling, the incident was a simple matter of self-defense. From a news story in The Bangor Daily News:
In the midst of appreciating the weather and scenery, she looked ahead and noticed a raccoon obstructing the narrow foot path, baring its tiny teeth.
Suddenly, it began “bounding” toward her, Borch recalled. ...
“I knew instantly it had to be rabid,” said Borch. ...
What felt like a split second later, the furry animal was at her feet. Borch said she was “dancing around it,” trying to figure out what to do.
“Imagine the Tasmanian devil,” she said. “It was terrifying.”
Burrows disputes that claim, saying that Stewart had no history of violence or rabies—and, as a father of five, had plenty to live for.
"Perhaps you've heard the species referred to as the 'common raccoon,'" Burrows said. "Well, there was nothing common about Stewart. He was a fine animal. A loving husband. A doting father. A good forager. And now he's gone. Forever."
Burrows said he intends to file the lawsuit as early as Monday. He did not specify the damages being sought.
Borch was unavailable for comment; a squirrel reporter approaching the Borch home was shooed away with a broom.
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