Blinded raccoon encourages respect for wildlife

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Rocket Raccoon in the hit Marvel movie series "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a superhero with super senses of sight, smell, hearing, and touch. In the real world, Trouper the blind raccoon struggles to walk and can't feed himself. 

He was barely 8 weeks old when a golfer clubbed him over the head and left him for dead.  Had it not been for federally-licensed wildlife rehabber Dot Lee, he certainly would have died. 

Lee says it was touch-and-go when he arrived nine years ago.

"I had to squeeze his mouth, eye dropper his fluid...then massage his throat so he would swallow," Lee recalled. 

His condition was so dire, Lee thought the most merciful thing would be to euthanize him.  But Trouper, as she named him, wasn't ready to go. 

"I looked at him and I said, 'Oh my goodness, little buddy, you're a real trooper, aren't you? You don't want to die,'" she remembered.

Since then, Dot Lee has devoted her life to the little raccoon she rescued. It's a full-time job that she welcomes.

"He can't smell. He can't see. He can't pick up things. He can't climb. He's not aggressive.  He won't defend himself. He has a massive brain injury. Basically, he's still 2 months old."

She even moved to Florida from North Carolina because that state wouldn't allow her to keep a raccoon as a pet. She would have had to release him -- to certain death -- or euthanize him.

Now at home in Fort Myers, she has all the licenses -- state and federal -- and Trouper is up to date on all his shots. 

Trouper gets along amazingly well for his limitations. He can walk. He can play in his kiddie pool.

All that has come, however, with plenty of physical therapy. Lee still exercises his limbs every day to keep him going. 

"I had to teach him how to move, one leg at a time, and he has to pull himself up. He walked up, then he pulled. We do pull-ups together and the kids love this part. They laugh at a raccoon doing pull-ups."

Children are curious and enchanted by the little raccoon that can, despite the odds. Dot Lee and Trouper make lots of presentations to schools, nursing homes, and civic groups. They come with a message of respect. 

"If you don't like a raccoon, that's fine, but you don't have to kill it or maim it or hurt it. It's called respect," Lee said. "When we don't practice respect with each other, somebody always gets hurt. In this case, it's Trouper. He's blind for the rest of his life because that man didn't give him any respect."

Trouper's story resonates with people all over the world. Diane Pelley travels from Ohio every spring to visit Trouper and Dot. 

"I get like a 2-year-old right before we come. I can't sleep, I'm so excited to come because I just adore him! To hold him and know what he's been through and know how much he's loved now and know how he's brought an awareness to wildlife," said Pelley.

The most famous member of the Trouper fan club may well be singer Jackie Evancho. Lee says Trouper adores her voice. He even has his own little set of earphones to listen to his favorite performer. 

"Even when the hurricane came and we had no power, Trouper still got to listen to Jackie every day on his little CD player," Lee said. 

Dot and Trouper are familiar sights in their Fort Myers neighborhood; the two out for a walk -- Trouper in his little carriage, Dot always ready to share his story and explain why we should respect all living things. 

"I am a very lucky person because I was the one chosen to live with him...and I feel every day that I am loved," Lee added.

The unofficial Trouper fan club follows his daily life with Dot on Facebook and his official website.

Trouper is also the ambassador for a non-profit dedicated to wildlife called the Wildlife Education Project.