Rachel Borch couldn’t believe what she was seeing – a “ferocious-looking” raccoon, teeth bared, running straight at her while she ran on a trail in the woods near her home in Hope, Maine.
“It was one of those moments like out of the ‘Twilight Zone’ — this isn’t real, this doesn’t happen in real life, but then it was right there and it was right at my feet,” Borch, 21, told the Village Soup in Camden, Maine, describing what happened on June 3.
“There was nothing I could do, it was going to bite me.”
She started dancing around it, trying to figure out what to do, she said. In an instant she figured if it was going to bite her anywhere it should be her hands. So she put them out in front of her, and the raccoon clamped onto her thumb.
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“Imagine the Tasmanian devil,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “It was terrifying.”
This is what she did next, she told Village Soup.
“I was screaming and crying and trying to hold it down,” she said. “There was a few inches of really muddy water on the ground — it was a swampy area of the trail — so I just took all my strength and pushed it into the water.”
She held that raccoon’s head underwater while it clawed at her arms and bit down on her thumb until it stopped moving and its limbs fell limp.
“It happened so fast, but also in slow motion,” she said.
She ran home bleeding and crying – at one point ditching her soaked shoes so she could run faster – and her mother put her in the car and took her to the hospital.
Her father and brother went into the woods to get the raccoon so it could be tested for rabies, according to WGME in Portland, Maine.
“She was phenomenal,” Hope Animal Control officer Heidi Blood told the TV station. “I don’t know if I would’ve been able to keep my composure and handle the situation the way she did.”
Blood also credited the family’s fast thinking in going after the raccoon and preventing another animal or someone else from getting hurt.
“They did everything perfectly,” Blood said. “Rabies will generally not live in a dead animal more than 24 hours.”
The Maine Centers for Disease Control reported the raccoon tested positive for rabies, which can be fatal if left untreated, said Blood, who warned residents that if one animal tests positive, there probably are more in the area.
Borch is expected to receive the last of a series of shots and injections over the weekend.
She told the Bangor newspaper she thought “what a beautiful day” as she set out for her run on that warm, sunny day.