Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tribute to Dead Toronto Raccoon Goes Viral; Spurs Donations to Wildlife Centre

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tribute to Dead Toronto Raccoon Goes Viral; Spurs Donations to Wildlife Centre

Article excerpt

Dead Toronto raccoon a critter to remember


TORONTO - This was a raccoon to remember.

A day after residents constructed a makeshift memorial to a furry critter found dead on one of Toronto's busiest streets, those behind the tribute and countless others were keeping the animal's story alive as it made headlines around the world.

Harnessing the momentum behind the #DeadRacoonTO movement on social media, the trio of men who started the sidewalk memorial to the animal called for donations to the Toronto Wildlife Centre in memory of the critter who has been dubbed "Conrad."

"Such a simple thing has taken on a life of its own," said Geoff Nielson, one of the group which called themselves "the brains behind the operation."

"It's very easy to trivialize this as just another silly Internet fad, which, don't get me wrong, we're aware that it is, but for us it's really nice to use something like this for a greater social good."

It all started when Nielson, Dave Splindler and Sean Burkett, all co-workers at a downtown tech company, spotted the dead raccoon, belly up on the sidewalk at Yonge and Church street on Thursday outside their office and notified the city that the animal needed to be removed.

When the critter was still around at lunch time, the group decided to buy a condolence card from a nearby store and leave it beside the fluffy corpse.

"This raccoon was still there and this is kind of sad and depressing, so we thought what's a way we can put a more positive spin on the situation," said Spindler. "We wrote to the raccoon, 'hang in there, love the gang,' and then it kind of took off from there."

A little later, someone else from their office put a rose beside the dead raccoon.

After that, the gang decided to liven things up by printing out a picture of a raccoon, putting it in a frame lying around their office and placing it beside the dead critter, who was now starting to draw considerable attention.

"Crowds were forming around it, big groups of people were stopping to take picture. We can see all of this from our office window," recounted Neilson.

At that point, another co-worker ventured outside with a piece of paper bearing the hashtag #DeadRacoonTO, setting social media abuzz.

By nightfall, a lit religious candle, votives, more flowers and cards surrounded the deceased creature. Someone even gingerly placed a joint between his -- or her -- tiny fingers, digits more commonly used to deftly open the green bins and garbage bins of long-annoyed Torontonians.

"I think I knew his sister," wrote one jokester on Facebook. "My condolences to the family, who I think were dealing with their grief by strewing my garbage through my yard last night -- totally get that. …

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