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He's a prominent banker now, but he used to be the guy who brought his pet raccoon to school

He deals in high finance now, but when he was a teenager in Moorhead, he'd cruise around town with a raccoon for a sidekick. But why? Tracy Briggs answers that question in today's "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" column.

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This future bank president and CEO spends his days with dogs now, but his love of animals started with a pet raccoon. Special to The Forum

FARGO — Anyone who walks into Vision Bank in South Fargo could tell you “The Bank with the Dogs” has earned its nickname.

Customers are greeted at the door by two sweet and mild-mannered black Labs named Piper and Scout. While they might not be qualified to help you with all of your banking needs, maybe they provide moral support when you’re doing something a little uninspiring like refinancing your mortgage?

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Dan Carey, president and CEO of Vision Bank, with the bank's two dogs Piper and Scout, which earn the bank the nickname, "The Bank with the Dogs." David Samson/The Forum

But Vision Bank customers probably don't realize that their bank could just have likely been nicknamed “The Bank with the Raccoon.”

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“I don’t know about that. That could be challenging,” says Vision Bank president and CEO Dan Carey with a laugh.

However, if anyone could make it work, it’s Carey — a self-admitted “animal guy” who trains dogs for fun now, but was once the proud owner of a pet raccoon.

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Dan Carey holds up a photo from the 1971-72 Moorhead High School yearbook showing him with his pet raccoon, Rascal. David Samson / The Forum

Let's take a closer look at this completely awesome photo from the 1971-72 Moorhead High School yearbook where a teenage Carey, a linebacker for the football team, is all decked out for game day with a Spud blazer and a special guest at his feet, his pet raccoon, Rascal.

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Dan Carey was a linebacker for the Moorhead High School football team in 1971. On game day, the players wore special blazers with the Moorhead "M' logo. On one particular day, Carey also brought his pet raccoon to school. Rascal must have been a good luck charm as the Spuds won the state football championship that year. Moorhead High School yearbook photo / Special to The Forum

“In those days, they issued those blazers to us,” he says. “As for the raccoon, I’m not sure what inspired me to bring him to school that game day. It wasn’t like it was show-and-tell or anything.”

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Rascal's presence that day might have been good luck as that year, 1971, the Spuds won their first state football championship.

Carey says Rascal made a lot of friends that day at school, and the administration and teachers didn’t say a word. Rascal was a perfect gentleman. He should be. Carey had trained his pet raccoon like he would a dog.

“You can domesticate some wild animals and teach them to have certain manners, house training, not to jump up on furniture, and he didn’t,” Carey said. “And he became very, very protective of me.”

Not surprising since Carey had been Rascal’s caregiver since he was a freshman in high school and Rascal was a tiny baby, just a few inches long.

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Dan Carey got his pet raccoon when he was a freshman in high school. When this photo was taken in August 1972, Carey was heading off to college, so Rascal was sent to live in a wildlife park. Special to The Forum

Carey got Rascal when he and his family were staying at a lake resort near Park Rapids, Minn.

“I'd befriended one of the owner’s kids and one day he called me and said, ‘Hey, prepare your parents because I found a mother raccoon who was hit by a car but she had four little ones and I got your name on one, OK?'"

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Were Carey’s parents prepared? Who knows? But they didn’t say no.

“I can’t believe my parents let me do it,” Carey laughs.

The bottle-fed baby soon grew into a 40-pound raccoon, with all his necessary shots, living off table scraps and sleeping in the garage.

“He would snuggle with you. He would sit on the couch like a little old man and watch TV. It was just hilarious to have this critter be a part of our life,” Carey says..

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Dan Carey says you can train a raccoon just like you would a dog. He says Rascal fit right in and was very protective of him. Special to The Forum

Carey says people just kind of got used to the fact that he had a pet raccoon, although he’d get funny looks while taking Rascal for a ride in the car.

“I’d put him on a leash like I would a dog and he’d sit on the bench seat in my car and you know how raccoons' little paws are always moving? Well, he’d sit there and play with my hair while I drove. People would freak out,” Carey says.

But just like little Jackie Paper and Puff the Magic Dragon, Carey’s boyhood days spent with his beloved animal friend were coming to an end. He was going off to college and because raccoons are really one-owner pets, he could not just leave Rascal with his parents. So Rascal was sent to live at a place called Deer Town in Park Rapids, where we can presume he lived a long and happy life.

Carey graduated from the University of North Dakota and has been working in finance for years. He is also a prominent community philanthropist.

Rascal would be very proud.

Tracy Briggs Back Then with Tracy Briggs online column sig.jpg
"Back Then with Tracy Briggs"

Readers can reach Forum reporter and columnist Tracy Briggs at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com.

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