A New England Road couple and the dog they are fostering encountered a rabid raccoon on a chaotic morning July 12.

Diane Sturgeon and Nathan Gilbert were out in their yard around 5:30 a.m. with Decker, a 9-month-old mixed-breed puppy, in anticipation of a walk when suddenly "his head popped up."

Decker spotted a raccoon that had stepped out from a line of trees bordering the yard.

He ran toward it and started "doing the dance around the raccoon," Sturgeon said. "If he was going to start something, Decker was going to finish it."

Gilbert was able to "get in a solid kick" in an attempt to disrupt the scuffle, but the raccoon eventually lunged at the dog and latched on to his chin, she said.

To separate the two animals, Gilbert stepped on the raccoon while Sturgeon grabbed Decker.

Afterward, Sturgeon grabbed rubber gloves and began to clean the dog off while Gilbert "took care of the raccoon" with a shovel.

Fortunately, Sturgeon said, Decker was current on his rabies vaccine and was given a booster by his veterinarian for good measure. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Searsmont Animal Control Officer Robin Dow took the raccoon carcass to Augusta for testing, where it was later discovered to be rabid.

Dow said this is the first case in Searsmont this year of a rabid animal. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists on their website one other Waldo County case, a skunk in Unity.

Nearby, on June 29, a sea otter made news when it bit a woman at a Rockland beach and was later found to have rabies. There also have been several rabid animals in Brunswick this year, according to statewide media.

Dow encourages pet owners to keep current with the rabies vaccine and to register with the Town Office.

"Searsmont sends out rabies notices when a pet's rabies certificate is is up," Dow said.

Appleton Animal Control Officer Heidi Blood said, "In the early stages of rabies, an animal exhibits signs similar to being drunk or delirious. In the later aggressive or attacking stage, the animal is within days of death."

Blood cautioned that people should "never handle wild animals."

"(But) sometimes common sense goes out the window," she said.

Sturgeon admits the experience has been a "foster fail." She said the couple now plan to adopt Decker.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate spelling of Robin Dow's name.