Spring is a breath away, all the beauty of the natural world opening, and our beautiful wildlife venturing out into the gently warming sunlight. They are blissfully unaware of covid-19, and the stress we are all feeling. I want to share a beautiful story with you, which, will hopefully, help lift you a little.
My story begins spring last year. There is nothing in my story involving the brutality of hunting and the cruelty of man, it’s a story of gentleness, rescue, care and, eventual freedom.
This time last year I kept thinking I was seeing a small creature on our patio. This was nothing unusual. We live on the edge of dense woods, and we are blessed to have wildlife visit our garden quite frequently. It was time to begin clearing up the garden, cleaning the patio, and uncovering the garden furniture that had been under tarps all winter.
I was just beginning to clear the flower beds, when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. It seemed to be under the patio furniture coverings. I gently lifted one corner, not too sure what I would find, and there she was.
The tiniest fox I had ever seen, curled up in very sparse protection from the elements. I was mesmerised. She showed no real fear, but looked at me quizzically, whilst not moving a muscle. It was obvious to me she was barely weaned as she was so young. She must have been orphaned, and found her way to our garden. Little did she know (or maybe, by some divine sense, she did), that we are both fierce animal lovers and protectors. We unimaginatively called her ‘Foxy’.
It seemed a strange choice for Foxy to come to us, at first, as we have three cats, but we came to realise that the cats were no threat to her whatsoever. All we knew was that she was in a terribly vulnerable situation and we were alarmed at how we should handle this life and death situation. I re-covered her, and quickly went online to find any help and advice. I am a midwife and a mother, but little foxes were out of my remit of knowledge!
We were lucky, we found an amazingly knowledgeable lady, Mandy, who took in orphaned foxes if absolutely necessary, and helped with advice for people who had an orphan in their garden, with feeding and medical issues. She explained it was always better for an orphan to stay in her own environment, if at all possible. There was the chance that the mother will find him/her once more, and moving her would distress and confuse her. This should only be undertaken if absolutely necessary. We took on our task to do our very best for this little lonely fox.
There were things in our favour. Our small garden is very enclosed, with dense woods behind us. They are so thick, no human could ever get through them, so, in that respect, there was safety. The main thing that worried me was the neighbours on one side, who had a penchant for shooting at a target in their back garden, and also, at squirrels. They didn’t flinch at aiming near our cats if they ventured into their garden, and I was constantly worried by this. Our youngest, most bold cat had dragged dead squirrels through the cat flap, with pellets in them. It was vile. I had it in the back of my mind to ask Mandy to take her at the slightest indication that she may be in danger. We had pet rabbits that had an enclosed run on the lawn for use in good weather (the rest of the time they have their own cabin!), and I had actually asked the patriarch in the family not to shoot our rabbits, which, in retrospect, was a pretty weird situation all round.
Mandy advised us on nutrition, and putting a homeopathic mange medication in her drinking water, which we put into place. she began to venture out of her little ‘home’ more and more. Foxy was terribly thin, and my main aim was to try to build her up with good nutrition. It was always satisfying to see our bowls of food eaten, and a little token of appreciation left on the patio, to show her thanks! Never had it been more rewarding to clean up animal poo!
We soon noticed her growing and gaining in strength. Her coat looked healthier, and she didn’t look so bedraggled. However, the nagging worry about our neighbours continued to weigh on my mind. I decided to ask Mandy to bring over a trap, so she could be cared for safely, in her rescue, and when Foxy was fully grown and completely healthy, released into the countryside in Northampton, where Mandy lived. I knew 100% that Foxy would be safe there.
Mandy brought her trap over, filled with foxy food. We waited, and waited, but nothing. We observed her patiently trying to get the food out of the trap from the outside, but we soon realised that Foxy lived fully up to her name, and had absolutely no intention of getting into it! We gave up on that idea, and decided to do our very best for her, and pray that she wouldn’t get hurt by anyone. My partner took the trap back to Mandy!
One night I got up and peered out onto the garden because the automatic light had come on. There was Foxy, sat on the lawn, with one of our cats sitting near her! They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. I was slightly concerned because Foxy was actually scared of our two pet bunnies, and I hoped that when she flew the nest, she would be able to hunt. We also put apples out, which she relished.
She was becoming more and more confident with us. She wouldn’t come close to us, but she had this cute way of listening to us intently when we talked to her. She really seemed to be taking in all the rubbish we spoke, and appreciating our conversations. I could sense the trust she felt toward us, but hoped that she wouldn’t view all humans like us, and would mistrust others, who may not have such benevolence toward her.
Foxy came and went throughout the summer. It was always magical to see her. She enjoyed our food, but some nights it was untouched. I hoped she had started hunting, I just wished she had experienced the luxury of having a mother to teach her. I didn’t want to think of what had happened to her. It was too awful.
We got used to her appearances in our garden. She wandered in, under the back fence, meandering around the garden. If it was during the day that we saw her, we would open the patio door, and talk to her. She always politely listened. This interaction was something I will remember for the rest of my life.
She was looking well, had filled out, and her coat was shinier. Her visits were becoming less frequent. I knew we were going to lose her soon. This pulled on my heartstrings, but I knew she would leave eventually, and I was happy with our small contribution to her survival.
The very last time we saw her we captured on video. She trotted up our garden, toward the fence that the animals use as an entrance to our space. As we spoke to her, she stopped and turned around completely, listening to our every word. It was as if she was saying goodbye, in the only way she knew how. She kept moving toward the fence, but stopping every few steps to acknowledge us. She stood by the fence for what felt like ages, but must have only been a few seconds. She was looking straight at us. I felt incredibly strongly that we wouldn’t see her again, and, simultaneously, deeply grateful for our time with her. Goodbye darling Foxy. Keep safe in this decidedly unsafe world.
- Estelle King