One chilly Friday afternoon in April, my young son (then age ten) brought our dogs back from a walk around the neighborhood in a frenzy of baying. I met him at the door and asked what all the brouhaha was about. “Oh, “he said, “there’s a fox outside.”
I stepped out around the garage and looked in the direction he was pointing, and sure enough, there was a grey fox walking unsteady laps around my neighbor’s house. I began looking for the animal control phone number. Before I found it, Spouse and the neighbor called to alert me that there was a fox in the neighborhood, and they thought maybe it was sick. I told them I was trying to find someone to come and take it away.
Spouse immediately took charge of the situation. Spouse and Neighbor Joe climbed in Spouse’s truck together and kept the fox under surveillance during its laps, which had expanded now to include three houses; Joe’s, ours, and the house between, where The People Who Never Spoke to Anyone lived. Said surveillance included staying in telephone contact with me and barking coordinates describing the fox’s location based on neighborhood landmarks every two minutes. Neighbor Chris appeared with his crossbow and offered to exterminate the offending fox, but Spouse and Joe convinced him that capture and rabies testing was a better alternative. Another neighbor appeared on her front porch, with a video camera.
I was in the house with a child who was in an all-out tantrum because I wouldn’t let him outside to watch the fox. He finally busied himself by running from window to window trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive animal.
Somehow, my cat sensed that this distraction might provide the cover she’d always hoped for to rid herself of the beagle infestation in our home. I saw her leap out from behind a sofa and land on the head of my most recently acquired dog. I had no sooner entered the fray and dislodged Magic’s claws from Daisy’s ear when I was summoned. “Mom, Mom! Hurry! It’s under my window!” I pushed the cat into the laundry room and dashed into younger son’s room where we both smashed our faces to the glass trying to look directly down, under the window. The fox was indeed there, and it was having a seizure. Obviously it was really sick. Or we looked horrifying with our faces pressed against the window and we scared the bejezus out of it.
I realized we were now thirty minutes into Fox Watch and had acquired three more vehicles of Fox Spotters, including my older son. I called Animal Control to see if someone had been dispatched. Yes, they’d sent someone, and she had just radioed in that she had picked up our fox. I told them I was watching it have a seizure in my front yard, and no, there was no one from Animal Control there. They asked for my address again and said they’d send her over to talk to me. I hung up, shaking my head and returned to the window.
The fox was gone, but there was a pizza delivery driver in the cul-de-sac, talking to Spouse and Joe. The People Who Do Not Speak to Anyone had ordered pizza and, as they were prone to do when there was excitement in the neighborhood, they were peeking out through their living room window blinds. Spouse called me to inform me about Pizza Boy risking life and limb delivering food to the weirdos next door. I heard Pizza Boy exclaim, “I’m not afraid of a fox!” and Spouse apprised us all that after much conversation with Joe, they felt the fox might be rabid. Pizza Boy ran for his car and sped away.
And then, Joe and Spouse hatched a plan. They had our garage door opener and thought that perhaps they could “herd” the fox into MY garage with the truck and trap it. I might have gotten a bit shrill when they suggested this to me. Being in the house, I couldn’t see what they were doing and only heard commentary of the event over the phone.
Joe: Okay, the garage door is open.
Spouse: all right. I’m going to ease the truck up there and OH…there! He’s in the garage. Quick!
(Sound of garage door rumbling down)
Joe: Dammit! I closed the door on his head!
Spouse: Raise the door! Crap! Is it dead?
Joe: No, but it’s having another seizure.
ME: STOP IT! YOU ARE NOT USING MY GARAGE FOR A RABID ANIMAL HOLDING CELL!
And then, miraculously, the Animal Control truck appeared. The fox stumbled away behind the house between ours and Joe’s. Child #2 and I finally ventured outside. The Animal Control officer showed us the “fox” she’d picked up two blocks away. It was a yellow Chow, and she told us that often, people mistake a regular dog for a fox. We were all silent and looked at her. The diseased fox staggered over to see what we were doing standing out in the middle of the street. We pointed to it and informed her that this was the fox we’d called about. “Oh, I think that IS a fox,” she said, snapping her gum and looking all of twelve years old. We were not impressed with her zoological knowledge. She retrieved the Noose on a Stick from her vehicle and walked closer to the probably rabid fox. The fox looked at her, and then took a couple of steps forward and surrendered. It stood on her foot and poked its head through the noose. She led it to the truck, pushed it into a cage next to the Chow, and took it away.