Shortly before I left for Europe I had procured a cat trap from our local Animal Control to catch a black tomcat that appeared to live underneath my backyard shed. That cat would look at me with one of those languid glances when I came out of the house to take my trash to the alley, or just to shush it away, and I was tired of the damn thing crapping in my yard. So I decided to catch the cat. The only thing was, the cat was smarter than I and managed to get to all those pieces of salmon and other goodies without triggering the trap. That SOB! The trap went back to Animal Control after a week.
Foxy Lady, Sly's betrothed
And so I came back to Lubbock last Tuesday, expecting "my" cat to have found a mate and sit in front of the shed, playing with kittens. As it turned out, even if the cat had been there I wouldn't have been able to see him because the weeds—after all the rain that Lubbock had received in May—were in places hip deep! It took me two days to get everything chopped down and reclaim at least the ground of my yard. And then I saw him: Sly, the fox.
The fruit of their love: Heartbreaker
First I wasn't sure what that animal was that I happened to glimpse out of the corner of my eye while I was writing an e-mail or something like that. The next time I saw the mystery animal, I quietly got my camera and took the first pics. On Facebook I asked, "What is this?" I had never seen a grey fox like this, always the lower-to-the-ground red variety that one finds in Europe. I suppose the tail is a giveaway, but a fox in the middle of the city?
And so the FB comments started to pour in. Some of my friends suggested calling Animal Control, many more advocated leaving the animal alone, somebody came up with the great name Sly, and lots of them pronounced me "lucky" for having a fox in my yard. Not many of my posts have drawn a response like that (30+ at the time of this writing).
Tonight I was sitting here at the dining room table, and one again I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, I realized that Sly had multiplied! Instead of one fox, there were two. No, make that two-and-a-half, as a cuddly fur-ball was jumping around, too! It's a fox refuge! In the late afternoon light the whole family had come out, with Heartbreaker (appropriately named by David Lurz) hopping around Foxy Lady (named by my neighborette two doors down, Janet) who'd occasionally groom the pup, while Sly ( thank you, Mr. Campos, for that perfect suggestion) kept a watchful eye on the whole situation. I finally opened the door, very gently yet fully expecting them to immediately seek refuge under the shed. Well, not so: They are a curious bunch. Of course they were wary, but they were also curious and not so sure what to do when I started talking to them and taking photos. One step back, one step forward, then another. Ears straight up, eyes totally trained on me, wondering what that weird two-legged animal was that didn't shoot at them (like my neighbor Ted had told me he had, with his pellet gun).
My mind is made up: They can live under my shed. The cat is gone, and I haven't found any fox crap yet. The Texas Department of State Health Services hasn't recorded any instances of rabies within a 150-mile radius around Lubbock so far in 2015, so I think I'm safe. There's something very soothing about these stealthy animals, and the intimate connection to the wild is something that one doesn't find to this degree too often while in the city.
I may have already named them, but they will not be pets. They are wild animals that have found a refuge, and maybe we can live in close vicinity for a while. I'm already looking forward to the next time when I see Heartbreaker bounce around in my backyard.
Incidentally, fox and the German Fuchs are obviously closely related. Sabine made me aware that her family name, Voss, is the low-German variant of Fuchs. Now, isn't that interesting that the fox family moved into my 'hood?