Sometimes an animal from the wild is chosen to spend a lifetime in surroundings that nature never intended, but which enrich not only the animal itself, but everyone involved.
Foxy arrived in Cousin Jean's life, in her husband's jacket pocket - all babies have the same look of newness, no matter what their species...
I must admit that my first reaction to the farmer shooting the vixen was rather negative - but foxes can wreak slaughter on a poultry farm, although arable farmers and horticulturists, involved in the production of fruit, vegetables, ornamental trees and shrubs, can find value in them, as they control the animals that damage crops. A farmer must balance a love of animals with practicality, otherwise headless chickens, together with attacks on lambs, sheep, goats and even small calves, will be the order of the day.
Considering how hard they work, I appreciate the farmer, digging down and saving Foxy.
As I grow older, the miracle of life has made it increasingly harder for me to destroy anything that lives and exists on this planet - even wasps are "Shooed" out of the kitchen, rather than being walloped by a rolled-up newspaper, as was my previous method. Earlier this year, I was staying in Durham, when two wasps invaded my guest-room, making it impossible for me to get to sleep, without worrying that I would be stung in the middle of the night. After trying for a long while to get them to leave via the open window, I whacked one with my newspaper and deposited it's remains out into the night. The other wasp then began to attack me repeatedly, as if angry at me for killing it's companion - it was very un-nerving.
The conclusion is obvious - I must never consider being a farmer.
Nine weeks later and we find Foxy; growing up rapidly and becoming part of Jean's family.
I always find it fascinating how animals that are supposed to be natural adversaries, become friends when they are brought up together.
.Jean always felt guilty about robbing Foxy of her 'wild' life - even though she would have had no life at all if the farmer had not rescued her. It was this concern however that eventually caused Jean to create a unique environment for the new arrival.
On the other hand, Foxy seemed completely unconcerned - and no fox ever had a more comfortable lair...
At three months of age, Foxy was becoming a very beautiful young lady
When Jean took Foxy to the annual service of the Blessing of the Animals, all the villagers were fascinated at the wild spirit amongst the puppies, kittens, hamsters and budgies that filled the church
Foxy's 'wild side' continued to develop however and living in the house as a domesticated animal became increasingly difficult...
Foxy was fortunate to live in a rambling cottage, surrounded by fields and woods. It is impossible to know what impressions she received in her unusual life - a life that had removed the 'eating to live, to hunt to eat' cycle, perhaps allowing her to 'think' more about 'reasons'.
A fox in the wild only lives for around three years on average and in captivity for around eight...
...Foxy lived for more than fourteen years in an atmosphere of love and care and a relationship with Cousin Jean and her husband that must have expanded and enriched her canine brain in a unique fashion. At the very least, as the photo below shows, she was a happy and healthy little fox.
was a young male. Jean was concerned as Foxy was a vixen, but her initial fears were allayed when she was assured that the dog-fox had been neutered...
As you can see from the photo however, the neutering operation must have been somewhat less than successful as the small black objects nestling beside her show.
Two of the pups were released into the wild, when they were old enough to fend for themselves - the other two, a boy and a girl, were named 'Wordsworth' and 'Vixy' and stayed with Jean and Foxy for over a year, until they were moved to an animal sanctuary, where they quickly settled into their new community.
Although the male fox is variously called "reynard" or "dog fox", there is a distinct cat-like quality about them - more so with the female "Vixen".
The Cat-Like Canine
"Fox eyes are gold to yellow and have distinctive vertical-slit pupils, similar to those of domestic cats. Their eyesight, despite having cat-like eyes, has been described by fox expert J. David Henry as "poor" and "near-sighted" Their behaviour, and eye-slits, combined with their extreme agility, warrants the Red Fox to be referred to as the "cat-like canine". Its long bushy tail provides balance for large jumps and complex movement. Its strong legs allow it to reach speeds of approximately (45 miles per hour), a great benefit to catching prey or evading predators." ~ Wikipedia
.Each new arrival was named and spent time with Jean, until they were well enough to be released into the wild, or transferred to an animal sanctuary.
One fox was transported 250 miles by car, from Essex to the cottage in Cheshire - a great compliment for Jean's self-taught expertise. Not all of the arrivals were fortunate. "Tassy" who is being cuddled by Jean in the photograph to the right, had been mauled and her mother killed. Tassy was also traumatised and despite loving care and attention, she died soon after she arrived. At least her last days were spent in the comfort of Jean's strong arms.
Although Jean was to care for many foxes over the years, Foxy was different. Jean never referred to Foxy as a pet and Foxy in turn, seemed to consider herself a companion and protector of her unlikely mother. The closeness of their relationship, although unusual for a fox and a human being, is not surprising, as Foxy was weaned on evaporated milk, fed by Jean through an eye-dropper; so to all intents and purposes, Jean was indeed Foxy's mother. A foxes sense of smell is highly acute and Cousin Jeans scent would have been firmly imprinted - certainly Foxy's smell was well imprinted on Jean, as she remembers being tactfully advised that a change of clothes might be desirable.
It seems colleagues at her work, were unused to the pungent smell of wild fox, wafting through the office air conditioning system. The day Foxy hopped in the car and went to work with Jean must have been most interesting.
Foxy it would seem, had the best of both the 'natural' and also the 'civilised' world. The cottage and the grounds fulfilled her wild soul, whereas the domesticated and civilised part of her being continued to develop as the relationship between her and Jean deepened over the years.
Jean would often take a book and read to Foxy on summer afternoons. Foxy would listen carefully and (as long as no one else was around) jump up and sit on Jean's lap as the story was being told.
Foxy was well aware of the sound of words and the tones of a human voice and she would also communicate with Jean by adapting the natural calls of her species. A fox in the wild will make three high pitched 'yip' sounds when it is trying to locate other members of it's pack - Foxy changed the 'yips' into three deeper, human-like "Humph"sounds, to which Jean would respond. It was their greeting to each other.
So Foxy had a bridge between the wild and civilisation - a bridge she was able to cross with ease, according to her instinct and desires. She had settled down well in her pen, which was the size of a large garden shed and many times the size of a dog-kennel. The interior of the hut had a ledge where Foxy could groom or eat and below that was a small chamber where Foxy could feel safe when she slept.
Even so, Foxy was a unique blend of domestic wildness and Jean fondly remembers one chilly night, where the remembered comforts of her childhood, must have compelled Foxy to sneak through the cat-flap and up the stairs, to snuggle down for the night on Jean's bed. In the morning Jean made Foxy her breakfast and then together they pottered down the garden path, back to Foxy's outdoor home.
Eventually Foxy's final winter arrived and Jean cared for her soul-mate by lugging large cobble-stones home in a rucksack. She would then heat them on a fire and push them into the hay in Foxy's pen, in order to keep the ageing animal warm during the cold nights. Foxy was now fourteen years old, and had reached almost twice the age of a fox kept in captivity and nearly five times as long as a fox living in the wild. Liz tells me that the effort of taking care of Foxy, 'almost finished' Jean, but soul-mates they truly were and Jean continued to heat the stones every night for her beloved friend, so that she could sleep snug and warm.
The end, when it did arrive, came from medical treatment, rather than nature. Foxy had developed a polyp in her throat and although the operation was successful, Foxy's old body could not cope with the effects of the general anaesthetic.
Sometimes the Universe will pay homage to a returning child of nature.
The day Foxy died, Jean waited until her husband returned home from work. They went down to Foxy's pen and dug a simple grave. The sky was pitch-black and starless, but at the same moment they laid Foxy to rest, the clouds parted and the moon joined them, covering the whole of the countryside in bright silver light...
"What is man without the beasts - If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit on the ground, they spit on themselves. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." ~ Chief Seattle
(c) soulMerlin - all the photographs, illustrations and accounts of events are property of and, where appropriate (c) Jean Warren.