A Fox Story

A few weeks ago we were thrilled to discover a family of red foxes living in our neighbors’ yards. At first they were denned across the road above us. We often see the mama, who had denned in the same spot last year and seems to be friendly with our golden retriever, but we didn’t see the kits until she moved them across the street to another neighbor’s yard (their summer home). One evening we were walking the dogs and saw three sweet little furballs staring at us from the side of the road. They looked more curious than scared, especially since they couldn’t help pouncing on each other and rassling between bouts of staring. We kept our distance, the dogs behaved, but we turned around and walked the other way so as not to freak out mama, who was yelping to distract us.

The next night we left the dogs home and counted five kits! They pounced and tumbled and seemed to enjoy an audience, though they were cautious. A couple nights later we went to see them and discovered they had stolen one of our dogs’ stuffed animals. Since then we’ve watched it migrate between the two dens, with surprisingly little wear for all the use it’s getting.

It’s hard to describe a fox yelp, sort of like a loud cat with laryngitis. It’s a wild sound and as consistent as a metronome. I assume that in the fall they yelp to attract mates, but once the kits arrive, it’s usually to distract predators from the den. Every time we pass the den with the dogs on our way uphill, we alert mama fox. When we come back down the hill, she’s waiting for us and makes a big show of sauntering/pattering across the road in front of us. Look at me, chase me, nothing in the den, nuh-uh, no babies here! she seems to say. She’s so obvious I feel compelled to reassure her as we pass that, even though the dogs are excited, we’re not interested in harming any of them, including her. She just stares, on high alert.

As I write this, it’s midmorning and mama fox has been crying and screaming since, my husband says, four in the morning. Every several  seconds she sounds off again. She’s been doing it for five and a half hours now. I walked up the hill earlier to see if any critter was haunting her den or if I could catch a glimpse of her, but no luck. I think she saw me, though. 

Her constant wailing has me worried. Has one of the kits gone missing? There is a mountain lion on our hill. The fact that she’s so darn persistent is what makes me think this is an unusually big deal. We’ll probably never learn what really happened. Last night she took at least a few of her kits on a hunting trip through our yard, so we kept the dogs in. I’d like to think she has just been mouthing off about the state of the world today, and Lord knows that could keep one busy for hours. But now, finally, she has gone quiet. I hope she found her baby.

This unfinished story that is likely to remain so reminds me of something I keep reading about lately. For some reason I keep stumbling on quotes by famous writers, bashing the story that ends neatly, with all the loose ends tied up with a big red bow. This type of story is the model of much of Western literature. We are so Disney-fied. I admit I get sucked into the big tidy ending preference. I don’t need a happy ending, but one that makes sense or at least settles my heart a bit. Because life is so seldom like that! So many of us have to deal with things that persist, that haunt us. Grief. Chronic illness. Endless war or unrest. Or just a lingering malaise. Since all these quotes keep jumping out at me, I wonder what’s next. What jagged edge could be out there. Waiting. Like a mountain lion in the dark.

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