Just last weekend, I decided that as it was finally December and I, like 80 percent of the rest of the country, decided I would put my Christmas tree and decorations up. With the days having drawn in so much I wanted to get the decorations up, if only for the extra lights they would give me in the dark mornings and afternoons.
I planned it all out. Friday evening after work, I would get all the boxes out ready to get going first thing on Saturday. These days I have to put a little more planning into things so that I have enough time to pace myself and take a few rests along the way. (If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, please see my previous blog for details).
Saturday morning arrived and I was tired from having just started working on air again that week, so I was a bit bleary eyed to say the least and the effort of trying to haul myself out of bed felt something akin to those unworthy knights who strained and strained, but try as they might could not manage to extract the sword of Excalibur from the stone, such were my efforts to extricate myself from under the duvet.
Eventually I got myself up and after a late(ish) and rather extended breakfast (followed swiftly by a post-breakfast rest on the sofa watching Saturday morning telly) I eventually got myself up and into action. As I made my way past the window, I happened to look out and see, right at the far end of a cul de sac street opposite my building, a small, thin fox that was standing motionless in the road. Some children were standing near it and their father emerged from their house with some food, which he placed right under the nose of this little fox. How lovely is that, I thought to myself. The father showing the children how important is to be kind to all animals and treat them humanely. How gentle of the wild fox to just stand there, unflinching, and accept the food parcel placed before him.
The more I looked though, the more this wholesome little scene seemed anything but – there was something that didn’t feel right about it.
The father lead his children away but the fox continued to just stand there. Then I noticed him sway and as he started to walk away, he did so sideways, legs crossing over legs, in a manner that I can, regrettably, only describe as comical. The sort of drunken walk you’d see in a comedy sketch. As I was thinking, this Mr. Fox stumbled and his legs buckled beneath him. My heart leapt into my mouth as his little face smashed into the road, I gasped audibly. I knew it. Mr Fox wasn’t well. Something was definitely wrong. What should I do? He was a wild urban fox – who would help such an animal? Who do I call? What do I do? Should I just leave him there? Could I pretend I hadn’t seen it or that it wasn’t my problem? I couldn’t.
The memory of the feeling of desperation you get when you are so unwell you can’t cope for yourself and you just want someone, anyone, to come and help came washing over me. I suddenly felt quite emotional about this little fox. ‘Ok, Mr. Fox, I’m here for you, hang on’, I thought to myself.
Without really thinking, I grabbed my phone and started googling, ‘injured fox’ and ‘how to help injured wild animal’. I didn’t really know what to do. Then four letters popped into my head – RSPCA.
Those four letters were my next search. I got a number which turned out to be for an RSPCA charity shop in North London. They gave me a National Number to call. Either, in my haste, I had written it down incorrectly or they had given me the wrong number, but it wasn’t working.
I started googling again, RSPCA emergency number. A number I hadn’t already tried came up. I dialled it. They had one of those automated, multiple choice services the moment I dialled the number. What part of the country was I in? Press #1 for north of England, press #2 for London etc. Then I had to choose the option for what the issue was – Press #1 if I had received a card from RSPCA and been asked to call, Press #2 if my enquiry was……. aaargh. My heart was racing. Poor Mr. Fox doesn’t have time for this. I started to panic for him, my heart was racing – something I really shouldn’t be letting my heart do!
Eventually I got to speak to an operator. I explained the situation, and I also explained that I could see the fox and he wasn’t going anywhere because he wasn’t able. I assured the operator that I would stay with the fox and if anything changed I would call back and let them know, if they would just send someone to help. PLEASE, I begged her. The reason I confirmed I would keep an eye on the fox and let them know if anything changes is that somewhere during the course of my google search I read somewhere that help usually isn’t provided if the animal isn’t secured, as millions of pounds go to waste each year dispatching officers to animals who have gone or can’t be found by the time they get there.
The operator assured me she would send someone and to expect a call from an officer out in the community to confirm my location and the condition of the animal etc.
I thanked her and hung up. I realised I was still in my pyjamas – I had been planning an morning (and possible afternoon) of Christmas music and decorations after all.
I didn’t want to take my eyes off Mr. Fox but I had to get dressed. I dashed to the bedroom threw on whatever I could find that was warm. I didn’t even comb my hair, shower or brush my teeth. Definitely not the usual well-groomed version of myself. Sometimes some things are more important. Hopping down the hallway of my flat, I was trying to slip on one of my trainers without untying it whilst at the same time trying to run to get out of the flat as quickly as possible, which was not one of my more graceful moments either! I just felt this terrible panic inside for Mr. Fox.
When I got outside and crossed the road I couldn’t see him. Oh no – had he gone? Was I going to have to call the RSPCA and cancel them despite my assurances?
Then, as I approached the front end of a car, I saw him there cowering in the cold and wet. My instinct was to reach out and stroke him for reassurance. This was a wild animal, though, and he was ill so he would be unpredictable and possibly dangerous. Just as I was thinking this, he stumbled towards me, still moving like someone in a state of total intoxication. His head was bowed. The further I backed away the closer he came. He clearly wanted to be helped. The only way I can describe it is that he was behaving like a family dog who knows who to go to when he wants a treat and a cuddle. I felt so bad for him.
For lack of knowing what else to do, I started to chat to him like he could understand me (much like I did with my own dogs when I was young). ‘Don’t worry’, ‘stay here with me’, ‘the RSPCA are coming’, ‘it’ll be ok’. Was I convincing him or myself?
In the meantime, a resident of the block of apartments he was outside of came out with a bowl of water and a plastic box with an old Mickey Mouse towel she had had since she was a young girl. She had folded the towel inside the box to make a sort of bed.
Meanwhile Mr. Fox kept losing his legs from under him and bashing his muzzle into the road beneath him, completely unable to hold himself up.
He did get into the bed at one point, and it took him about 5 minutes to get into it because of being so unsteady and uncoordinated. I prayed he would lie down in the bed and sleep but his instinct to stay on his feet in case of danger was strong.
After a few hours of waiting with him in the street, I was so relieved to see the sight of the RSPCA van pulling up.
Mr. Fox was taken away to see the vet by this young man, having put up absolutely no resistance whatsoever to being picked up and out in a cage. I knew that was a bad sign but I prayed they could do something for him.
Regrettably, after all of our efforts, Mr. Fox did not make it. He was much too sick and wouldn’t have made it through the night. We suspected poisoning, we assume accidental, but who knows. So the vet did the best thing he could for him and let him drift out of pain and off to somewhere much better than the the cold, wet asphalt of a busy road in London.
I can’t stop thinking about Mr. Fox. I feel a little emotional about. Poor thing. I know there are those who have different views of foxes, i.e. some see them as vermin. I’m afraid I couldn’t see him as anything other than a poor animal that was suffering and that needed help. Perhaps a timely reminder to all of us at this time of year to look after our animals and, if we can, to look after those charities that do such an amazing job at looking after the welfare of poor animals that can’t look after themselves, both the wild and the domesticated varieties.
As the RSPCA officer was leaving, I got a donation envelope from him to make a contribution. If you would like to do so as well, I have included the details. As the RSPCA say: it takes all of us to create a world that’s kinder to animals.
Or call their donation number on: 0300 123 8181
Until next time. Be kind to animals, and each other!