Tuesday, October 30, 2007
If you live on an acreage and you have hounds, you can’t have happy hounds if you don’t have a fox. And we have a fox. Normally, I wouldn’t be concerned about that but after two foxes were killed on the road last week, I worried that the remaining fox (although there could be more), would be so sad. He was in my thoughts a lot.
So with a huge bag of dog food that my basset hounds totally disdain, I decided to feed the fox. Of course I worried that if I fed him too much or too frequently he might lose his ability to hunt and that would not be good. So I decided I would only feed him skimpy amounts of food every other day.
The first couple of times I put out the food, I simply cast a bit on the ground at the edge of the field. Always the next day the food was gone, but because the ground leaves were undisturbed I was suspicious about who was dining there. I began to think that a mouse or squirrel or perhaps even a raven was feeding there rather than the fox.
So the next time I put out food I put it in a small cottage cheese container placed inside a large plastic pail. Boy Twin was curious. “Why are you doing that?” he asked.
I explained to him that if a smaller animal like a squirrel or mouse were eating the food they would have to climb into the bigger pail to get it. And although they could get out, hopefully it would take them several rotations in the bigger pail before they would figure that out. And while figuring it out they might be there long enough to leave a few droppings that would tell me they were there. After all, my intention was to feed the fox, not squirrels or mice.
Now before I continue this story, I need to tell you that Hub has a funny little saying whenever I crowd him by the coffeepot, at the table, or on the chesterfield. He always laughs and says, “I’m here!” It sounds funny and cute so I say it as well when he rolls onto my side of the bed or leans over me at the stove to see what’s cooking. I laugh and say, “I’m here!”
So back to my story. The next time I went to check to see who was eating the dog food, the small dish was beside the big pail, rather than in it. Both dishes were upright and again the surrounding ground was undisturbed. But in the small dish was a bold message that read “I’m here!” As neat as you please, without any smears or misses, the fox deposited some poopies in the smaller dish. It was amazing to me how he did that.
Now one of my neighbors explained to me that foxes live in a rather small arena. And in our woods there is no water source, and it hasn’t rained for weeks. So the next time I took food for the fox, I put it on the ground and filled the pail with drinking water. Silly fox. Again he announced, “I’m here.” It was evident he had drank some of the water. But incredibly he had also managed to deposit poopies in that large pail without spilling the water or even tipping the pail. I can’t even imagine how he did that.
Since then I’m satisfied that with a skiff of snow on the ground, he no longer needs water, so now I only toss a few crumbles on the ground. That seems more sanitary. Also I do not want the woods scattered with plastic containers each with its rather disgusting message…“I’m here. Signed: The Fox”
It’s only been a few days since I started doing this but yesterday I walked alone without Hub or the kids and guess what I saw? The hounds were off in another area harassing a squirrel when I saw a bit of orange between the trees. That’s when I saw the little fox trotting parallel to the trail in pace with my own steps.
And then I heard a crashing sound in the woods and feet approaching like the sound of a wild mustang and the crescendo of hounds baying and he was off. The fox and the hounds engaged in that old game as old as time itself.
When the fox and the hounds play this game I smile and laugh. No one is at risk. The hounds haven’t got a hope of catching him. But this game is their rightful inheritance. It offers rediscovery of the meaning of a hound’s existence. And at the same time it is a fun game with grand cardio and aerobic exercise to keep them all in top-notch shape particularly when they’re all eating well.
These are sounds I love to hear and sights I love to see. So much more pleasant without humans with rifles on horseback that used to run interference and spoil the game for players who only wished to play for fun.
My basset hounds have a keen sense of smell that is amazing but at the same time the speed of the pursuit is handicapped by their short crooked legs. But still the hounds smile, the fox grins, and I laugh. Pleased by something that spurs my imagination into thinking that I am treading the woods and grounds of some notorious ancient estate.
The neighbors even laugh when they see the fox cross their yard, and fifteen minutes later my two hounds appear on the exact same route baying loudly with wild excitement and running as fast as their short crooked legs will carry them.