He was with us for just about 12 days, ending up just where I found him and just how he would have died had I not intervened. He spent his first three days with me inside my sweatshirt, sleeping and wriggling around when it was time to be let out to eat or poop. On day 2 he played with my hands inside my shirt, pawing and play biting at my fingers. Around day 3 he stopped trying to limp into the woods when I let him out of my shirt. On day 5 he found his home under our futon and he started to play with the kittens and the dogs like family. At the same time he started putting on weight, probably doubling in size over the next 8 days. He stopped being aggressive completely, started letting me pick him up at any time and learned how to hide from the dogs if they got too rough with him. Around day 8 he began acting like a house pet and followed Rudy everywhere he went. He stopped sleeping all day and started spending time outside and sleeping in Rudy’s bed. He started stealing my shoes, old papers, water bottles and tennis balls, all ending up in stashes around the house. He found himself a perch on a pile of blankets where he could watch the door and dart to safety under the futon if someone he didn’t know came in. He followed us on short walks around the yard and into the pastures. He looked at me when I called his name. He scratched at the door to go outside. He snuggled into my neck when I picked him up and shared a bowl of food with the cats. The magic of finding a wild baby fox and then, inch-by-inch, gaining his trust and love all seemed too powerful for anything to stop. Of course we had this new critter, this perfect companion, after all we had done for such a variety of animals already. It all just made karmic sense.
Until it suddenly stopped. Lucky found his curious way back into the donkey pen where I found him on day 1 and this time the donkeys killed him. He wasn’t mangled, just dead and still warm when Kate found him. Each day leading up to that day I thought it might not work out, he might ‘turn wild’ and leave us, or kill one of the cats, or start peeing everywhere in the house. But that day I was sure, so sure, he was here to stay. When he was ready he was going to hunt mushrooms with me. He was going to walk to neighbors houses with us. He was going to love us as much as we loved him and seamlessly join our merry band of silly creatures. He was going to live for 10 or 15 years, growing up with our future children and be there when Rudy dies, having learned so much from that old mutt to pass on to the next puppy. But no, instead he had to die, leaving me full of doubt but mostly just sadness. I miss him so much. I try to think that I gave him 12 days of comfort and love but I mostly just think I should have been a better parent. I don’t care that I merely had the chance to love him, I still want to love him. He left a hole in my heart that I didn’t know I needed to fill.
The night he died the house was struck by lightning three times. I think the mountain gods were pissed at me, or perhaps shared in my rage against Lucky’s death. Either way the lighting killed our phones and internet, which let us simply exist for three days without having to talk to anyone really. It was nice to mourn like that. But I would do anything to rewind, to bring him back into my life and just smell that fox smell again against my cheek, or wafting up from the womb of my sweatshirt. I’ll never get the chance again to father a fox like that. It just further solidified my belief that we are all equals, he was just such a regular baby when I found him. Eat, sleep, poop, repeat. And he bonded with me like I never imagined. And now I dream about him, feel pain when I look at the hay bale he used to sleep on or hear the donkeys bray. God I miss him so much. He’s buried in the pasture next to the house. I think today I’m ready to visit his grave.