A foxy lady arrives

Outdoor Living

UNEXPECTED GUEST  Ffionn, the fox cub, in a safe place.

Country Sights and Sounds
John Shelley

Ffionn arrived just after lunch; an unexpected guest. Nor, I thought to myself, on learning she had come to stay, did I really want her here. But that was before I saw her, and when I did I was immediately captivated by the sharp, quizzical look she wore, by her soft amber eyes and by the colour of her fur.
‘Ffionn’ is the Welsh word for foxglove, and this foxy lady is, well, just that, a fox. More precisely, she is a fox cub, and judging by her colour and markings, which change from infancy to adulthood, perhaps seven or eight weeks of age.
I could imagine what had happened. After being fed she was still hungry and had followed her mother from the den. Unable to keep up, little Ffionn had become lost. Trying desperately to find her way home she had wandered helplessly with no clue which way to go and over the following days had become emaciated, wet and cold and plastered in mud. When found she was too weak to run away, but submitted to being picked up, placed in a basket and brought to my door.
The first thing to do was warm her up. As she lay next to a wine bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a towel she closed her eyes and I thought she might just drift into unconsciousness and death. When I went to check her an hour later she had moved away from the heat, as if she knew she was warm enough. I placed food before her then, but she refused to eat and hung listlessly in my hand with no interest in anything at all.
We drove to the shop for dog food and opened a tin the moment we got back to the house. Poor Ffionn looked just about done for. She lay on her side, her ribs barely moving as she breathed such tiny, feeble breaths. When I dipped my finger in the tin of dog food and rubbed juices around her gums she merely dribbled them into my lap. At least she would die warm and comfortable, I thought.
An hour later her breathing looked slightly stronger and I tried to feed her again. This time she licked her lips, and after another hour had passed she got shakily to her feet and took a tentative taste of food. That was the turning point; as the evening wore on she finished the contents of the first tin and started on the second.
The following morning she woke me up with her crying. ‘Yowowowowow’, she went, ‘Yowowowowow’, repeating herself again and again. When I saw her she looked totally abject, raised on her front legs with her bottom on the ground, her nose turned down and ears hanging sadly.
“Hey, little Ffionn,” I said in what I hoped was a reassuring voice, “come on, let’s get some breakfast in you.”
“Yowowowowow,” she cried.
I picked her up by the scruff of the neck. She didn’t object, but stared downward as she hung from my hand with her four paws curled together like a helpless kitten. As soon as I released my hold she cried once more. “Yowowowowow.”
Again, she initially refused to feed, but soon found her appetite when I placed small chunks of meat in her mouth. Once fed, I let her loose in the kitchen, not thinking of the obvious; when animals feed, especially young ones, they’ve just got to go. And go she did – first in one corner and, while I cleaned up behind her, again in the next.
She piddled and walked in it, ran around the room as I tried to catch her, then rolled in her own puddle as I finally got my hands on her.
Back in the cage she went, from where her persistent Yowowowowowing elicited a curious range of emotions within me as I tried to work. Kindly sympathy came first, then rigid determination, annoyance and frustration by turn. When I felt the first twinge of anger I went for a walk, and when I returned she greeted me with an avalanche of Yowowows, as if she had been saving them up in my absence and was inclined to deliver them all at once.
I brought her into the house again, and watched as she amused herself trying to leap from the floor to the window. She would sit and stare, as if willing herself to the supreme effort needed to jump those three feet, before giving it her best. The highest I saw her jump was about eight inches from the floor. She persisted admirably and succeeded in wearing herself out, at which she curled into a corner and slept.
So I have a fox. I told my shepherd neighbour and found myself trying to reassure him that foxes don’t kill lambs, when really I know that they do. I couldn’t just let her die though, could I?