A Last Minute Save

A little fox finds a warm safe place to wait for his Mum, nestled in the bottom of a walled garden next to a hole under a gate. He waits and waits – the light fades and the dark sky sparkles with tiny lights. He curls up tighter to keep the warmth in as he hasn’t yet developed his luxuriously thick russet coat and bushy tail. He waits and waits….

His Mum doesn’t come and with each passing day he gets weaker . A kind lady has noticed him in her garden and has left food and water nearby but he doesn’t move, it seems he has given up.

 

We often get contacted by caring individuals who have found or seen a fox cub who needs help. My partner, Richard, always tries to recommend the best people or charities in the area to help rescue and release these little ones back to the wild but when a kind lady contacted us about this particular little guy she was so worried about, we took a closer look. She had contacted a well known animal charity several times that week with limited help, the cub had been out there with very little food for nearly a week. We recieved a picture of the cub, tiny and tightly nestled up by a wall looking like he had given up. I cracked then with the knowledge that the cub wouldn’t last much longer and on seeing Richards worried face as he looked at the image of the little cub.

“Ok then, lets go and get him” I said.

We jumped in the car with a cat box, jumpers, kitten milk and feeding bottle. We had no idea whether he would eat after all this time and of course whether in fact he would get through the night. Three hours later and we met the gaze of the small cub, ‘Charlie Bear’, he was a beauty and we could see he was lively enough, he was going to make it.

Suffer no more – we’ve got you.
Charlie Bear seemed so grateful for our care.

Crazy it may be but Charlie seemed so grateful to us. Different from the others, he was always looking into our eyes and spent most of the time cuddled up as close as possible to us both. The next week or so involved feeding every 4 hours, we noticed a problem with his back legs being a bit weak and on doing some research found that it was probably due to a lack of calcium because he did not have the milk he needed early on. Luckily with the correct mix of the early stage cat milk we always had to hand, he was soon bombing about the place with our dog Maddy.

Then the fun and games began…. he was residing in the lounge at this time where he had a large crate to feel safe and could be closed in when he slept, nice and secure for him and a break from the crazy for us! His new game was to wait until I left the room and then get all my crochet wool out of my basket, bat it about a bit, chew it a little and if possible tie himself up in it so when I came back in the room he was looking at me from a large tangled bundle of wool. Drove me potty! It didn’t matter where I hid it in the room he found it! To be honest, I think he enjoyed being untangled because he would run about like a nutter afterwards, you know.. the way cats do when they have a mad 5 minutes.

The wool destroyer

I was habituated to the naughtiness of fox cubs but this little fella was different to the others, he seemed to like getting caught up and stuck in places just so he could be rescued! When he was a little older the same game stepped up a gear but we’ll get to that later.

The love Charlie had for Maddy was reciprocated, they played together, ate together and slept together. Maddy is very good with all our rescues when they are babies, we would watch them carefully of course but I needn’t have worried, even with those needle sharp teeth going to town on Maddy’s tail, she never once retaliated.

Oh wise and patient one
Those needle sharp teeth – Ouch!
Cute as a button.

Charlie Bear came on in leaps and bounds, his back legs restored to normal working order (Phew!) and he moved on to his adult food quickly. At this stage, he was more like a clumsy young dog with the nimbleness of a cat who ran rings around Maddy the terrier, mostly with finess but sometimes causing a momentary holding of breath, as he ran headlong into the table, tv or water bowls or sometimes just skidding and falling off the coffee table. The intelligence levels of the foxes far exceeded our little dogs as time went on and we started to notice that Maddy was losing control of the toys and the bed! Charlie was manipulating situations to confuse her then ultimately claiming victory, all the toys were accumulated, thieved and stored away in a safe place before Maddy even knew they were gone. It made us laugh, seeing a very confused terrier standing in the middle of the room with not a toy in sight and a very smug fox looking on from a hidey hole in the bookcase. In fact when anything went missing, remote controls, slippers, glasses etc. it was more than likely in Charlies hidden stash.

Maddy left with only a stone after all her toys had been rounded up by the ‘Artful Dodger’
One of Charlies Hidey holes on the patio.

The real fun came when Charles Bear mastered the art of climbing, it would take a while on entering the room to locate a small ginger furry thing who was either clinging to the top of the curtains or sitting between books on the book shelves.

You often felt you were being watched from somehwhere!

On occasion you would hear a crash and just knew it was one of the few ornaments left unbroken falling from the top shelf of the unit and there he was, very neatly positioned in his chosen spot on the top shelf right where our favourite african vase had been. It is safe to say these beautiful, intelligent creatures are not congruent with ornaments or just generally having a nice lounge. It became Maddy and Charlie’s play room and not anywhere I would want to entertain any visitors, not least because of the smell but more because the poor unsuspecting guest being stalked would be pounced on, having their arm siezed and taken down in a death roll. nothing cuter than a fox cub pouncing head over tail onto your lap, legs in the air in a death roll with your sleeve but only when you don’t have a cup of tea in hand at the time.

The day came to get Charlie out on the patio area for longer, un-supervised periods of the day. Richard was like a worried father sending his child off to school for the first time unlike me, I was keen to let the Bear run off a little of his pent up energy. We made it as safe as possible for him to get outdoor time without being able to escape the area in a panic, Richard went a little overboard, I looked out the window on the chosen afternoon and had to have a double take on the construction of the ugly metal mesh going up around my plant boxed trellis along the edge of the patio… it was starting to look like a prison yard but it did the trick.

The daily mad dash around outside with Maddy in tow made all the difference, we now had a fairly chilled fox cub, worn out and relaxed most evenings.

Plenty to investigate.
Energy expended, now for a drink and some devilment.
Looking guilty hanging out by the thyme – It didn’t last long, that thyme!

I couldnt work out why they both smelt so nice when they had had the afternoon on the patio until I went to cut some thyme from the herb bed and found it completely flat and pathetic. They were rolling and propelling themselves forward with their back legs in a belly slide, through all my herbs, hence their lovely smell and the unusable herbs! Charlie would help with the planting on occasion, he was nosey and just had to know what you were doing, sticking his nose into everything and pawing the left over plant pots which usually ended up distributed about the patio. It was a battle of wills to hang on to seed packets, lollipop stick markers and even the trowel. What would normally take half an hour would become a few hours with search and rescue thrown in for his entertainment. Ahhh.. I do have fond memories of those days though. 

So, where do you want these pots?

We have a local hunt unfortunatley, all of a sudden you could hear the harrowing sounds of the hunt horn, which to this day makes my skin crawl, the dogs were visible around the edge of the smallholding and poor little Charlie would bolt inside for the rest of the day. Could it be a natural in-built fear for them to react so badly to the dogs barking and the horn, is this testament to so many years of persecution? He was increasingly wary of the patio from then on. It makes me so sad to think of these beautiful, intelligent and not to mention, an integral part of our eco system being tortured for the sake of entertainment. If any of you know Richard, you will know of his constant plight to bring the often hidden cruelty of fox hunting and ‘bagged’ foxes to the publics attention and I admire him greatly for that. I think maybe Charlie, Rosie and Hetty love him a little more for it too.

A spooked Charlie Bear takes refuge indoors with his trusty side kick.
A beautiful shot taken by Richard.
Sales of his prints help him spend more time getting word out highlighting the plight of the often misunderstood fox.

Richard was away a few weeks here and there which he hated because each time Charlie bonded a little more with me, it always took him a day or so to win back the little chap to his rightful place with him. I was left in these times to entertain the furry and feathered troops alone which could be a bit tricky. Little Charlie was sleeping less and wanting more attention so each time I left the room he would want to draw my attention back to him.

He often reminded me of a character from ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, always plotting…

I  learnt to ignore the noise coming from the lounge as I knew most of the stuff that could be damaged was out of reach but now and again I would hear a different noise which always had me peeping in the door to see what was happening.

He stepped up the game when it was time for bed, by this time he wasnt happy with his crate so I left him to sleep on the sofa at night – bad move!! My bedroom is over the lounge so I could hear him playing away with his toys until a big bang made me sit up in bed, it sounded like the wide screen tv hiting the floor…. and it was! Luckily it wasnt damaged, I wagged my finger at him (he just thought it was a game, of course!), put the TV back so he couldn’t knock it again and I went back to bed. Within a few minutes I could hear a different noise. I continued to listen hoping it would quieten down which it did but I couldn’t help think something was wrong so I trudged downstairs again bleary eyed to find the lounge as I left it and no Charlie in sight. I looked everywhere until the last place to search was behind the tv cabinet, which was as I thought inaccessable, but there he was wrapped up in all the wires looking up at me from the dark. Not sure how he had got there and upon trying to unplug and untangle him from all the wires I couldnt understand how completely tangled up he had got! So now I had to try and barracade any openings behind the cabinate and tv and this is all after midnight.

I secured everything, went back upstairs and fell into bed.

Peacefully asleep after a night of fun and games!

The next night I went through my new routine of barracading the tv and cabinet before heading upstairs. The peace was not to last – I heard the same scrabbling noise as the previous night and then silence, it was too quiet.

Once again I put my dressing gown on and headed down to the lounge, opened the door and was greeted by the satellite box, dvd player, wifi box and various remotes all cascading out of the tv cabinet and in their place, peering out from the darkness was a fox! He had managed to get himself in one of the tight spaces between shelves with the added bonus of being wrapped up in all the cables again. Ok, so what was the deal with wanting to be wrapped up in cables? This was trickier than the previous unravelling of Charles Bear because he was in such a tight space…. an hour later after disconnecting all the wires and some serious blocking-in of the tv area I was back in bed knowing that all was safe downstairs.

At 2am I was awoken by a ringing noise, it was the phone extension in the bedroom. There was no one on the other end and it dawned on me that this ringing was being set off from the main phone in the lounge.

No, it couldnt be could it?

Has Charlie worked out how to call me upstairs? No, that would be silly!

I went downstairs and put the phone back on its stand, he must have just knocked it, went back upstairs and of course it happened again so I took the phone away. By now I was a going a little stir crazy, I was even questioning my sanity as I thought about what that little fox could be plotting next! Well, I was not to be dissappointed, it wasn’t the phone being knocked off it was the “find the phone” push button on the phone stand that was causing the ringing…ARGHHH!

Can he be that intelligent that he knows that knocking that button on the stand is bringing me downstairs? Is it just one big hilarious game? Maybe the paranoia was getting to me being so tired, but he almost seemed to be sniggering as he watched me come into the room time and time again! I removed the phone stand and all peace resumed.

Do you have to make so much noise mum? I have had a hectic night!

 My lounge at this time was looking a little bare, no plants, certainly no books of any worth, no ornaments and now no wires. I knew I had to have the conversation with Richard when he returned about Charlie moving in with Hetty the other rescue fox. Charles Bear clearly needed a more open and robust environment and hopefully a new foxy friendship with a like minded soul.

It was a worrying time for Richard as he was so nervous about letting the two foxes get together, they had met before on a few occassions but Charlie was much bigger this time and there was the worry of the initial tussle that would invariably happen to sort their pecking order. There was pacing and chattering, then they settled at opposite ends of their bedding area and that was that! It was a huge relief. Today Charles Bear and Hetty are friends, they both have company and play together when they are up and about.

‘Best of friends’

We visit several times a day along with Maddy who they both go potty over – to be honest they are way more excited about the visit than our little terrier who goes with the flow but is a little lost when things step up a gear into foxy super-fast mode. Maddy just rolls over on her back and waits for Charlie to pounce, then she has him in a death roll, which he seems to love. I personally just enjoy watching them all interact, waiting for my chance of a belly rub when they decide they are ready for a fuss – and it is all on their terms entirely.

Charlie the fox attempting to get Maddy the terrier to play with him.

We are in the process of building a bigger enclosure for the pair as we want the best for them. Ideally we would have wanted to release them but a combination of the hand rearing and ultimately bonding with us, and the danger of illegal hunting in the area made us think again. Spending time with these beautiful creatures has felt very special and the reception we get everytime we go to see them melts our hearts. The delighted squeaks, ears flat and frantic wagging tails – yes, they wag their tails, which tells us for now, they are happy and we endeavour to make their lives as full and safe as we can. The bond between Charles Bear and Richard is amazing. I would love to get footage of this but you take a camera in with them and it will be stolen, hidden and chewed as I found out to my expense. Charlie has to be close to Richard, he seems to touch him at all times whether it is just rubbing past him, standing on him or sitting so close so they are nose to nose. If I can’t find Richard, I will go and check the foxes and there they are, usually with Charlie fully stretched out on his back while Richard rubs his belly and kisses the top of his head.

I think, if it was possible, Richard would be with the foxes 24/7. He often comments on how happy he would be with a small log cabin for him and his foxes to chill out… I get the feeling it is my fault that they don’t all live together happily in the smelly, chewed and messy place that once was the lounge.

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