Small joys: a foxy encounter

A tale that wouldn’t have occurred if we weren’t in lockdown…

It was during the weekly applause. The first time it was held on a Thursday. The clocks had recently gone forward – so whereas on the previous occasion it had been dark when we came out to clap, this time it was just before dusk.

Nick and I had forgotten it was scheduled. We ran out to join in when we heard our neighbours seemingly striking a jar with something rather than clapping. More people were taking part this time and then, suddenly, out of the twilight, a fox appeared.

The neighbours saw him or her and called out, “It’s a fox!” It was speedily trotting along the pavement on our side of the street. As it reached our driveway it turned and looked at Nick and I, then headed deliberately into our garden.

I thought it was going to run up the path and into the house. It must have been the look it gave us. Weighing us up, friend or foe, or considering how dangerous we might be. I felt we passed some sort of test just because it made for our garden – likely in a state of high alert because of the noise of all the clapping and the unusual amount of humans on the street given the hour.

Fox by Michael Broad Creative Commons licence
This fox has a slightly harder stare than the one I saw.

It wasn’t the most pristine, or furriest, of foxes. In the twilight I’d taken it as a cat when I first spotted it. As it came closer, its shape and the long tail spoke to me. Firmly, but in a respectfully low tone, it said ‘fox’. In that moment, when it turned its head to look at us, I saw it had quite a narrow face and eyes more feline than canine. Giving us a curious once over rather than trying to appease like our dog used to with his big, brown eyes.

Of course it didn’t come up to the house. After that brief glance – which felt longer as if we’d locked gazes for more than just a second or two – it made a swift left turn along the line of our infant native hedgerow. Keeping close to cover it turned up the garden once more, slipping behind the shrubs at the first chance.

We couldn’t tell if it had made use of our suburban green corridor to make its escape via our back garden (was the hedgehog gap we’d cut in the gate at the side of the house big enough to allow a fox under?) or if it was hiding behind the bushes.

The neighbours seemed impressed that the fox chose our garden and called across the street to enquire if it was still there. Even if I could tell I’d have said no. Maybe something did pass between fox and human in that glance. Not a wheedling doggie plea but a creature-to-creature request not to give its hiding place, or escape route, away. A request I gladly granted.

Pic credit: Fox image by Michael Broad (‘broadsurf’) licensed via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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