Blog 2018

The Bit about the Foxes


The Bit about the Foxes

July 5, 2018


I love these slow, solitary, days of quietude.  In the distance there is a low drone of trucks passing on the freeway and drowned-out momentarily by a cardinal calling from somewhere near the arbor vitae out front.  Some days, the freeway is entirely quiet as the patterns of truck-hauling ebb after flow.  I often feel I should find a way to live in the country, but that isn’t possible for me, so I  try to create country where I am, returning the landscape around the house to as much wild thriving as possible.


Last night, as the neighborhood lit with things bursting in air, I sat with the dog in front of the fire pit’s few flaring logs and watched the sky at dusk begin to fill with color and smoke while the fire licked around itself, blazing a little before settling into calm burning on the windless night.  I had made a bowl of popcorn – go figure, the dog loves popcorn – and I slowly dumped on his chair a few of the unsalted kernels I set aside for him.  We relaxed, crunching, waiting for the fireworks noise to subside; as slowly it did. 


When it did, I became wary.  I know there are silent prowlers nearby.  I watched the dog whose behavior informs.  He was at ease in his enjoyment of the treat.  And then he sat up, straighter, straight, turned, and began sniffing the air in one direction foxes have used as point-of-entry at the fence line – a fence high enough to keep the dog from jumping out but low enough for foxes and other creatures to climb in. 


Urban foxes.  Last March the dog showed up one morning with a rabbit thigh in his mouth.  Something had buried it beneath the pine tree in the back yard for later-eating.  That was my first clue they were here.  They have cleared the mice out.  They have put the run on squirrels.  I don’t mind.  But they have also begun to eye my 20-pound dog that puts on a very nasty, low, snap-snarly growl as none I’ve never heard when he is confronting a fox.  No matter.  Having looked at the teeth of a fox’s mouth I feel certain my dog wouldn’t win that confrontation, if it came, and so I have had to become vigilant over his vigilance, watching for any moment a fox might enter the yard. 


As the logs burned to a low crumble before becoming coals, the dog was up and around and I turned my headlamp on and faced it to the back of my head, light shining toward that dark part in the yard where the dog headed.  Foxes don’t like the light.  I have a solar light shining on an opposite point of entry.  The dog sniffed about, performed sentry duty, and returned to curl up on a lawn chair.


When the bursting-in-air faded, and just as I began to wonder where he was, the fox barked out his alarm call.  He was about 15 feet away just on the other side of the fence, behind the chairs the dog and I were sitting in.  The dog ran to the fence with his growly growl on and I turned to face the fence with my headlamp, vocalizing NO! while banging the side of the fire pit with the poker. It’s become unnerving now not to be able to fit neatly into relaxation in the backyard after sunset. 


Not that the foxes have never been here.  Or the coyotes.  Or the owls; the dog having been twice swooped down upon but never seized.  Coyotes are established her; established.  Though I’ve never seen one, my neighbor has.  A friend told me one tried to nab his collie pup—a pup about the size of my dog.  I’ve read the coyotes are regulars in the park where we walk daily – and sometimes into dusk – behavior I’ve had to change since, last week, coming home too close to nightfall, a neighbor came into my yard to tell me a fox was stalking behind as I returned from my walk with the dog.  If walk softly, carry a big stick takes on new meaning it is nevertheless difficult to realize these animals are here because they have lost habitat.


Meantime, the neem oil did not work on the plum tree.  Too delectable I guess.  It seems to work on the roses and other flowering plants, so there’s a bit of luck; but I’ve bagged the plum tree again with the mosquito netting, working to ward off the beetles  Working, always, to minimize my human impact on Nature and the Planet.