Foxes were always hunted as varmints and admired for craftiness but now I think almost everybody is pleased to have a fox around, except people who think everything outside the Georgetown surgery has rabies.
I have not run down the report that in Fairfax County a blind fox was rescued and now lives contentedly in a house with six dogs including a basset. It is said the woman who took in the fox is experienced in animal rescue and is not simply an animal lover, for whom such a project could be perilous.
Foxes have also been wandering about Foxhall Road, probably thinking they have legal rights there (though the road was named for Henry Foxhall and not for foxes).
A friend of mine has tried these Foxhall foxes on Milk Bones with satisfactory results. She goes down to a tree back of the house and is very still, and is rewarded by a good view of the fox, vixen and two cubs romping together. They do not like her to photograph them (though she has done so) and decline to return to the place she set up the camera. They do, however, pick up the Milk Bones, when she is gone.
It is true that foxes may have rabies, and cuddly-coo is contraindicated. We should not encourage the fox to come to the back door for a loaf of bread (as a woman in England does) or to tiptoe into the kitchen.
A cruel situation occurs when wild animals are hand-fed. Sooner or later the animal bites and then (rabies or not) is killed as a health measure.
On the other hand, there is no reason to fall into antifoxism. Random killing of foxes is dumb. If healthy foxes are killed off, weak foxes will expand into the territory. It is better for both humans and foxes for territory to be occupied by steady vitamin-filled foxes rather than puny ones.
Dr. Morton Levy of the city's Preventive Health Services Administration said there is still rabies around, but notes that until this past spring there had been ll months free of known rabid animals in town, and then there was one case in March followed this month by one case of a rabid kitten.
This would not suggest to me that all cats should be exterminated, so I hope public hysteria will not arise.
Back to the foxes. Dr. John Grandy, vice president for wild animals of the Humane Society of the United States, said his advice is to "get your pets vaccinated and leave wild animals alone."
If we are agreed, then, that it may be a legitimate pleasure (as distinct from an antisocial crime) to admire wild foxes gamboling by a pond, I shall mention a gratifying sight in Loudoun County a few days ago.
I had gone to inspect the bamboo grove of some friends who have a farm and to see if a great stand of plume poppy (more vigorous than most weeds) had yet knocked down the wall of their log house. I found the grove coming on slowly and the poppy triumphantly on its way, but the house still standing.
As we walked about we sighted a fox. The farm mastiffs instantly came to attention, a pretty change from their usual occupation these days of waddling along the creek and emerging to douse anybody within 10 feet. They may not be mighty hunters (being house dogs) but they were pretty sure they should do and die for the fatherland. As in many cases of failed heroism, they were ready in their brave hearts but were unsure what you do, exactly.
At this point the red fox sailed out of some bushes, leapt over the backs of both mutts and trotted smartly into shrubs near a great ash tree.
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs. Except neither Lystra nor Annabelle is lazy. A pair of great mastiffs is fortunately above trifling embarrassments, so with dignity they marched about sniffing in utterly improbable places, just for the record. They then returned as weary heroes, defeated of their quarry but not downcast (having done all a dog can do) to the terrace to recover in a nap beneath the grape vines.
Anyone who ever learned to type probably knows the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, an exercise to hit all letters of the alphabet. People who know foxes are fully aware that foxes do indeed jump over dogs. In the Loudoun County performance, the fox could easily have taken a route avoiding the mutts, and I think deliberately wished to agitate the mastiffs. Fox hunters commonly report things of this kind, but I had not seen it before.
This does not prove altogether that the pen is mightier than the sword or that life imitates art. It does suggest that at some point a fox took a typing course, sized up the brains of your typical dog and said well, gee, why not?