Seth J Coblentz
The Fox and the Hound
If you are reading this, chances are you are curious about the Shikoku or Shiba breed of dogs. They are both the best family members but distinct in their character. As larger dogs (20 kilos), the Shikokus are more dominant and require more attention when outdoors. The Shiba, slightly smaller, is as independent and (largely) innocuous as one could be. If you are interested in a dog that can be off leash easily, the Shiba takes the crown in our experience. However, if you have the space and time to train a Shikoku, you may just have the best creature on this pale blue dot of ours.
There are strong similarities between a red Shiba and a fox. Less in their body type and more in their color, facial expressions and movement. This brings me to the last few weeks. Living in a forest one cannot help to see the nature of things. We endure microscopic bugs that require the trees to be devastated by man. We assume it is necessary and good in the long run. We consider where all of the deer, the boars, the fox and the birds go from here.
For me, the fox is something special, something different. I suppose the close similarity between a fox and Shiba is striking. On our many long walks, I was excited to see the deer running in the hills, but speechless to see the occasional fox. This says more about me than the natural order. Perhaps my animal spirit is the fox, if you lean towards that mythology and thinking. The fox played a dominant role in the American Indian culture. Foxes are regarded as sly and cunning, and meant to be a teacher on how to maneuver tricky situations in your life. History is rich with metaphors about the fox, not least of which is found in Machiavelli's "The Prince". In which he counseled the Medici family that a successful ruler must be both a lion and a "fox." Setting aside myth and lore and symbolism, I can only say that I'm awestruck each time I encounter a fox in our forest.... which is relatively often.
A few weeks ago my wife, Kathrin, called me during a bike excursion to share that an injured fox was taking refuge in our backyard and drinking from our pond. For some this would be of no moment, but for us this was a call to action. Kathrin phoned the local huntsman, the forest ranger and others to determine what to do. All of the responses were feckless and we were indirectly counseled that this was just another wild animal subject to the natural order. Of course this was true and a daily event in the wild, but not something that is easy to swallow when confronted with in your backyard, or anywhere else in person.
Over the following days and weeks, we left food for the fox, hoping she would return. Each morning we awoke and our first response was to see if the food was gone, which it was. We harbored an innocent hope that the injured fox had recovered. She had not. While in Heidelberg with my brother in law, Kathrin called to inform me that she found the fox, dead, under our roof in the backyard. My wife being a good German, preserved the corpse of the fox in a safe place and took our dogs to the Veterinarian to get additional shots in an abundance of caution against any fox born transmittable disease, of which there is at least one. The dogs proved to be fine and not impacted by the event other than being "quarantined" for a few days .
It is a stirring event to see any animal suffering, but this being a fox and the condition in which we found it, seemed to amplify the gravity. This particular fox was a striking large, red female, not entirely unlike our own red devils, Yuki and Rumi. I make fewer and fewer distinctions between people and animals the closer I grow to our dogs and the surrounding wildlife. Perhaps this event was a subtle shift to think more about the welfare of animals and what we choose to eat than I have considered in the past. But in the end, Kathrin and I were strangely grateful that this fox took her last breath in our backyard. We were and are proud to treat the deceased fox with as much respect as we could and carry her back to the forest for her final resting place. Life is precious and amazing, whether you are of the human species, a dog or a fox.