Until we moved to Arkansas, I only seen a red fox once. He came through the back garden of the English cottage where I was staying. He was not the gorgeous fellow of fairy tales. His hips, backbone, and ribs protruded. Most of his hair had fallen out. I tossed and turned all night.
I began studying about red foxes. I learned that December is the month when young females come into estrus and young males try to establish a territory where they can start a family. I learned that red foxes live in Arkansas. But I was living in a city in the Texas desert where no red fox had ever trod.
The first morning that I saw a red fox from my bedroom window here at my retirement home in Arkansas, I raced down the stairs to tell Husband Don. Yes, I was sure. A big, beautiful red fox.
My big red fox trotted by the house every morning about seven. He stopped in the commons area behind the creek that borders our yard. In the summer, I couldn’t see him through the trees, but when the leaves fell, I could watch him from my bedroom in the attic.
He would stand in the clearing and peer north and south, nose testing the wind. Satisfied, he would head west. The stuff of fairy tales.
Then, late last summer, I saw him lying in the middle of the road. A turkey vulture was pulling his already-ravaged body into the gutter where it could feast safely. It’s the circle of life, I said to myself. It’s the circle of life. But I grieved for weeks.
Then, yesterday morning, Old Dog Callie woke me up when she leapt from my bed and began to bark and scratch at my bedroom windowsill. Baby Dog Woodrow began barking and running in circles to help his sister, although he had no idea why she was excited.
I looked out the window, but because of the quilt of red, gold, and brown leaves covering the ground, I couldn’t see anything. Callie insisted that something was happening. I let my focus go hazy and stayed alert for movement. Then I saw it. In the trees, north of where Old Red Fox used to test the air, stood a young red fox. He sniffed the air to the east and north for a minute and then headed west. My heart thundered.
“It’s okay, Callie,” I said. “He’s supposed to be here.” Yes, he’s supposed to be here. I sat up on the side of the bed and thought, He’s the son of Old Red Fox. He’s establishing his territory, filling the vacancy left by his father. He’s looking for a vixen. To mate. To start a family. It’s the Circle of Life. The Circle of Life.
Old Dog Callie and Baby Dog Woodrow hopped up on the bed next to me. I wrapped my arms around them both and hugged them close.