Whitetip, my friend. . .

I’m a feral cat caretaker. For those of you unfamiliar, a feral cat caretaker takes care of cats that have been trapped, neutered /spayed, given vaccines, and then released back to the area they call home. This allows them to live and thrive but not multiply. I’ve been doing this for many years now, and one of the colonies I feed is in an industrial site, bordered by woods and water. This particular site has its share of other animals, raccoons, groundhogs, deer, foxes, etc., and some of these animals—through association with food—make themselves known. That’s been particularly true with foxes over the years. And they have become friendly, awaiting my arrival right along side of the cats on many evenings. Foxes are smart, sly, fast and compassionate. I know you might question the “compassionate” description, but I have witnessed what I believe is compassion and concern for others on at least two occasions.

Let me tell you about the most recent. A few months ago, one of my domestic cats(at home cat)—Chilly--was very ill and diagnosed with a fatal disease, FIP. FIP is a killer but there are medicines available to buy time for cats with this disease, and I wanted to prolong the end as long as possible. Unfortunately, Chilly did not wish to cooperate and fought any administration of medicine and even food. She refused to do anything to help herself. In my mind, she just wanted to give up and it broke my heart. During this time, I had numerous discussions with my vet and—on this particular night—I had called him on my way to the cat colony site. The news he shared with me wasn’t good. He had no more ideas and thought I might want to consider helping Chilly go to the other side , as she evidently was ready to do.

My frustration and heartbreak surfaced at the moment I ended the call, and I broke down. I bawled my eyes out. The frustration and heart breaking realization that my beloved Chilly was dying and could not or would not be helped just overwhelmed me and I totally lost it. Thankfully, It was around evening time and the site’s workers had gone home, and I was by myself, free to let myself release my heartbreak and not answer to anyone. And I took full advantage. As I stood at the back of my SUV opening cans and shoveling out dry food, my body sobbed in anguish, crying my heart out. But I continued my mission of caring for the cats even with tears gushing, compromising my line of vision. As I reached for Kleenex for the upteenth time, I turned to see Whitetip, a red fox, sitting just a few yards from me looking at me quizzically. Whitetip had become a regular and my trips to this site included pieces of chicken for him. His fear of me was minimal and would come very close upon my arrival to ensure he received what he now considered his due, very much like a dog. He was sitting there with his head cocked to the side with what could only be described as a questioning expression.

My sobs seemed to confuse him. But I diligently grabbed the piece of chicken I had set aside for him and tossed it to him and then went on opening cans and pouring cat food. When I looked around again—instead of eating the chicken or carrying it away to bury—he was pushing it back to me using his nose to roll it on the ground. Now I was confused. I picked it up and told Whitetip, “I don’t want it; it’s not going to make me feel better. You eat it.” And with that, I tossed it back to him. This time he started eating it but all the while keeping an eye trained on me. When I turned around again, he had finished the chicken and was in the field behind me burying chicken leftovers or so I thought. But, instead, he had undug a treasure, a large black bird. He brought it toward me with large black wings peering from his mouth making him appear like Fox Dracula.

Now it was my turn to be confused. I stared at him not sure what he was doing. As I was watching. he hurled the blackbird carcass up in in the air in my direction. I’m not sure if he was inviting me to play with it or eat it. I only knew at that moment, he was trying to make me feel better. First he had offered me his chicken, now the blackbird. And though our culinary choices differ, making me feel better, he did.

Author: 
Alice Thompson
Age: 
60
True Story?: 
yes