My first sad wildlife encounter up close and personal in our Hundred Acre Wood was a baby rabbit our cat brought in. It had a broken leg, so I took it to a much amused local vet, who made it a splint out of a tongue depressor. But as the vet had warned me, in spite of my tender loving care for two days, the tiny bunny finally gave a loud cry and died. This was not an auspicious beginning for a Saint Francis wanna be. It was made even sadder and more disturbing by the timing of the bunny’s death; three o’clock in the afternoon on Good Friday. Honestly! I almost dug up its little box coffin to make sure it was still there.
It got worse.
A few months later I was just starting into town with my two year old in our truck. I had to stop suddenly, because there was a pitiful looking old fox standing right in the middle of the road. He wouldn’t move even when I honked my horn. He was trembling and obviously sick, so I backed up and went to consult with our nearest for “real” country neighbor. He informed me that according to country protocol, I needed to take the fox to the Health Department to be checked for rabies. When I looked at him like he had lost his mind, he explained that he would put the fox out of its misery and put it in a garbage bag in the back of my truck. So my two year old and I waited in the house while the neighbor shot the fox. When I got to the Health Department and told them what I had in the truck, the woman informed me that they would only accept the fox’s head. When I just stared at her speechless, I guess she pegged me as a city slicker. Because she finally explained in a tone that made it obvious she thought she was talking to a ding bat, that I needed to take the fox to the vet to get the head cut off. So, back to the vet I went once more. When he recognized me, the vet smirked a little as he inquired about the health of the baby rabbit. However, he obligingly delivered the fox head to me in a coffee can. He also gave me the rest of the fox back in its garbage bag, while informing me that he had no disposal facilities. As I drove back to the Health Department, I now noticed a very horrible and strong odor coming from the back of my truck. I tried to bring a little humor into what seemed to me a rather grizzly situation by imitating Salome doing her Dance of the Seven Veils as I delivered the fox head. They were not amused. In fact, they then informed me (I suspect secretly with glee) that it was up to me to get rid of the rest of the fox safely. It could not be buried in a shallow grave in case it had rabies and other animals might dig it up. So, sadly the rest of the fox and I finished my second country wildlife death without ritual or honors at the County Landfill. The Health Department eventually notified me that the fox had definitely been dying, but fortunately for us and our neighborhood wildlife, from distemper, not rabies.
No amount of cleaning agents could get the smell out of the back of my truck. It took almost a month of fresh air and rain.
Coming Next- Wildlife Encounters: Part Four, The Funny and Delightful Kind