It was a crisp, early Autumn morning, the sort that I can tolerate without too much complaining since the sun was already shining comfortably, the sky was bright blue and the fallen leaves from the apple tree were crunchy underfoot rather than soggy.
Even though I no longer smoke, I still like to take an early morning saunter around the garden to check on the progress of the various plants and restrain myself from pulling the occasional one up to see if it’s growing.
Generally, one or more of the cats accompanies me on these little excursions and on this particular morning, Charlie chose to bless me with her presence. We stopped to comment on the progress of the tissue plant – I think it’s actually called a Rose of Sharon, don’t know who she is… but the flowers are a beautiful shade of pink and set against the silvery green leaves look like crumpled balls of delicate tissue.
We turned the corner into the main body of the garden and Charlie instantly stiffened in alarm and went tinsel-tailed… an intruder! But… but… what an intruder! I am aware that our garden is a cut-through for foxes, right at the very bottom where the pond is, and I think they like to stop by for a drink of water. We leave shallow dishes out for the cats and hedgehogs, but today’s visitor had been caught red-pawed…
He was only a young fox, as he didn’t quite have the bulk and splendour of some of our other visitors, and he seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see him. He froze, one slender paw raised, Charlie, unconsciously mirroring the pose, then as the breeze changed direction she must have smelt him… Her face was a picture. She pulled her lips back in the “Oh-my-God” face – more correctly known as the Flehmen reaction and looked at me as if to say:
“I have never smelled a dog so disgusting it can’t even be a dog! How can he smell that bad and still be alive?!?”
The fox, perhaps sensing Charlie’s distaste at his overwhelming body odour slowly lowered his paw to the ground and began moving stealthily towards the gap in the hedge. He cast a shame-faced look at Charlie –
“I know someone as beautiful as you would never give me a chance…”
And made a break for the gap. The wrong gap. He got stuck. Just his furry bum and brush sticking out of the hedge.
This impudence was too much for Charlie to bear and she shot forwards to deliver a series of well-placed slaps to the poor fox’s bristly behind.
A frantic rustling from the depths of the hedge – then seconds later I was relieved to see the fox hot-footing it across the park… Lucky the colour of his fur hid his blushes…
Charlie looked up at me:
“Honestly! Give them an inch and they take a mile…” and walked off to clean her contaminated paw.