Regiis Vulpes

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The old man waited; every winter solstice.

Pawprints in the snow — two sets.

The old prince had been married to the queen for more years than he could remember. They were happy enough, but the demands of office weighed heavily on them both.

None of us knows when our father will leave this life. 

When the old king died, she ascended to the throne, the new queen was very young. 

She took to her role bravely, and the young prince stood by her side.

There were fewer duties to perform in the winter months. They retreated to their favourite country estate — hundreds of years old. Large rooms — a stone fireplace in each one. Small dogs scurried from place to place, looking for attention, the older dogs wisely curled up before the fire.

One clear grey day, all the dogs ran to the French doors and barked a warning, clawing at the glass. Security at the castle was tight, but occasionally there were incidents. “Didn’t want to concern you, your highness. We caught him once he scaled the fence. Just a young bloke on a dare. Won’t do that again, I promise you.” A bedraggled young man between two large soldiers staggered past the window and into a waiting unmarked van. He looked sore and sorry, his long hair a tangled mess. His pitiful expression lingered long after the van pulled away.

The dogs were becoming more frantic, and the prince expected to see a soldier running through the snow, but no one came. Only the dogs could hear the sound of something desperately trying to free itself.

“Come away from the door.” The dogs obeyed, sitting a few feet back and waiting for instructions. “Wait there. I’ll call you if I need you.”

The French doors stayed open as the prince walked out onto the paved patio in his house slippers. The fabric absorbed the water from the snow, and it chilled his feet.

Determined to see what was going on across the lawn, he continued with numb toes.

As he reached the outer edge of the lawn, he heard it.

The fox looked at him with the same look he had seen on enemy soldiers as he and his comrades spilled into their trench.

The fox was trapped by its hind leg.

The prince removed his dressing gown and threw it over the fox’s head. The animal lay still.

Opening the trap was easy enough. The leg didn’t seem to be broken, but there was a lot of blood. The fox winced as the prince touched the damaged appendage.

With the dressing gown still in place, the prince picked up the fox and walked back across the lawn — his footprints the only break in the soft powder snow. He filled his own steps as he had done as a soldier. The memory made him sad.

Once back inside, the disciplined dogs could no longer contain themselves. They knew the scent of a dangerous intruder. They flocked around the prince as he walked through the house, down the corridor to the stairs leading to the servant’s quarters.

“Do you have somewhere I can deal with this?” asked the prince.

The cook looked at him with wide eyes.

“Are you going to kill it, your majesty?”

“No,” said the prince. He had a mellifluous voice, and she loved to hear him speak. His gentle tone told her that he meant what he said.

“I want to dress its wound before I let it go.”

“It probably won’t help, your majesty. It’ll get infected as soon as it walks through the mud,” said the cook. “I dressed a lot of wounds in the war.”

“I didn’t know that. Why didn’t I know that?”

“I nursed your brother,” she said, eyes down.

“God bless you for that,” said the prince.

In silence, they cleaned and dressed the fox’s wound.

The prince smiled at the cook — comrades in arms.

With the fox still wrapped up in his gown, the prince walked back through the house escorted by his pack of dogs.

“Wait here,” he said. “I’ll call out for you if I need help.”

The dogs sat at the open door.

Across the lawn once more to the bushes.

The prince put the fox down.

“Try not to chew off your bandage and stay out of the mud, if you can. Good luck — you’re going to need it.”

A year later, the prince’s dogs ran to the doors and gave the alarm.

At the edge of the snow-covered lawn stood an older fox and a younger male fox.

They stood in the snow until the prince appeared. 

They stared at each other for the longest time. 

When the foxes turned and walked back through the bushes, the prince turned to his obedient dogs.

“I think that’s our fox and possibly, that was his son.”

The prince walked across the house and down to the kitchen. The cook stopped what she was doing.

“Your majesty?”

“I think I just saw the fox we saved last year and his cub. The dogs will back me up, they saw it too.”

The cook wanted to laugh, but she held it in.

“We did it cook. You and me, and now he came to visit.”

 “I hope they stay away from our chickens.”

“Yes, there is that,” said the prince.

The prince smiled awkwardly and went back upstairs.

The following year, the scene repeated itself, but the year after that something had changed.

The older fox was not there. The damaged leg made him easy to recognise.

And yet, there was an older male fox and a younger male. They waited at the edge of the lawn, illuminated by the pure white snow.

Again the ritual played out. 

An extended period of locking eyes followed by the departure.

Every four or five years, the older fox would be a former youngster. As each elder fox met its fate, a descendant would take its place and the ritual would continue.

A tear would form in the ageing prince’s eye as he realised the passing of a senior fox.

The queen and the prince reigned for many decades, and as extreme old age was upon them, the weather patterns had altered to such a degree that the snow season came later and later.

The foxes arrived later in the season.

This year, the snow came even later.

The prince and the queen had returned to their duties, and no one was there to see the fox and his cub arrive at the edge of the snow-covered lawn.

They waited for the longest time, longer than was safe.

The first in a long line to not be able to express their gratitude, they turned and walked back through the bushes.

 

 

  

The artist: https://www.deviantart.com/sven-werren/art/Red-Fox-or-Firefox-394725272

JESSY

Have you ever wondered how they got there?

People, I mean.

People who flash into your life and leave just as abruptly.

They leave their mark. If we never see them again, we are forever changed, if only in a small way.

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A wise man once said, “The more I see of people, the more I like my dog.” There are times when this is hard to argue with.

We almost didn’t get to meet Jessy. She was coming out of the BP service station on Burwood Highway in Tecoma, and I nearly missed seeing her weave through the busy traffic.

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My attention was taken by an old lady who was also taking her life in her hands trying to cross this busy highway. She was trying to get to the bus stop on the other side, and Jessy was trying to cross from the bus stop to get to our side.

The difference between these two ‘old ladies’ was that one of them was human, and should have known better, and the other was canine and was in the hands of the traffic gods as she continued her quest to find her way home.

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Honey, Zed and I were out for a walk when I noticed this daredevil old lady who looked like she wanted to cross the highway at a particularly dangerous spot.

It crossed my mind that I should offer to help her, but it also occurred to me that we were going to make quite a sight. Most probably Zed would want to give the old lady a good telling off for getting too close and I could see myself with two flailing dogs and an old lady in tow trying not to get us all killed!

It was at this point of pondering what to do that I noticed the dog coming towards us. It crossed my mind that the crazy old lady and the crazy old dog might be connected.

The old dog had her head down and was moving resolutely in our direction, and I judged that there was no chance of her making it as a large four wheel drive headed her way. I looked at the driver and could see that she had not seen the dog so there was nothing to do but wait for the bang.

There we all were, the old lady, my two dogs and me all waiting for life’s drama to play out. In a split second available to me I thought about calling out, but I knew that this was likely to have the opposite effect as dogs tend to come when you call to them so I just held my breath.

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At the last moment, the old dog stopped just as the four-wheel drive whizzed past her nose.

After this moment of hesitation, the old dog continued her perilous journey. Her chances had improved but only marginally. Somehow she managed to avoid cars coming in both directions. Then, Jessy just sailed past both of us and continued her search. It wasn’t hard to work out that she was lost. Her grand adventure had now turned into an anxious search for familiar ground. She walked up the driveway of the nearest house, and I hoped that she had found home. But it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t her home.

I looked up because a young man was coming towards us and I hoped that he might be the owner, but sadly I was wrong. He had seen Jessy dicing with the traffic and had come across to help.

I asked him to grab her (if I had tried, Zed would have made a big fuss). We located her tag hoping that it would reveal a phone number. The young man asked if I had a mobile phone as his didn’t have any credit.

There was a sense of panic in his voice, and I was yet again amazed at the various things that worry people. The number on the tag came up as disconnected. I dialled again as I’m famous for having poor dialling skills.

Still disconnected.

“What are you going to do?” the young man asked. He wasn’t the only one who was wondering.

In the end, I connected both my dogs to the one lead (they were less than impressed) and connected Jessy to the other lead, and off we headed towards my house, some ten minutes away.

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Jessy seemed quite happy to be on a lead, but Zed had had enough by this time. Being closely attached to Honey and with this large dog (Jessy is a Border collie cross) so close he decided it was time to bite someone. I kept him away from her as best I could, but Jessy wasn’t at all bothered by the noise, so off we went.

As we walked away, I told the young man that I would take Jessy to the Belgrave South Vet, and if anyone was looking for her, that is where she would be.

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I looked back and noticed that the old lady had managed to cross the road unscathed and was sitting waiting for the bus to arrive.

Amazing!

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Along the way, we ran into a neighbour and her little girl. Up until then, Jessy had been happy to walk along on the lead, but the lure of a little girl holding a half eaten cup cake made it difficult to convince her that we had to keep moving.

When we arrived home, I had to work out how to get everyone into my car. I corralled Jessy on the front verandah while I got my keys from inside and put my two dogs into the car. By the time I got back to her she had bowled over the barricade, I had set up and was galloping towards me across the verandah.

Getting her into the car proved to be interesting.

Zed obviously thought that the whole ’big dog incident’ was over and here I was trying to get this same big dog into the back of ‘his’ car. It was more than he could stand. In his enthusiasm to make his feelings clear he jumped up onto the rear parcel shelf and slammed his head into the rear window. He went quiet for a few seconds, and I thought that he had knocked himself out. Pretty soon he regained his composure and resumed his protest.

I opened the back door and suggested to Jessy that she get in. She quite wisely decided to wait until I had this furious fluff-ball under some kind of control.

After I had forcefully moved said crazed fluff-ball to the front of the car Jessy was happy to get in. She sat on the back seat in a way that suggested she was used to this form of transport.

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A few minutes later we arrived at the vet and Jessy seemed quite interested in the place. The receptionist quickly gave the impression that she thought I was unloading an unwanted dog.

To put it mildly, after all, that I had been through, this made me somewhat annoyed. I’ve got muddy paw prints all over my leather seats, and this ‘person’ thinks that I’m dumping this beautiful, friendly old dog!

“You can ring in a few days, if you are interested, and see if she has been picked up.”

“Screw you lady, and yes I am interested to see if she is picked up as I’ve got the feeling that Jessy has indeed been dumped”. No Council tag and a phone number that has been disconnected along with her advanced age, and it didn’t look good for Jessy. My two dogs were very happy to see that I had returned to the car without the ‘big dog’.

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We all went home where I made up a couple of posters. I put one up on a lamppost near where we had found Jessy, and one at the local general store.

If she was micro chipped, she had a chance.

Maybe someone would see the “FOUND” poster and ring the vet. I wasn’t going to wait for ‘a couple of days’.

I needed to know.

I rang the vet the next afternoon. The much friendlier woman who answered the phone needed a few minutes to search out Jessy’s fate.

“Someone came and collected her”. Those few words brought this story to a close.

Best sentence I’ve heard in a long time.

(Just to let you know; we never saw Jessie again, and we never heard from her owner which I thought was a bit rude. This was our third ‘rescue’ spread over a couple of years. One person, who was obviously sick and tired of their ‘Houdini’ dog, kept us waiting for an hour before they came and collected their dog which we had rescued from traffic in the main street of Belgrave. They lived about five minutes away! The other two owners just collected their dogs from the local vet and said nothing. A small thank you would have been nice.)

ImageThis is not Jessie, but it does look a lot like her. I was too busy wrangling dogs to get a photo.