My best friend, Widdle (1)

One summer’s day in 2007, I was sitting out on the patio when all of a sudden I looked down and there was an animal standing right next to me. It was a fox!! Latin name “Vulpes vulpes” for anybody who lives in a country where foxes are not known.

I said to him “What do you want?” “Are you hungry?” “Would you like some food?”

He looked back at me and I said, “Just stay there and I’ll go and fetch you something.”

And he stayed there and I went into kitchen, opened the door of the fridge and looked around.

Some milk. No, that’s cats.

Just a piece of apple and some cooked sausages.

That’s it. I’ll take him that. I picked up the apple and went out to feed him.

He was still there. I offered him the apple which he initially sniffed and then gave me a look of such disdain, as if to say,

“Hurry up and get back to your village. They’ll be missing their idiot.”

I went back to the fridge. I got a sausage and I took it out to him. He sniffed it and I put it on the floor. He picked it up in his mouth and off he went. Back into the beautiful green world of flowers, bushes and trees.

That sausage would be the first of literally thousands, with the occasional lump of beef, pork or chicken to stop him getting bored. I soon became an expert on sausages, their make-up, their price, their value for money. We used to buy them in some quantity. I remember once going through the checkout at Iceland (the frozen food supermarket chain, not the island nation). I was buying the usual six packets and the woman said “Do you like sausages then?”  and I replied “Not really, I feed them to a fox”.

And she looked at me with complete disdain as if to say….

“Hurry up and get back to your village. They’ll be missing their idiot.”

Little did she know, though, and little did I know, that very soon I would value our fox at ten times the value of almost all human beings. Being with him was like being with an extremely wise child who was always steps ahead of you. Somebody who could do amazing things that were as if he knew magic. Somebody who was always on his best behaviour. Who never hurt a fly. Who was a damn sight closer to God than I ever was. Here’s his four stage method to being given a sausage:

Stage 1            Look as if you’re hungry:

Stage 2           Reach for the Food of the Gods: sausage fried with extra fat :

Stage 3           Make that strange gesture with your lower jaw that is a basic part of “Talking Fox” but one which we never managed to  understand :

Stage 4    Show the kind humans your lovely brown eyes, and they’ll probably give you more sausages next time :

Sometimes, though, our new friend was nervous and he showed this by cocking his back leg against anything available, and squirting a tiny quantity of fox urine. He only did that when he was not 100% certain of our intentions, because we were human beings and potentially not as well behaved as he was. It gave him his name, though. We called him “Widdle”.

Over the next few weeks, we all grew to love him.

He was a gift from God. A wild creature who let us into his world for a few short years. We fed him morning and evening, day in, day out, and we saved his life several times. When he could not hunt because of injuries we saw to it that he was fed. Thanks to us, he had five lives.

We fed too, all of the minimum of 15 fox cubs that he raised. With a little bit of help from Mrs Widdle, of course.



Filed under Humour, My Garden, My House, Nottingham, Personal, Widdle, Wildlife and Nature

23 responses to “My best friend, Widdle (1)

  1. Was he injured when he first appeared? For how many years did he hang around?

    • No, he wasn’t injured but June is a time over here where it can be very difficult for animals to get food. Winter food is completely exhausted and, in a city, the weather is still too cold for people to have garden picnics or to eat outside at burger “restaurants”, thereby creating the odd bit of meat or cheese to be eaten. I think we first saw him in 2007, in the summer, and I last saw him, still alive, in the early months of 2011. I will tell the tale of what happened to him on another occasion. He was an adult fox in 2007, so he was probably born in 2006 or, more likely, 2005. Six years old is a good age for a fox who is a vaguely wild animal.

  2. GP

    What a fantastic story, John. Do any of his children still visit?

  3. What a wonderful story John, and such a beautiful creature. How anyone can harm them is beyond me. We have two resident pheasants that come looking for food we call them Phyllis and Phil, no babies as yet we’re waiting for that. Perhaps you’ve opened the flood gates here for ‘wild’ visitors!

    • We have. Our trailcam shows that we have other wild animals than foxes, although they are all outnumbered by what appear to be approximately fifty different cats, all of whom have deep seated anxiety problems, caused by having to defend a territory against 49 others.
      In our last house we had pheasants but they like to eat bulbs so don’t plant any expensive ones!

  4. Chris Waller

    That is absolutely amazing. I do get the occasional fox in my garden at night but at the first sight of a human being they scarper. That he is out in daylight and clearly so comfortable with a human presence is remarkable. He has clearly figured out that he can manipulate you into providing food.

    • To be honest, I didn’t take much manipulating! I have always felt that I was the evil rancher, trying to raise cattle on the tribal hunting grounds and he was the Native American trying to stop humans making him starve to death. In 1932, where we live now was all woodland, with lots of birds and animals, so I will feed any wild creature if they look as if they need it.
      At the moment I am feeding the birds in a big way, and trying to help them fledge a large number of their babies. If they depended totally on the insects that we humans haven’t managed to zap, they’d all starve in a day.

  5. A heartwarming story, John ❤ I wonder how Widdle knew that you could be trusted to help without harming him.

    • That’s a good question. I have enormous faith in the ability of dogs, and foxes, to detect things and I think that he could tell that I was not angry or about to be violent, but was instead, an admittedly kind village idiot, who wanted to help him and might have some food .
      Years after his disappearance, I discovered from the young man who came to help his Dad tidy up our garden, that around ten, twelve years ago, he was a Boy Scout in the local troop. They would all have their tea sitting outside the Scout Hut if it was sunny, and they had a regular visitor in the shape of a male fox. He liked to feed from their hands, preferring jam sandwiches, blackcurrant if available. I think I know who that was!

  6. Thank you for sharing a wonderful story!.. the bond the fox family and you and your family established reminded me of a poem I read some time ago.. 🙂

    He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds;
    My other ears that hear above the winds.
    He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea.

    He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being:
    By the way he rests against my leg
    By the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile
    By the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.
    (I think it makes him sick with worry when he
    is not along to care for me.)

    When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.
    When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.
    When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.
    When I am a fool, he ignores it.
    When I succeed, he brags.
    Without him, I am only another person. ,With him, I am all-powerful.
    He is loyalty itself., He has taught me the meaning of devotion.
    With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace.

    He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant.
    His head on my knee can heal my human hurts.
    His presence by my side is protection against, my fears of dark and unknown things.
    He has promised to wait for me…, whenever…wherever–in case I need him.
    And I expect I will–as I always have.
    He is just my dog.
    (Author Gene Hill…)

    Until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    • That poem sums up Widdle perfectly. I almost feel that there should be a set of tick boxes at the end of each line, so that I can chart exactly all the things he did for me and my family. It was a very great deal for just half a dozen sausages a day,

  7. atcDave

    Interesting story and terrific pictures! Usually I expect foxes to be more skittish. We have a number around here, but coyotes are more numerous and aggressive, so foxes may be a shrinking population. Shame, they are much better neighbors!
    Late in life, my dad had gotten in the habit of feeding all sorts of critters around his neighborhood. When he passed, we started asking around if anyone was ready to take up that burden. Not sure why we cared, just seemed like took it all so seriously, so maybe we should. But we quickly found out it was actually illegal where he was, so we dropped it! Bureaucratic stupidity (is that redundant?).

  8. Thank you. Foxes usually are very mistrustful of human beings, and with good reason, but Widdle always came across as a fairly tame individual if he knew you. When we went away on holiday, I asked a friend to feed him, which he did, but, although he knew Widdle was very close, he hardly ever saw him.
    Widdle had certainly had dealings with humans before he met us, but it proved impossible to discover exactly where that was. Maybe he had been taken into animal hospital, maybe he had been looked after as a cub and then released into the wild but he wasn’t 100% wild fox if i can put it that way. With two of the local children, he even posed for photographs on one occasion!

  9. Jeff

    A lovely story John and we can see another side of you. I have a semi-tame blackbird in my garden who I feed generously and a few weeks ago he brought a couple of his chicks close to the house. You can see so much more of their characters when they’re just an arm’s length away.

    • Yes, if you stop rushing about and spend time with the birds, you learn things you would have missed otherwise. I’ve learnt that in winter you can leave food out for specific birds and they may well get it because they can follow your routine, and they know that food will be there for them as soon as you go back indoors. I have even worked out which bird Beethoven took his “Da-da-da DAH” from. You just have to slow down and pay attention to them, not the thousand and one worries you may have.

  10. Pingback: My best friend, Widdle (2) | John Knifton

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