When Verizon insisted I change my password, I typed the first thing that came to mind, as traumatic as the event had been: Fox ate my squirrel.
“That sounds like a really bad children’s book,” my son said later when he called to find out why he couldn’t sign into HBO.
He was right, but then much of my life sounds like a bad children’s book when reduced to four or five words.
There’s also “Dogs Ate My Chickens,” “Incoming! Airborne Turtle!” and “Butterflies Almost Always Get Eaten.” Longtime readers may remember the heart-warming tale “TSA X-rays a Crab.”
What’s most troubling about this is that I am not a veterinarian or an animal-control officer, just an ordinary American with a problem. If there’s an animal in misery out there, I seem to attract it. Or have caused it. Sometimes it’s hard to say which.
“No one knows how to suffer like you do, Mom,” says my oldest son Mencken, which is why this is all so unfair.
Through no fault of my own, I possess a brain hard-wired to care deeply about animals and their welfare. Please do not ask me if this propensity to suffer over the trauma of others extends to those of my own species. I will say yes, but that could be a lie.
Let’s just say that I sat stoically through eight seasons of “The Walking Dead,” watching people get eaten by zombies and beaten to death with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire, no problem. But when, in Season 9, Daryl got a dog — A DOG THAT AT ANY MINUTE COULD BE EATEN BY ZOMBIES — the show became unbearably painful.
But back to my squirrel.
Like many squishy-hearted animal lovers, I run an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds, squirrels and chipmunks. And it took awhile, but I finally came to realize that there’s no difference between “feeding the birds” and “feeding the fox” but for timing.
I came hard by this knowledge the day my daughter looked out of the bathroom window to see a fox trotting by with a fat, gray squirrel squirming in her mouth.
She shrieked, “Mom, are you seeing this?” and I, nobly attired in a fuzzy pink bathrobe, put down my coffee and ran outside after the fox, screaming “Drop it! Drop it right now!”
In my defense, this has worked in the past when a cat was making off with a chipmunk, not because the cat would obey, but because it would open its mouth in astonishment at being spoken to that way.
It did not work with the fox.
She looked at me with something resembling disdain, then turned and strolled away with her breakfast, leaving me to comfort a traumatized child, and by this, I don’t mean my daughter, but the one that lives inside me, the one who can’t bear to see any animal suffer.
The irony, of course, is that normally I like seeing a fox in the yard, just not with a bird or squirrel in her mouth. To prevent this from happening again, I Googled “what do you feed a fox?” and learned what has been happening to my cherry tomatoes. For a while, I left a diced hotdog on a plate in the yard, hoping this would be more appetizing than fresh squirrel. Apparently, it wasn’t.
But it was a human who killed the next squirrel, a few weeks later. I took a pitchfork out to the road to retrieve him, glassy-eyed but still soft. I buried him next to a cat who’s been dead much too long to get excited.
You may be wondering what happened to the fox. Or maybe you’re smarter than me and saw this coming.
Car hit my fox.
She was a good fox, that fox. Buried her next to the squirrel.