All my years hiking in the mountains of San Diego County I never saw a fox. I knew they were there; people I encountered would say, “I just saw a fox!” Clearly a sign that there was a fox. Most of the foxes up there were gray — apparently but I never saw that for myself. Then, one day, in April, not long after I moved here, I saw my first fox out on the driving range of the local golf course which abuts a few farms. It was a very different April from this one — wet, snowy, foggy. Dusty, Baby Bear and I stood and watched fox move in and out of the fog. When I looked up through the fog, at blue sky that seemed far far away, a golden eagle was circling above.

It was a pretty nice day. I came home and tried to paint it.

I saw the fox a few more times. She/he was very curious and playful and tried a couple of times to interest my dogs in a game of tag. She got in puppy pose like, “And NOW? Do you want to play NOW?” But (thank goodness) she was about 50 yards away and the dogs were leashed. Then some people bought some of that open property, and it got marginally gentrified. The first summer after that, a few trucks that convey migrant farm workers were parked there. The next summer it turned into a mini-mobile home campsite. The grass was cut, the trees trimmed, the roads graded, yada yada and the wild feeling of that small area was gone.

The foxes aren’t gone, however. At times I smell them in the alley and see their tracks in the snow in front of my house. Bear warns them off like she’s supposed to.

In February this year — this strange, too dry, year — Teddy and I were walking at the Refuge, catching a morning snow squall. As we turned to head to the car, a shape came out of the rabbit brush scrub and darted gracefully across the road. Time slowed just enough that, though the creature practically flew across the space in front of us, I could see it was a black fox. Later I learned that in the US they aren’t unusual; maybe 25% of red foxes born are black or have some mixture of red and black fur.

We share our world with so many creatures we never even see.

Yesterday I fought the wind by attempting the annual reclamation of my yard. Here’s what I’m up against:

Bear, the construction expert, surveying the work she did all winter hiding and reclaiming rawhide from the ground. When I first got Bear this was a lawn. Her breed is known for this. If she had a ‘normal’ Akbash dog life she’d be out in the middle of nowhere with her sheep or cattle and would dig holes for shelter, warmth or cooling.

I read an article recently that said that a dog’s breed was no predictor of “person”ality. The researchers looked at the DNA of dogs bred for particular traits. I find that quite strange. Why not look at the actual DOG??? Almost everything Bear does (or Teddy does) is related directly to what they were bred for. I read a couple versions of this article and had to laugh. I’ve had many purebred dogs and they’ve all acted pretty much exactly as they were bred to act. My huskies ran. My golden retriever followed faithfully and affectionately. Bear is definitely what she looks like she would be and, other than never having found anything to herd, Teddy is a herding dog. My other purebred Aussie never had the chance to herd anything, but when she finally heard the bleating of sheep, her ears picked up and her eyes showed more interest in life than I’d ever seen in them. So, I dunno. I think the actual people who work and live with these dogs might be more onto it than geneticists… Training matters a lot, but no one in their right mind would train Bear to dig these holes. And foxes are foxes.

18 thoughts on “Foxes

  1. Catahoulas were bred for herding cattle and being chased by wild boars. This was obvious when Toulouse got to go to a dog park. He would herd the other dogs until they started chasing him. That’s as happy as he got, absolutely in love with life, doing what he was born to do. He would race them around the perimeter and then bring them to me, eyes dancing and laughing.

    • Toulouse sounds exactly like the kind of dog I would have liked to have made friends with. Nothing makes Bear happier than having her “herd” (the people she loves) around her. A walk comes close, but even then, we walk alone together, she comes home, sees Teddy, checks him over and is so happy for us all to be together again. I really love observing and experiencing the things dogs do because of their breeding. It’s beautiful to me.

  2. What a beautiful animal the fox is, with that white tipped tail on the black animal! And I just finished reading an article on P-22, the 13-y/o mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park — a completely different animal, that likes to live alone (good thing, since he’s in an urban wilderness park surrounded by freeways), and is occasionally seen roaming the trails in the Park at night. Bear is Bear, foxes are foxes, and mountain ions are mountain lions!

  3. My god! Your yard is so dry! Bear has done a good job. It looks like a BMX track. I’ve never heard of a black fox. They are amazing.

    In the days when we went to a dog park, Makea would round the other dogs up, barking incessantly. She was scared by other dogs chasing her. My dogs are more unruly than they should be due to my lack lustre training effort, but their job instinct is still very strong in them all.

  4. MAK, I’ve never seen a black and white fox! We have red foxes that are really red. The fox you painted is beautiful. It’s so interesting, the DNA of dogs and their traits. Dogs are just being themselves and doing what they do. Little Finley is such a sniffer~I always know where critters are or where they’ve been hanging. I’ve battled Covid all week. It was miserable (particularly 3 days). I don’t smell or taste much. But we had a visitor under the house and he has a beautiful home in my bluff rocks. This woodchuck has left many trails and was my sole entertainment peeking his head in and out at me. Watching him scurry made me giggle (even when it hurt to giggle). If humans were like “breeds”, in which we knew what their tendencies were, I’d probably have chosen my own pack wiser! But I learn from them all I guess! Sending love and hugs to all 3 of you. Happy Sunday! It’s so good to see you. 💛❤️🐶

    • Be careful what you wish for. Dogs identify each other by sniffing butts…. 😉 I guess we try to identify breeds through skin color and nationality and the nationality bit might have something to it, but skin color? I just don’t know about humans. This morning I woke up, again, “I have no idea what’s going on!” ❤ ❤ to you and Finn

      • HA HA! I just don’t know about humans either. I feel lost in this world and all I wanna do is hit the road. And I can’t. The cost of everything is so ridiculous. I ordered ELEVEN items that total nearly $100 for pick up this afternoon. I better just work up enough strength to mow my lawn and stop complaining. But I’d give anything to be anywhere where I’m not fighting wind and allergies so I could gain my strength back. I’m not without hope and faith….but I still have disappointments. 💛💛❤️

        • I wanted to go visit my cousin 3 hours away. She doesn’t have a room for me nor does her daughter. I looked at hotels and Airbnbs. Two nights in Albuquerque, boarding the dogs, gas -would be almost $1000. I’m not going anywhere. Well, I’m about to go to Alamosa for groceries. It’s OK. I’ve been through this before. ❤

          • I get it. I’m looking at visiting some small river towns in Mid-Northern Missouri. I made a budget to take Finn to see the Grand Canyon–I’ll just keep building my savings if I can. I’ve used my savings to visit the grandkiddos and enjoyed every second as I had: lodging and good plane prices at the time. I honestly don’t know how some do it. I can believe it on the Air BnB-I couldn’t believe the prices when I looked as well. Let’s have fun picking up our groceries. I have a good imagination and wonderful memories to think upon. The future will hold more! I know it! ❤💚

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