The story of the fox cub is important in all this.

Last Friday, the day we took Tilly to hospital, the vet phoned through with blood results: dangerously anaemic, jaundiced. It could be, we decided, that her brother Schubert could save her life with a transfusion. R came home to help, and we made the decision, loaded S into the car. The car pulled away, and hidden underneath it was a tiny fox cub. No obvious sign of injury, eyes wide open, but unmoving. 

We wrapped it in a towel and took it in the car with us. So there we were: a critically ill kitten, another on the way to give blood, and a little fox cub wrapped up in a maroon towel on my lap. It dozed off. The sun was shining. 

At the vet’s, we left Schubert to be cross-matched. The fox was examined. Suffering from shock, no injury. About three weeks old. Advised to try, try to link it up with its mother. Just two nights before we’d seen them — mother and two babies, playing in the back garden by the stream.

We went back home with the fox, and laid him gently by the shed. 

Another phone call: Schubert is not a match. Tilly must try on her own, with oxyglobin to help ferry the oxygen around her system.

Eventually Schubert returns and E and M arrive home from school. Everyone is shaken. The baby fox is still in the back garden, has hardly moved. We decide he needs to go back to the vet’s to be re-homed. M and R carefully gather him up. This time he rides on M’s lap all the way; by the time he arrives his name is Robert.

E and I stay at home, playing cards and talking.

Later, R reports back: when I handed the fox over, I said we’ve got a very sick kitten here. So any good news you could tell us about Robert would be wonderful. Any good news.

Two hours later, the vet phones. The fox has died. Upon closer examination, they found an enlarged liver. Probably born with the condition that would kill him. The children seem to absorb this fairly matter-of-factly, although when she first hears, M covers her face with the sofa cushion.

By contrast, the fox dying simply does R and I in. In a world where little ones are dying, why can’t we save them?


We just can’t. Yesterday afternoon we had to put Tilly to sleep. She had taken another downturn, and for the first time seemed unhappy. She was slipping and struggling. Just could not round the corner.

We did what we could, but not too much. The right decision doesn’t mean it isn’t desperately sad. 

So. She was not a strong kitty, perhaps not even from birth. But she was petite, soft-natured, and very very beautiful. Liked to be treated with extreme gentleness. Would have been one year old tomorrow. We are missing her. Last night of all nights her brother wandered the house, yowling and scratching at doors. And first thing this morning, he didn’t want to go out.

The sun shines and shines. I wait for the intrigue of butterflies and warm spots to draw him out, and now, at 11 am, they do. A part of us stops, and a part of us continues.