Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tlacuaches Trumped

Opossoms, (tlacuaches, in Spanish), find my San Pancho home agreeable, as I’ve complained in several posts. Yes, they can have some bad habits, such as chewing through the gas line to my stove and causing an explosion, but I’ve now achieved perspective. My daughter found baby-blues to be too much, my grandbaby beckoned, and I’ve moved to London for a time to be what help I can. And it is London that has opened my eyes.

And how has London, more precisely, Chiswick, done this? Chiswick with its meandering streets, some of which probably follow old cow paths; where dropped items hang on fences until reclaimed; dense with prams and nannies and lovingly tended gardens; home of Colin Firth, for crissakes—is infested with foxes. Walk home after dark, gaze out into the garden early in the morning, and you’re sure to see them starting out on the night’s business or heading back to the den, which is probably hidden under a garden buddleia, maybe yours. But don’t think they aren’t out in the day, too. These foxes look as though they have no need of “sly” or “wily;” those traits were apparently given up as unnecessary long ago. A better epithet would be “arrogant as a fox.” They don’t slink or skulk home in the grey-green morning light. These animals are alpha, top, apex predators. And I’m not overlooking humans.

I say without fear of contradiction that everyone in the UK knows that a fox entered an east London house, went upstairs, and mauled twin baby girls in their crib—one on the face. When the screams brought the parents running, they found the fox sitting as calmly as if it were the family dog. It was headline line news when the babies finally got out of the hospital. Tlacuaches would never do anything like that.

Another baby was attacked while sleeping beside its mother on the sofa. The woman whose house I’m staying in found one in her living room with her three-year-old. They regularly tear up my daughter’s garden. Everybody has a story. It’s been hot, but do you think you dare leave open a ground-floor window?

Foxes have a devoted following in England. Fox hunts—“…the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” (Oscar Wilde)—were a target for animal rights advocates for decades and are now banned. One may be arrested for killing or trapping a fox—though, I presume you’d get off lightly if it could, definitively, be shown to have injured your baby. It’s hard to understand why some humane fox removal is not being attempted until you realize that there’s no place in England that isn’t already full of foxes. Given that, one wonders why the men aren’t out with torches and pitchforks at night.

And if it’s not enough that foxes threaten babies, they kill house cats. (In fairness, I note that The National Fox Welfare Society disputes this and says they only chase them away from their kits, or tease them. Italics, and scepticism, mine.) You’d think even a rumour of cat-killing would put the nail in the fox coffin, cats being nearly as essential to human happiness as babies. And while London wrestles with its dilemma, we hold our grandchildren close and think of the mild-mannered tlacuaches of San Pancho.

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