The quick red fox jumped. Unfortunately, she didn’t jump far enough. She landed right on top of the sleeping brown dog. He roused, going from sound asleep to wide awake in a split second, leaping to his feet and bursting into a fit of barking, howling, dog madness.
“It’s a cat, a cat,” the fox yipped hastily. “Over that way!”
The dog shot off in the direction the fox indicated, not waiting to spot the cat or even to smell it.
The fox heaved a sigh of relief and trotted daintily away in the other direction. That was a close one.
She would have liked to investigate the dog’s food bowl while she was so near. Every so often, he decided he wasn’t interested in the crunchy brown stuff the humans put in it. Or maybe he was interested but not interested enough to consume it right away. Either way, sometimes the bowl held remnants of crunchy brown stuff and while the fox wouldn’t recommend it, it wasn’t bad for a snack between rabbits and mice and the occasional bird or eggs. And it was far more filling than a tasty earthworm or bug.
Still, investigating the dog’s bowl was best done when the dog was oblivious, preferably snoring, so that she would get a warning if he began to rouse.
It wasn’t that he was a hostile dog. Or a violent one. She’d visited him when he was awake before. It was just that he was so lick-y. She gave a delicate and fastidious shudder at the thought. Perhaps being slobbered on by dog was the price of admission to his food bowl, but she preferred to avoid coming in contact with saliva when possible. Especially lesser species saliva.
She paused at the edge of the expanse of trimmed lawn. The humans had been busy. Her whiskers twitched in annoyance and she paused to chew at a particularly pesky flea in her shoulder fur. Why did the humans have to be so selfish? Whenever they brought the big noisy monster to life, they fed it grass, but then they just put it back to sleep again! What a waste. It was most unreasonable of them. And it disrupted the mice living in the tall grass and messed up their nests. What did they think she was going to eat if they chased off all the mice? Brown crunchy stuff? They’d have to get a lot more generous with it, if so. She gave a disgusted sniff and moved on.
Staying to the border of the shorn grass, she wandered under the bushes and through the trees. The wind carried a delightful scent in her direction. She inhaled, sorting out the flavors. A woody note was tree mold from the rotting stump where an aspen used to be. The humans had removed it for some mysterious reason of their own. Those humans. She sighed and took a deeper inhalation. The rich undertones were soil, with a spice of earthworm slime. The green bite-y bits were the sharp needles from the pine trees with the astringent flavor of the sticky sap. And that musky scent… ah, that was a rabbit. The fox’s favorite scent.
She put her nose to the ground, working on sorting out the mixed aromas. Rabbit, that was the one she wanted. Musky, a hint of blood, but with a heaviness to it… aha, this poor rabbit had recently given birth. Delicious! Baby rabbit for dinner. The fox licked its lips. Yum, yum. She was so glad now that she’d landed on the dog when she’d made her injudicious jump. If she hadn’t, she’d be full up on crunchy brown stuff and she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the delicacy that was headed her way.
Nose to the ground, she sniffed her way along the trail of the rabbit. Sticks and twigs and dead leaves didn’t faze her, but she did pause to gobble down a particularly tasty slug that she found creeping its way through the roots of a tree. She licked her lips when she was done, pausing to run her tongue over a paw and scrape the paw along the fur of her jaw. She was a tidy eater but she didn’t want to chance wearing slug guts in her fur. The aroma didn’t suit her.
Back to the trail, she crept under a pine tree, belly close to the ground to avoid the brush of the branches and their sharp edges. The scent was getting stronger. Rabbit…rabbit…baby rabbit. So good. So delicious. Sweet and tender and juicy. The blood would be salty and rich, and the crunch of the soft, flexible bones under her sharp teeth would be glorious. The flesh was her favorite part, of course. So sweet on the little ones. Nothing tough or stringy, nothing flavored with skunk grass or ragweed, just pure delightful fat and flesh.
She hoped these babies were a few days old, just old enough for their mother to have fattened them up with her luxurious milk, but not yet old enough to have grown fur. Not that there was anything wrong with fur, but the nicest thing about baby rabbits was that they had barely any fur to get stuck in her teeth.
No, that wasn’t the nicest thing. The nicest thing was their chewiness. It was ambrosia. Paradise. Heaven. Pure heaven. The fox quivered with joy and anticipated pleasure.
Then she paused, as the branches of the pine tree dipped to the ground. She let just the tip of her nose peek out from under the tree. There was a new scent in the air. Not a good scent. Not green, not fresh, not musky and delicious. Her nose wrinkled and she resisted the urge to sneeze. Human. That heavy odor they imprinted on their soft shells, floral like spring but with a chemical denseness that reminded her of dying things. And the metal odor, too—cold and heavy and oily.