There was a fox outside my kitchen window this afternoon.

I wasn’t sure at first- I ran to the spare bedroom where I could get a better view to check and sure enough, there it was. There was a fox, lying in plain in sight in the communal back garden.

Picture this- I’m a block of four flats, and my neighbours on both sides are, and all these blocks, and more, look out onto a large patch of lawn, which itself leads to a strip of forest before the next row of houses. There are washing lines strung up in the back garden, and a couple of wendy houses. The fox was close to the forest and one of the wendy houses.

I was fascinated to see it wasn’t actually red- but rather, had a red head leading to a gray, matted body. Watching it, amazement quickly turned to concern- was it usual for foxes to be just lying in plain view like that? I had seen it shift it’s head and front paw, so I was sure it was alive. I googled a bit and it seemed that foxes did like to lie in the sun, and I phoned my dad, who pointed out that it was close to the forest, where it could escape if it wanted. OK, I thought. OK, I’ll leave it. It was just an old fox (a guess of my dad from the grey) taking a nap in the sun. I had the RSPCA webpage opened and I was ready to close it and move on.

Then the fox got up, and it was clear that it was not OK. It could barely move and it was dragging it’s back legs. It got about a meter forward then fell forward and started to twitch. I phoned the RSPCA right away, watching the fox, willing all the automatic voice messages press one for this and two for that would hurry up so I could get some help for this poor creature. I was starting to panic.

In reality, I got through to someone swiftly, and she was really nice. Unfortunately they couldn’t send someone out until they could be sure the fox wasn’t going to run. I had to do the broom test. This involves approaching the animal with a broom to see how they react to your presence, and the broom simulates the tool they use to catch the fox which also tests it. I didn’t want to do this I’ll be honest- remember, communal gardens, and I was still in my pajamas. Also- will it harm me? I asked the woman on the phone. She reassured me it would be OK. So I steeled myself, grabbed my mop (having no broom) and went outside. I approached cautiously, mop held out in front of me, feeling quite frankly ridiculous. The fox will probably just run off I thought. Except it didn’t even stir. “It’s not reacting to my presence at all,” I said to the woman, unable to keep an edge of panic from my voice. And so she agreed to send someone out, telling me to phone if it ran off. I retreated back indoors, not even locking the door, dropping the mop and rushing back to the spare room window. I watched the fox for 30 minutes. It didn’t move. Then – it got up. Please don’t go away, I prayed, help is coming, just rest now, please. It couldn’t get far though. It soon flopped down again. I breathed a sigh of relief that there was a phonecall I didn’t have to make. Just rest, I thought. Help is coming.

The doorbell rang soon after and the RSPCA man was there. “The fox is just there” I said, and pointed vaguely left. He looked and then looked at me “no there isn’t” I peered out. You couldn’t actually see it from my front door. Shit, I thought, embarrassed, and self conscious in barefeet and pajamas. It really is. I said. Right by the wendy house. Completely forgetting to use the British word shed too. OK, he said and went to get his tools. I ventured out to look at the fox. It had been too long since I’d seen it, even just a minute was too long. It’s just woken up, I tried to warn the man. I’m not sure he heard me.

He was just one man, a noose , and a cage. I wondered how this would work. He put the cage down, and approached the fox with the noose. The fox, still too awake, tried to run, he followed and they both disappeared into the forest. I saw a flash of the fox, a flash of the man, heard the rustle of trees and the crush of leaves underfoot, and kept on praying. Please, please let him catch him. The man emerged first and my heart sank. He didn’t catch him.

Then I saw the fox, caught, being dragged along behind the man. It was a terrible sight, really. Even the RSPCA man admitted he hadn’t caught him well. But he had caught him. He was in the cage. I thanked the man as he carried the fox away, went indoors and as soon as the door was shut behind me, rushed to get to the living room to catch my final glimpses of the fox. Watched as the man put him in his van and drove away. Thank you I thought. I phoned my dad to give the final update. Well done, you did the right thing, he said and I think I did. But I don’t know why none of my neighbours did not act- does that make them or me wrong? And I still felt overwhelmed. I was still feeling hyped up and panicky.

I opened my laptop to read through RSPCAs information, to get an idea of the foxes fate. I could guess but the RSPCA info confirmed- the fox is probably going to be put down. The RSPCA only rehabilitate when there’s a chance they can release back into the wild, and that fox was in such a bad way, or rather his back leg was, I can’t imagine there’s much to be done. He seemed feverish, or diseased I suppose- twitchy and restless, clearly in pain. Still at least he won’t have to die painfully, slowly. He can be put out of his agony now, right? Poor thing. It was horrible to watch him dragging his weakened body along, but I couldn’t stop watching, too afraid he will disappear the moment I looked away. That’s why I couldn’t get dressed too, every moment away was too long.

I’m amazed by how quick and efficient the RSPCA were. I’m thankful for it. I hope my donation was enough to express my gratitude.

I feel a horrible sense of guilt for just standing there at first, happily taking pictures of it when it was dying. But how was I supposed to know? I’d never seen a fox before. Let alone a wounded one. What a terrible first encounter. I hope it’s OK now, I’ll keep praying for it.