As the waters from the rain drained down the mountain, the wildlife around Fox’s camp begun to come alive, or rather make their presence known. It was early evening a few days after the rain storm when the offspring started whispering excitedly. “There’s a deer and her baby,” he whispered trying not to frighten them away. Fox, their companion and offspring watched in silent awe as the mother deer and her fawn nearly walked into their camp while feeding on the tender shorter grass that deer tend to love.
This inspired Fox and their beloved to take a short hike around the campground once the deer had left to see if they could spot any other animals. Together they walked down the hill their camp was situated on and towards the large picnic area available for the day hikers. Sitting by the campsite registration was a single cotton tail. “Look!” Fox exclaimed excitedly, trying their best to keep quiet. “It’s a rabbit!”
Fox slipped off their shoes and slowly creeped towards the small animal until they were about fifteen feet away. They sat on one of the large decorative rocks while their beloved moved in behind them. They sat for nearly twenty minutes watching the young rabbit nibble on grass and wander around the area near the campground registration. Once startled the rabbit darted off into the underbrush and Fox returned to the camp hand-in-hand with their beloved.
Towards the end of the second week, as the trio were coming down the mountain for supplies, Fox spotted what they thought was a baby chipmunk on the side of the road. Worried that it was hurt or got separated from it’s family unit they switched on the hazard lights, made sure there was plenty of room to not only see the family’s pretend SUV but also pass safely then slowly reversed to check the animal.
When Fox’s beloved questioned them as to what they were doing, Fox quipped “didn’t you see the baby chipmunk, look outside your door it should be right there.” Fox’s beloved leaned out the window and looked down at the animal. “It’s not a baby, it’s hurt,” then after a few moments a heavy silence filled the car, “no…It’s rabid.”
Fox’s blood ran cold as they reversed the car just a little more putting the tiny suffering animal in front of the vehicle. The trio watched as the chipmunk slowly turned a circle, stopped, then repeated itself, all the while chittering it’s tiny jaws. Fox and their beloved looked at each other, knowing what it meant. Years of employment as a veterinarian’s assistant before she had gotten sick had given Fox’s beloved enough experience to know what a rabid animal behaved like.
The only question now was what to do.
Being as far up on the mountain as they were, calling the local animal control, sheriff or even forestry department would be impossible at their current location. If they left the animal where it was they ran the risk of it escaping into the forest and further spreading the rabies virus to other woodland creatures. Tears began to well up in Fox’s eyes. It was not a decision that they liked nor wanted, but it was a decision that needed to be made.
As if Fox’s beloved could sense their upset and anguish, she placed her hand tenderly on Fox’s leg. “It’s the kindest thing that you can do. It’s suffering.” Despite the knowledge that the animal was truly suffering and that there was no cure or hope for it at this point Fox braced themself for what needed to happen.
There was no real choice about the matter of course, and perhaps that is why it hurt Fox so much to have to end the tiny animal’s suffering. Having some knowledge of what the rabies virus does, how dangerous it really is, and how it could have greatly impacted the surrounding area and not for the better, Fox knew it was a unpleasant task that needed to be completed.
Tears rolled down Fox’s cheek as the task was done and the chipmunk’s suffering had ceased. “Please,” Fox whispered as they resumed the course down the mountain. “Please call the sheriff and report this when we get into town.” Fox’s beloved agreed and did just that once they were far enough off the mountain.
“My heart’s breaking,” Fox said after their beloved had hung up the phone. “I know it was suffering and it had to be done, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.” And that was the truth of it. It absolutely broke Fox’s heart to put the animal down, but leaving a rabid animal to wander the forest, spread it’s disease and suffer was a fate worse than a quick removal from life.
Ultimately, the decision was made to break camp and move to a different location. The rabid chipmunk had been less than half a mile from their campsite and the trio had spotted several of the creatures around their site over the past couple of weeks. The last thing that any of them wanted was to deal with a rabid creature in their camp.
So the trio loaded their camp into their trailer, and hit the road once again. This time the destination was a free camping site in North Carolina located on the Neuse River. Perhaps there they would have access to the water, be able to catch some fish and have internet access. Fox hoped for the latter and the ability to catch up on the over two weeks of coursework for their nanodegree.
(Food for thought: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus: Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy)