Courtesy of Ana Lapaz-Mendez / Instagram
In the fictional story The Fox and the Hound, orphaned red fox Tod becomes friends with Copper the hound dog. When havoc ensues, they find a way to remain true to each other, although it's inevitable that their lives must follow different paths.
This true-life fox and hound tale has a much happier ending! Ana Lapaz-Mendez treats all sorts of animals as a veterinary surgeon at a clinic in Watford, an English town northwest of London. In October 2020, she posted on her Instagram page that "Pumpkin the fox arrived to us with two broken legs and half dead." Although she received emergency treatment, her condition was grave.
But with some loving attention, Lapaz-Mendez helped this poor blind vixen (we mean that in a good way—this is the name for a female fox!) regain her health. "Our little warrior. Foxes are super resilient and true fighters. This is why I think this one deserves a chance, the same chance I would give to my own dog or cat, because they want to live as much as we do," she posted. "So as long as she wants to fight, we'll fight with her."
One innovative solution was to build a recovery hammock so Pumpkin didn't have to curl onto her broken legs!
Now Lapaz-Mendez already had a rescue dog, Croqueta. But she couldn't let Pumpkin go, so she took the lil' foxy home to provide more of a nurturing environment. Fox and hound got along just fine, and Pumpkin learned to make her way. Her walks were a bit hesitant at first, but as she healed, more of her sparky fox personality was revealed.
But the main hound of this story is Jack. A regular patient at Lapaz-Mendez' clinic, this charming West Highland white terrier was orphaned after his human passed away. He also had serious health issues, including a spinal tumor that didn't respond to treatment. As a result, Jack lost the use of his hind legs. But full of joy and determination, he was unstoppable once outfitted with two wheels!
Now Jack is the leader of Lapaz-Mendez' pack, as she simply had to adopt him, too! Pumpkin listens for the jingle on Jack's harness and follows him on every walk. Jack, always eager to carve a path, will still stop and turn around if he senses Pumpkin isn't keeping the pace. There's not a leaf pile or mud hole these two won't travel through together!
Neither the blind fox nor the hound on wheels let their disabilities get in the way of living their best lives. As unlikely animal friends with a lot of get up and go, they inspire us to get up off the couch once in a while!
We're also in awe of the magic Lapaz-Mendez wields to save animals every day, but her dedication to this little trio is truly amazing. She calls them her three musketeers. Who rescued who, we wonder?
Foxes are beyond adorable. We get it! But we're inclined to listen to the expert when she says they don't always make the best companion animals and to not take them in. "It is something I wouldn't recommend to anyone. Foxes are hard work, they are shy and it takes them forever to trust you," Lapaz-Mendez said in an Instagram post. "They will also climb any fence and dig very deep tunnels if they put their mind to it. They run like zombies if they get scared and will bite and scratch humans, walls, doors, and furniture if they want to get out."
Lapaz-Mendez added that foxes need a lot of space and freedom, even if they feel safe around you. But once an injured animal imprints on humans, they can't be released back to the wild and survive. Fortunately, there are many fox sanctuaries to help protect rehabilitated animals. So if you find an injured or orphaned foxy, work with your veterinarian to secure a new home for her somewhere like the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary.