November 17th, 2010

QRU? DE F0X

We had a little snow last night, which hit the ground, melted on the pavement, and then refroze to black ice before the morning. So I was out there right after breakfast, throwing some pet-friendly melt compound on the front sidewalk. The housecleaners are coming this morning, and that stretch of concrete can't be a skating rink when they arrive.

So there I am, tossing capfuls of white granules around, when who trots nonchalantly up to me but our anomalously friendly neighborhood fox. Mr. Fox (and yes, it could be a female. Forgive me for not trying to do the test) stood in front of me like a dog at an obedience trial, looking up at me, full eye contact. He was on the opposite side of the front walk, no more than four feet away.

Four feet. This was as close as I've ever come to a wild animal that large, and probably twenty feet closer than I've ever been to a fox. He held eye contact for a few seconds, then looked at the cap I held in my left hand. (The melt compound comes in a white plastic jug exactly like the large size of laundry detergent.) He looked at the cap, then looked at me, then looked at the cap. And then, egad, he picked up his right front paw.

Hey! I know that drill! This is what Carol and I call the QRU gesture. QBit is especially good at it. If I'm eating a banana he will look at the banana, then look at me, then look at the banana, then look at me, and repeat until I give him some. In many cases, he will pick up one paw for emphasis.

QRU, as many readers here will know, is the ham radio Q-code for "Do you have anything for me?" (when followed by a question mark) or "I have nothing for you" when stated without a question mark. In ham radio, this refers to message traffic. However, in this house, it generally refers to banana, rice cakes, or something like that. I'm a soft touch and generally give QBit what he wants, but there are some things that invariably give him the runs, so instead of handing him a piece of lox I'll just say, "QRU!"

Understanding happened when I looked at what I held in my hand: A detergent bottle cap made of white plastic, perhaps a little bigger than an extra-large...egg.

Well. As I've mentioned here before, somebody on the next block is giving raw eggs to the local fox, not just occasionally but on a daily basis. And I can just see Mr. Fox standing on the cultprit's back patio, looking longingly through the sliding glass doors until Mrs. Clueless exclaims, "Harry! The fox is back! The poor thing must be hungry!" And then Mrs. Clueless goes to the fridge, pulls out an egg, opens the patio door, and lays it on the patio. Mr. Fox scoops it up and heads off to wherever fox spend their time around here.

This has been going on for a couple of years. We now have a partly Belyaev-ized fox running around, scamming the neighbors for a living and getting a little too cozy with the rest of us. Interestingly, when I put the cap back on the melt compound bottle it no longer looked like an egg, so the fox lost interest in me, continuing on past the house down into the gully.

I'd prefer it not happen, but better the local fox begging at our feet than the skunks or the bears. And I think I need to keep a camera in my pocket even when I'm only going twenty feet from the front door.