Devon, our beautiful silver-phase red fox, was put to sleep on the evening of July 22, 2014. For several years her blood tests had indicated that her kidneys were gradually losing efficiency. This is typical of aging animals (including humans). This spring, her blood work showed that the trend had accelerated, but for a few months Devon did not show any appreciable change in her behavior. She pottered around, pretty active for a geriatric fox lady, with days on which she was positively sprightly. She still liked her favorite foods and would eat some kidney-aiding medicated diet if it was mixed with food she liked better. We gave her subcutaneous fluids on an as-needed basis.

We also experimented with moving Devon and Ember into the air conditioned observation building on hot days. To our relief, the elderly ladies accepted this and sometimes competed to lie on a cold air register. Then in late July, Devon’s appetite flagged and she became restless. More blood work showed that her kidneys had lost more function. Since even vitamin B12 and Cerenia could not revive her appetite, and she would absolutely have to take oral medication to manage her condition any longer, we sadly decided the time had come to give her the last gift we can give our animal friends. A necropsy showed that fluid was accumulating around her heart, impairing its ability to pump. With her kidneys having already lost so much ability to function, this information about her heart indicated that we had given Devon all the help we could.

Devon had a long and eventful life. Brought to Wolf Park as a two-week-old pup along with her foster sister, Ember, in 2000, she was hand-raised by several loving puppy parents and introduced to the then-resident male red foxes, Basil (white-phase) and Corey (red-phase). The four formed a strange and winsome group — the girls ranged between amiable cohabitation and screaming arguments over frozen mice, and the (sterilized, but still at least somewhat interested) boys circled them like hormone-crazed fourteen-year-olds, uncertain what to do.

Romance was a bumpy ride for Devon. Corey was more interested in Ember, and Basil, who had fully imprinted on humans as a pup, was enthusiastic but impossible to aim, and had a tendency to forget he was supposed to be impressing his beloved and would suddenly scream and sit on her head. Breeding seasons came and went and all we heard from the fox enclosure was hysterical shrieking as the foxes chased each other hither and yon. Later in life Devon and Basil could occasionally be seen making more affectionate gestures toward each other, especially during the breeding season in February. On one notable occasion, Devon went for a walk while Basil yowled after her from the fox enclosure. When Devon returned, Basil pounced his beloved and sat on her in various phases until she could stand no more and retreated to a fox box.

Devon was an avid collector of frozen mice, and would gather them by the half-dozen in her mouth, tails sticking out every which way, because of her reluctance to move away from the mouse distribution area in order to cache them. She and Ember would “trade” mice — Devon would receive a mouse and cache it, then go to retrieve another, and while she was distracted, Ember would swoop in on the cache, steal the mouse, and cache it elsewhere. Devon, busy caching her second mouse, would see this, exclaim, and go steal her first mouse back while Ember busied herself unburying and recaching Devon’s second mouse. The “Wheel of Mice” would continue until finally the girls gave up and ate them.

All her life people remarked on Devon’s loveliness. Lord Byron’s poem might have been written for her:

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

Goodbye, Devon. We will not forget you.