Here's what the fox says

In the still-dark early hours one recent day I was out on my regular morning run. I believed I had taken all necessary safety precautions by wearing reflective clothing and lights. As I moved through a suburban street close to my home I was approached by what I thought was a housecat. We had an unfriendly interaction, and I came away from it definitely scratched and perhaps bitten; I wasn't sure.

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In the still-dark early hours one recent day I was out on my regular morning run. I believed I had taken all necessary safety precautions by wearing reflective clothing and lights. As I moved through a suburban street close to my home I was approached by what I thought was a housecat. We had an unfriendly interaction, and I came away from it definitely scratched and perhaps bitten; I wasn't sure.

Patrick 2010b
Patrick McLaughlin
patrick@pennwell.com

I went home and shared what had happened with my family. Thankfully they were a little more clued in than I was, and realized it wasn't a cat, but rather one of a number of foxes that frequent the neighborhood. We soon learned that a couple other people in close proximity also got approached and scratched/bitten by the same animal. That suggests the thing could be rabid.

Embracing the "better safe than sorry" cliche, I visited the doctor's office that day. The healthcare provider was dismissive of concerns about rabies, ordering a tetanus shot and telling me to make sure I took proper care of the wounds so they wouldn't get infected. ("It's just a flesh wound," for you Monty Pyton fans.)

Local law enforcement issued an alert about a possibly rabid fox on the loose, ordering school buses to drop students off directly at their homes rather than at designated stops. That notification from the police department got the attention of local news media, and the story was broadcast. Once that happened I became a pseudo celebrity for a few hours. My "phone blew up" as they say.

Nearly everybody who reached out to me took the conversation in one of two directions. The comedians asked, "So, what does the fox say?" Others, several of whom are medical professionals, insisted that if I had not already begun rabies vaccinations, I needed to do so as quickly as possible. When I asked my healthcare provider if we could re-examine the situation, I was informed that the state was the expert in this area and they'd need to look into it. (I have a lot to say about the fact that the state, and not my doctor, is the expert in a medical situation like this. But that's a story for a different editorial at a different time.) As it turned out, the state decided that rabies vaccinations were necessary.

To my comedian friends: I probably never will know what the fox says. But here's what I say: In all matters (personal, medical, professional), be your own biggest advocate. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people whom you trust, and listen to them. And know that even with safety precautions taken, the unexpected can happen. How you respond will be critical.

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