After long-night was always a bad time for Vixen. The men with bang-sticks were out in force and their dogs were getting better at finding her hideouts. They tried to chase her towards the bangs but usually she was too clever for them. On this morning, however, she was tired from a night’s foraging and blundered towards the river, knowing they would never follow her in there. Looking behind her she did not see the hard teeth that grabbed her foot.
Hearing her screams, her friends Otter, the Beefurs and even Badger came to help her. Reliable old Badger put himself between her and the following three dogs.
“See these?” he growled, showing his ferocious teeth”Want to try? Come on! I give you game. Like dog blood, me!” He looked terrifying so the hounds hesitated. Beefur waddled up next to him and bared his own enormous front ones.
Otter and Mrs.Toofy were peering at the hard teeth which were attached to the earth. “Don’t know. Not seen.” Otter observed. “Need help.” She dared to go closer to Vixen’s head and stroked it. “We help.”
“Not human. Always get human to help. Not right. We animals. We not need.” Vixen was panting in pain but determined. Lost, Otter looked up and had an idea, she asked Crow to lend a wing. As Crow flapped away, Vixen added “And not hand-fed. Not want hand-fed help.”
“You want go to earth for good?” Badger inquired pleasantly as he and Toofy returned, having seen the dogs off. “Need help. Not sure we can do. You say “no” to beasts who can.” He was unusually reasonable although not known for a patient disposition. “Must take away teeth.I can pull but take your leg with it.”
“Bite leg off.” Vixen was a traditionalist.
“Go to earth for good quicker that way!” Dog Otter had arrived and was not in a mood to humour her. “How you hunt with three legs?”
Aroused by the commotion under his tree, Owl stuck his head out and looked. “Is man thing. Seen them before. Old things; Not see many now.”
“How open?” Dog Otter asked. “Hurt own paws or jaws if try to open.”
“Need hard stick. Same stuff as teeth. Put between teeth and push-pull to make open. Two sticks better.” Having lived in close proximity to men for generations owls have observed much even if their vocabulary isn’t too broad. “Nap time.” Owl’s head disappeared back into the tree trunk, indicating he would take no further part in the proceedings.
Dog Otter, Toofy and Badger rummaged in the old half-collapsed barn to see if they could find “sticks” made of the same hard material. They did not see Farm-cat’s son slinking into the clearing with a shiny thing in his mouth. The small terrier was following at a distance but just for once she was quiet. They both sat to observe, nodding to the others but not approaching.
Having tipped over a rusty box, the males found several hard sticks with tapered ends which might do the trick. Their problem was that the gap between the teeth was very narrow. The two otters’ nimble paws would be needed to insert them close enough to Vixen’s leg but not touching it. Badger lay on the lower stick, putting his weight on it while Toofy and his Missus, the two otters and the terrier pushed on the upper one. As soon as the jaws of the trap moved, Vixen pried her damaged leg out and lay panting. Despite the animosity she showed to “hand-feds”, the little terrier lay down beside her and began to lick the wound. Dog spit is a natural antiseptic and good at removing dirt. Vixen lay back and allowed the treatment to continue, silent in her pain.
Farm-cat’s son who lived with the terrier and woman dropped the shiny strip at Otter’s paws. “Good thing. Special bikkie for hurt. Dog got it when cut pad. Take hello sun and goodbye sun time. You give?”
Otter didn’t know what “bikkie” was and assumed it was a human concept but understood. How she would persuade Vixen to eat the tiny round red pebbles was another matter but they would wait until goodbye-sun time. Crow had been listening and fluttered down. She had taken the message to the farm. No human but anyone else help please.
“I can do.” she croaked. “Clever beak. Get Vixen open gob. Not bite me. I drop pebble in. Easy.”
Having made sure that Vixen was comfortable on some straw in the old barn, the young cat brought her some mice to eat and went home. Two Toofies and two otters mounted guard over her, hidden in the remnants of the old building.
At about sundown, the woman came, as she usually did, accompanied by the terrier for their evening walk. She found the metal teeth and went distracted. Tearing the contraption from the earth she searched around for more, howling like a crazy hound. The terrier trotted over, tongue lolling.
“Mum go mentul.” She confided. “Them is bad stuff. Ill eagle, Mum says. She going to make someone very sorry they did that.”
Watching the woman rampaging around talking to herself and giving off waves of rage, the animals agreed they wouldn’t want to be on the end of her fury.
“She not come near.” Vixen warned.
Otter caught the woman’s eye and patted Vixen on the nose. “No, she know. She not come near you. She make place safer for all.” As if looking for the dog, the woman glanced straight at the group huddled in the old barn and closed one eye at Otter then made her squeaky noise for the terrier to go home. “She never come if not wanted.” Otter stated, sure of the fact.