Apr 10, 2024

She was, quite simply, the most stunning creature I have ever set eyes on. I spotted her sitting on the other side of Osborne Road by the little playground, as I was trotting back from the centre of town towards my home near the park.

It was her eyes, twinkling like stars in the light of the streetlamps, that first attracted my attention. Then it was the way she tilted her head coquettishly, looking directly at me as if daring me to respond, then looking away as if wholly unconcerned.

Naturally I had to make her acquaintance. Affecting my most casual manner, I stepped out to cross the road. A screech of tyres made me look up, and I nearly froze as a car came roaring down Osborne Road towards me. Acting on instinct I bolted across the road, and just made it as the car whistled past. Of course he was going far too fast – but I really should have checked. The little vixen on the other side was making me careless.

I gathered myself and stopped beside her.

“Good evening, madam,” I said pleasantly, as if I had not just had a brush with death. “I don’t believe I have had the pleasure of seeing you in Windsor before.” I gave a little bow of my head, to show I was a true gentleman. In doing so I caught a whiff of her and stopped in surprise. It was a most strange scent – a rich combination of smoky spices and strong meats. I bowed my head again. “You have me at a disadvantage, madam… I don’t know your name or where you’re from…?”

“I’m Zusia,” she said. Her accent was unknown to me – but most intriguing.

“Alfred, at your service madam.” I looked at her again. Close up she was even more stunning than from a distance.

“You’re from Windsor?” I prompted.

“No,” she answered, much to my surprise. “I come from the other city – the one across the big road with many cars, like the one that would have crushed you just now.”

If that was sarcasm, it was wasted on me. “Slough?” I exclaimed. “You come from the other side of the motorway – from Slough?”

I have to admit I was shocked. She may have been stunning, but Slough was a long way from this side of Windsor, and I don’t, as a rule, countenance sharing my territory with foxes from Slough. I felt my tail moving like an angry python behind me, and my ears come forward menacingly. “This is Windsor, madam,” I growled, my whiskers bristling. “We don’t hold with foxes from Slough.”

“Well then, be on your way Mr. Alfred,” she said in a small voice. “Leave me alone.”

“I will. Good night to you, Zusia,” I said. “I trust you have a good journey back to Slough.”

I half turned away, expecting her to get up and head in the opposite direction, but she stayed put. I turned back, to see that she still hadn’t moved.

“It’s a long way back to Slough, madam,” I said, putting a kindly but firm note to my voice, to show that I was prepared to defend my territory, even if she was drop-dead gorgeous. “I suggest you start now.”

She stared back at me with her big eyes, and I could see she was trembling.

“What is it?” I asked, concerned. Then I shook my head to clear the thought. No doubt this was some Slough trickery just to get my sympathy. I turned and pointed my nose down Osborne Road. “It’s that way. Off you go.”

She made no move.

“Really, madam,” I said, in what I hoped was a reasonable voice, but was again tinged with a warning growl, “you are off your territory. Please go.”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t? Why not?”

She shook her head and I could see she was trembling even more. Then in a flash I understood what the problem was.

“By the Great Fox’s tail, you’re lost, aren’t you?”

She nodded.

“But it’s no problem!” I yapped. “It’s really very simple.” She gave a small shake of her head and looked at me with her big brown eyes. “Look,” I said, my tail now wagging like a ridiculous dog, “You go up Osborne Road till you get to the mini roundabout, straight on up Goslar Way – you have to keep to the verge or track along the gardens behind it – then through the underpass – or over the roundabout at this time of night – and up onto the Relief Road. Then cut down onto the fields once you’re over the river, and it’s straight all the way past the Jubilee River and under the motorway to Slough!”

She still looked very unsure.

“You can’t miss it – and do you know the best thing?” She shook her head. “The best thing is you come out near McDonalds – and I can tell you, what you find in those bins is worthy of the Great Fox himself – juicy bits of meat, crispy yellow chips, deep, red sauce and bread that just melts in your mouth…” I found myself licking my teeth and almost drooling in front of her. “Hmm. Yes, well, it’s delicious and well worth a nose around…”

“So you have been to Slough, then?” she asked quietly.

“Oh, ahh, yes, well just as far as McDonalds. Not into the town itself, of course.”

“Of course not.”

“No, wouldn’t go there. Off my territory…”

She licked her paw thoughtfully, then looked slowly up at me. “You want for me to go?”

“I think it’s for the best.”

“But right now I am lost, and I cannot remember how I got here or the way back.”

“You must remember how you got here?”

“No, one of those car things nearly hit me too, and I just ran and ran. When I stopped running, I found myself here.”

I sighed. I should have seen this coming. After all, what should a Windsor gentleman do? “Madam,” I said, “Would you like me to take you home?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Oh yes, please,” she said. I had the feeling that this what she had wanted all along; what she had been leading me towards like a soft-headed little cub…

“Right,” I said, with as much authority as I could muster. “Off we go, then.”

She got to her feet and arched her back like a cat. I found myself growling appreciatively in the back of my throat at the way that magnificent body moved.

“Hrmph. Yes, well, best be off then.”

She nodded and we set off, side by side, tails in the air.

“I must ask you to keep up with me,” I said as we trotted up Osborne Road.

“Of course,” she answered.

We came up to the Princess Margaret Hospital. “Interesting things in the bins there,” I commented. “I’m not sure what they are, but very interesting.”


“Not really. I tried something that smelled good, but turned out it was just dry white fluff. I had to sick it back up.”

“Sometimes anything is food when you’re hungry.”

“Not this stuff, believe me…” I came to a sudden halt. “Ahh – Is that it? Are you, by any chance – hungry?”

She stopped also, turning those big brown eyes on me. “I have not eaten for three days.”

“By the paws of the Great Fox!” I exclaimed. “Then we must find you something soon!”

I considered my options and decided we should try some of the restaurants on St. Leonards Road. The bins at the back could often yield rich pickings at that time of night. She would be able to feast herself full – and thank me as her generous host. “Follow me!” I said, and with that happy thought I started off along the pavement.

“Where are we going?” she demanded, catching up with me.

“You’ll see,” I answered as we trotted along, both our tails again standing bolt upright.

Suddenly I halted again. A worrying thought had struck me. She clattered to a stop also, her claws scrabbling on the hard pavement.

I looked her up and down as I considered my words carefully.

“Look, Zusia, you’ll need to follow my lead when we get there.”

“Why?” Her tail dropped suddenly, like the King’s flag coming down at Windsor Castle.

“There are certain rules and regulations to eating out in Windsor. Certain ways of behaving that I would not expect a Slough fox to know about.”

“You think I have no manners?”

Looking back now, I think I might possibly have missed the slight warning growl coming from the back of her throat.

“No it’s not that – it’s just – well, we have a way of doing things in Windsor you may not be aware of.”

“Yet you come to Slough to eat at our McDonalds. And do you bring your ‘manners’ to our side of the motorway, Mr Alfred?”

Once again I might not have picked up the sarcasm. “Of course,” I answered. “Windsor foxes always behave properly, even if they find themselves in Slough.”

“Well, I shall find myself in Slough, Mr Alfred, and I trust never to find you there.”

With a small shake of her tail, she turned, then looked back at me, her big eyes like two dark, overflowing pools in the overhead lights. “You may think we are nothing in Slough, but I can assure you we have our manners, too. Good bye, Mr Alfred, and enjoy your superior Windsor life.”

Then as I stood there, she turned away again and ran away up the road.

I watched her go in stunned silence, until a car came round the corner. It must have spooked her, and she disappeared into the bushes.

I found myself washing my paws as I thought through her amazing behaviour.

How typical of a Slough fox to be so ungrateful! I would have brought her to such food as she could only dream of, and shown her all the way to her home – yet she had run off without any thought as to the nobility of my gesture. Well, she could find her own food, and her own way home, and good luck to her!

Bright headlights came round the corner, and I noticed the driver was alone in the car. Almost instinctively I ran across the road just in front of him, making sure I was easily seen. It’s always fun to give these late-night single motorists a tale to tell about the urban fox that crossed the road as bold as brass right in the middle of Windsor – especially as the motorist is likely not to be believed.

So why did Zusia not believe me, when I said there are Windsor ways of behaving? By the paws of the Great Fox, what if she had shown me up? What if she had knocked over dustbins and woken up the neighbourhood, or howled like a crying human child for some reason? It might be normal to her, but it would be most inappropriate on this side of the motorway.

I shuddered at the thought. Perhaps in reality, I’d had a lucky escape!

I was about to turn back and continue my original journey home, when I heard a deep gurgling sound. With a start I realised it was my own belly, rumbling like the great train as it crosses the bridge over the Thames. All that talk of food and dustbins must have got my juices flowing as well – and now my belly was telling me it was time to eat. Licking my lips, I decided to carry on to St. Leonards Road myself, and try my own luck at the restaurant bins.


I heard the deep, menacing growl of a dog just as I entered the dark passageway that led to the bins behind one of the restaurants. It was the low, guttural growl of a dog that has cornered another creature and will attack at any moment.

Instead of marching in boldly as I had planned, to check out a few bins and see what tempting delicacies could be found, I stopped. Creeping forward, I peered slowly round the corner into the yard, my ears flat to my head and the tip of my tail sweeping cautiously across the dusty gravel behind me.

I looked to my right.

Zusia was in the corner by the dustbins, her eyes wide and staring, shaking visibly. One of the dustbins had been pulled over; its contents spilled out across the yard. My ears pricked up immediately as I spotted a couple of bread rolls and what looked suspiciously like a juicy piece of half-eaten steak.

Then I looked to my left, and any thought of running in to the yard to grab these tasty treats evaporated in an instant.

Facing Zusia was the largest bull mastiff I had ever seen. He was standing squarely in the yard, his teeth bared and his evil yellow eyes fixed on her as she cowered back into the dark corner, looking as if she was trying to back away through the solid bricks.

For a moment this tableau remained static – the dog snarling and Zusia cowering in front of him.

Then the dog attacked.

It was a blood-curdling sight as he bunched the powerful muscles in his back legs, then with a single vicious bark, launched his great brown body through the air at the defenceless little vixen.

There’s no doubt he would have torn her apart if he had reached her.

But he never did.

At the same moment that he started move, and very much to my own surprise, I found that I had launched myself across the yard in Zusia’s defence.

There’s no doubt it was against my instinct. But for some reason my instinct was put to one side, and as the dog sprang through the air at Zusia, I sprang through the air at him.

By good luck I judged my leap well, aiming myself at a point half way between where he had been standing and the now-screaming vixen. As he flew across the yard, I hit him squarely with full force in the shoulder. It must have been no more than a glancing blow to him as a fox is a quarter his size, but he was off the ground and it was enough to knock him off his trajectory and send him sprawling into the dustbins, while I fell to the ground in front of Zusia.

Quickly I got to my feet while the dog was still struggling under fallen dustbins, and called out to Zusia.

“Come on, quick!”

She stared at me, still frozen.

“Come on!” I yelped in rising panic, as the mastiff got to his feet and turned his yellow eyes onto me, his teeth bared in a fearsome snarl.

Still she stayed rooted to the spot.

“COME ON!” I screamed.

Then with a blood-curdling bark, the mastiff launched himself directly at me.

I scrambled back as the dog flew towards me, but there was no way I could back away fast enough.

I found myself screaming just like Zusia as the mastiff’s jaws came hurtling towards my head, and I could see nothing but enormous teeth and could smell nothing but his hot foul breath, and I thought ‘this is it – this is the end’, and I closed my eyes and waited for the jaws to tear into on my throat…

But it never happened.

I opened my eyes, to see the dog’s face just a few inches from mine, a look of surprise and pain in his eyes, his tongue sticking straight out in front of him.

He came no further.

Backing away a few paces, I could then see the large black rope tied to his collar. It was held taught behind him and I saw it had got itself tangled up round the wheel of one of the dustbins.

If it had not been for the rope catching under the wheel, he would surely have been able to reach me – just as he would have been able to reach Zusia on his first attack if I had not launched myself at him.

The mastiff appeared to recover from the surprise of being nearly throttled and strained against the rope to get to me. He must have got his breath back, for he started barking loudly in what I assumed was his rage and frustration.

And, I rather hoped, the pain of being nearly strangled.

Feeling emboldened by my lucky escape, I stood my ground, keeping just out of his reach as he pulled at the rope to get at me. Confident I was now safe, I stole a quick look across the yard, and noted that the rolls and the piece of steak were still lying temptingly where they had fallen.

“Come on,” I called again to Zusia over the sound of the dog’s barking. “He’s stuck! You can come out now.”

Slowly she unfroze, stretched her forelegs as if she’d been asleep, then made her shaky way to my side.

“Good show,” I said nonchalantly, as if there wasn’t fifty kilos of slavering mastiff just in front of us, barking loud enough to wake all of Windsor and most of Slough. “Nothing to be fright…”

Then the dustbin holding back the rope moved forward a few feet.

With a bark of pure triumph the dog leapt towards me, his filthy jaws opening wide.

There’s no doubt he would have had my throat if I had not jumped back just in time, and once again I was treated to the sight of the dog’s head whipping back and his collar nearly throttling him as the rope snapped tight.

“Yes, we must go!” yelped Zusia, her voice high and strained.

“Wait!” I yelled back. I’d had an idea.

“What?” she shouted, as the dog’s barks went up an octave in his impotent rage. “Are you mad?”

“Hold on a second,” I said.

Choosing my moment while the dog was looking at Zusia, I whipped past him and reached the piece of steak. Grabbing it in my mouth, I ran back and dropped it at her feet. All this happened so quick that the dog scarcely had time to register it.

He stopped barking in surprise and just stared at me.

I sat back and casually washed one of my paws. This was too much for him, and he jumped forward again, barking furiously. Again his head snapped back and his tongue came out. I half thought he might have hung himself this time and would drop dead on the spot, but no such luck.

However, his stupidity meant I once again had the opportunity to dart past him while he was breathless, and collect one of the bread rolls in my mouth. I ran back to the safe area beyond the reach of the rope.

“Cuff og,” I said to Zusia. “Lezz geg ahh o eer.”

I think she must have understood, or at least got the general idea, as she picked up the steak, and together we ran back down the dark passage.

I stopped just before it opened out into the well-lit St. Leonard’s Road and dropped the bread roll.

Behind us there was the sound of a human shout and the loud splash of a bucket of water. The dog’s barking was suddenly cut off and, after a small whimper, there was a blessed silence.

“Come on,” I said. “Time to go.”

I picked up the roll again, and together we ran along St. Leonard’s Road, then into the bushes alongside Goslar Way, across the roundabout and onto the Relief Road. Once we were over the Thames, I led her down onto the fields below the Relief Road. From there we ran through the dark grasses and trees until, as dawn started to spread its rosy glow, we reached the banks of the Jubilee River.

I came to a stop on the path beside the still water and dropped the roll again.

“Eat up,” I said and nudged it towards her with my nose.

She dropped the steak she had been carefully holding throughout our journey and pushed it towards me. “You must have this,” she said. “You are a very brave and clever fox.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered. “Any fox would have done the same.” I thought a moment. “Any Windsor fox, that is.”

“Oh no,” she said, as she pushed the steak closer with her nose. She placed her paw delicately on the roll and studied it carefully. She looked up at me. “This is not about a Windsor fox, or a Slough fox. It is about you, Mr. Alfred.” She carefully bit off the other half of the roll and ate it, while considering me thoughtfully.

I looked at the steak, then back at her. She was hungry – how could I eat it? It would hardly be the proper, ‘Windsor’ thing to do.

She nudged it even closer to me. The smell was intoxicating. My belly gave a loud gurgle, and I fear I may have even drooled slightly.

“Go on,” she said quietly. “Eat it.”

I looked into her large brown eyes, twinkling in the warm dawn light, for what seemed like an age.

Then I picked the steak up in my mouth and bit half of it off. Although it was totally, amazingly, wonderfully delicious, I didn’t eat it all.

I pushed the rest across to her and sat back.

She took a small bite, then another, and then it was gone.

“Right now, right here, we’re not in either Slough or Windsor,” she said when she’d finished chewing. “But do you know, Mr. Alfred, it doesn’t matter where a fox is from.” She paused, her small pink tongue playing across her mouth. “If he protects his vixen; if he saves her life, then his only place is at her side.”

She leaned forward and slowly, gently, she licked my nose.

She really was, quite simply, the most stunning creature I have ever set eyes on.