Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Healing The Fox by Michelle Houston

Scott finished filling out the admittance form for the baby rabbits that had just been brought in, then filed away the pink copy. Picking up the white and yellow copies, he headed back into the treatment room where one of the volunteers was busy working on the babies, trying to re-hydrate them and patch them up from their run-in with a cat, while at the same time not kill them. Baby rabbits were notorious for simply dying in your hands. Unable to handle the shock, their little bodies just gave out.


Shaking his head at the whole mess, Scott clipped the paperwork onto the board for the treatment room and headed down the hallway to Isolation Room 6, where the mammals were kept. He’d been waiting for just such a moment all day. Normally up to their asses in injured animals this time of year, it had been an unusually light day ever since the fox had been brought in, although that could and probably would change at any moment. The injury to the creature came from a run in with a car. The driver had left the fox lying on the side of the road with its leg broken. If the state trooper hadn’t been passing by, and hadn’t attended a lecture Scott gave on rehabbing injured wildlife, the fox might not have made it through the night.

Scott gritted his teeth, irritated by having to wait for a moment alone with the injured animal. As much as he loved his job, being a mentor was frustrating when another shifter came in. He couldn’t risk anyone finding out his secret, or worse, thinking him insane and firing him.

So, he had to be very careful how he handled certain cases.

As he pulled the door closed behind him, he paused a moment to look out the window to make sure no one else had finished up and was heading his way. Satisfied that he was safe for the moment, he crouched down in front of the cage. The fox stared at him, almost listless from dehydration. Already twice today he had had a tube pushed down into his stomach to get water and nutrients back into his system.

“I know you’re probably too out of it to understand me, but I’m going to get you out of here as soon as I can. I leave in a few hours, and since I am set up for rehab at home, I can take you with me. I just need you to hang in there a little bit longer.”

Opening the cage door, Scott curled his fingers around the other shifter’s head and gently scratched, letting the animal get a good whiff of his scent and testing the man’s control over the beast. Shifters were always their most dangerous when injured in animal form. Instinct took center stage, and accidents can and did happen.

The last shifter he had treated was a perfect example. Two days passed before Scott found out about him, and by then the wolf had been too far gone. His human half completely surrendered to its beast after being shot, operated on, then locked in a cage. The wolf had gone insane, and Scott had to contact the nearby council to come and take him.

This time, though, he wasn’t about to let that happen. This creature was one of his kind, and he wasn’t about to lose the man inside to the fox. “Can do you do that for me? Hang in there?”

In response the fox shivered slightly, tipping his head into the scratching. Scott stayed with him longer than he should have, rubbing his hand over slightly bristly fur, knowing the other shifter needed touch to keep him from feeling isolated and drowning in hopelessness.

“I have to go, fella, but I will be back in just a little while. Remember, hang in there.”

With a last scratch, Scott pulled his hand out of the cage and closed the door just in time. Glancing up as a shadow crossed over him, he met the gaze of one of the volunteers. He could hear her voice through the door as she called out, “Scott, I’m all done with the mice cages. Anything else you need me to do?”

Growling softly at the interruption, he spared one last glance at the now sleeping fox and then climbed to his feet to finish out his day.

Almost six hours later, he had completed the paperwork to take the fox home with him. It was frowned upon to take recently admitted animals home so soon, but with the cages quickly filling, the nature center relied on home rehabbers on more and more to juggle the overflow. Given that the fox sustained no internal injuries, and simply suffered dehydration, some bumps and bruises, and a broken leg, he was a lower priority for constant care.

Which was actually more of a blessing than normal. Not only was he not too badly injured, but the sooner Scott could get the other shifter to his place and settled in, the better all around. With space, and the comfort of another of his kind, the fox should heal quickly and be able to shift back within a few days.

With Scott being a staff member and a frequent rehabber, there really wasn’t a big issue made over his taking the poor guy home with him. It also helped that Scott didn’t have to be back in for another four days, thanks to the cutback in funds.