MACROOM woman Cliodhna O’Leary adores animals and dotes on her dogs and her miniature pet goats — but she has a special fondness for her pet fox!
Cliodhna adopted Foxy and her sibling when they were two weeks old after their mother died.
The sibling has since died on the road, but Foxy is now just another member of the family!
Cliodhna, a former Cork Rose contestant who is a health-care assistant, says: “I call her my smiling fox. Foxy is very photogenic, she was black in colour when she was born.”
Now the cute cub is a foxy lady.
“She is always smiling!” adds Cliodhna, who got married, to Kieran, last summer.
“She’s beautiful with her big bushy tail and her fluffy coat, and she’s so amazing.”
Foxy came to live with Cliodhna and her family when she was two weeks old. How did the sly fox find such a fine abode where a Springer, a Pug and a King Charles also reside? The two miniature pet goats, pygmies, are down on the farm.
“We live on a farm that my brother runs since our dad, Donal, passed away from leukaemia,” says Cliodhna.
“Dad used to run the timber saw mills here near the farm house. He was sick for 11 months.
“Kieran and I got married in August when we had a small wedding in Killarney, before dad left us in October.”
A farmer who lives nearby came upon five fox cubs back in March and rang Donal to ask if he’d take on two of them as their mother had died.
“Dad said yes. So we took two of them,” says Cliodhna.
“We started rearing the cubs and my brother helped me bottle feed them during the night.”
The cubs were as snug as two bugs in a rug.
“We kept them inside for two weeks,” says Cliodhna, an animal lover like her late dad.
What about house-training the animal?
“You tackle it the same way as you would a puppy,” she says.
Foxy and her brother became more independent and social.
“Then, gradually we left them out to roam free for two or three hours a day when they could fend for themselves. We knew they were wild animals,” says Cliodhna.
But the cunning foxes knew what side their bread was buttered.
“They kept coming back to the call,” says Cliodhna.
“They never really left and they were petrified by other people.”
They knew the hand that fed them.
“Foxy and I are best buddies. She will only come to me,” says Cliodhna.
“If anyone else is around, she’s gone. She is always on the alert.”
Her smile, baring her impressive snappy teeth, gets even wider when her mistress appears.
“She is always so excited to see me,” says Cliodhna. “Her smile gets much bigger!
Foxy is a gentle soul.
“She is very affectionate and gentle, taking food from my hand and winding herself around my legs looking for food.
"She often rummages in my pockets looking for tasty goodies!
"When she was younger, she’d sit on my lap. Now, we don’t catch her.
“Both foxes were like puppies really. Their temperament is similar to dogs. Foxy will go for a walk with us and she’ll play fetch with the ball and everything!”
What kind of a reception does the fox get from other walkers?
“They do a double-take!” Cliodhna says. “Foxy knows our walking route and is happy to trot along with us.”
What does she eat?
“Everything!” says Cliodhna.
Including hens, rabbits, mice and rats?
“We don’t have those!” laughs Cliodhna.
“I’ve never seen mice or rats here thankfully. She loves puppy nuts and meat, and laps up bowls of milk. Even if I give her meat, she’ll just take it out of my hand.”
How does she commute out in the great outdoors?
“She jumps in and out the window,” says Cliodhna. “Foxy is really clever.
“It was my sister’s 40th birthday recently, she’s been getting a big slice of cake every day since!”
Is there any jealousy with the other pets?
“Essie, my Pug, who is 10, was a bit iffy and a bit hesitant at first. But all is well now. She’s not bothered. The other dogs love Foxy.
“And Foxy loves Essie. She screams and rolls around for her.”
Donal would love to have seen Foxy thriving.
“Dad would have been a big animal lover,” says Cliodhna. “And he was a big hunter which was unusual because he loved the foxes. I think Foxy mirrors his loveable nature.
“Foxy takes food from my mother too and my nieces and nephews adore her. Having the freedom around the big home farm, Foxy is happy out.”
She has dug out a niche for herself.
“She takes no notice of the cows or the machinery on the farm. She loves the activity. Foxy is never lonely with all the other animals here,” says Cliodhna.
“And she often goes for a nap in the cow shed. She’s such a pet.
“You can make a pet out of any animal. Foxy is amazing.”