That COVID-19 and high temperatures have brought Toronto unusual critters — and moments of the uncanny — is a truism.
In the summer, an opossum with humped back and hairless rat’s tail walked onto our porch for the first time. It looked up at me.
July and August were rich with skunk in my Seaton Village neighbourhood. They floated along the ground like an undulating throw-rug of black and white. Caring neighbours taped a sign to a hydro pole urging us not to disturb the family lest it become tame and vulnerable, ripe for removal by Animal Services.
A raccoon climbed to the fork in our front-yard tree. Near the Canadian Pacific track at Bathurst and Dupont, by Vesta Lunch and the car wash, a rabbit sat munching in a patch of tall weeds.
Then last week, out for a winter evening walk near my home, I witnessed a fox rushing down Bernard Ave. in the Annex.
Then last week, out for a winter evening walk near my home, I witnessed a fox rushing down Bernard Ave. in the Annex. This is becoming commonplace. Yet I was stirred, and wondered at the source of that stirring.
The canine emerged from its forest and burst, squinting, into the metropolis. It did not run in the street, a dangerous place. It trotted along the sidewalk.
Bernard Fox appeared near Dupont subway station, near the midrise apartment building at 100 Spadina Rd. He brought the feral to our local intersection, my Spadina stoplight.
I caught sight of his triangular muzzle, raised paw and tail streaming out behind like an exhaust pipe. He galloped by.
In a lovely way, Toronto’s still rural; he’s proof.
I’m delighted that the border between town and country, human and animal, is permeable enough to permit his entry. In a lovely way, Toronto’s still rural; he’s proof.
This was an authentic fox near the playground of Huron Street public school. When I attended Huron in 1974 no wild mammal pressed its orange fur against the school’s chain-link fence.
This was the long-anticipated return of beasts to the city’s core.
As a kid, I found them in ravines uptown. One picking its way through tall grasses on the hillside at Yonge and Wilson. Another rounding a field, snout raised, at Cummer and Willowdale — almost city limits.
Today, they reside downtown, creatures so urban you’d bid against them for a condo.
Yet none is perfect. Bernard Fox didn’t take time to acknowledge me. He shot past. He did not savour the moment, nor live in the present.
I saw a grey cat sitting at the edge of a driveway. It was gazing down the street toward fox’s escape route. It, too, had witnessed the event. Both of us looked startled.
“Did you see that?” I said to the feline. I pointed to the now-empty intersection. I wanted to share my perplexity — but also my zeal, my ardour — with another observer.
I stopped to chat with the cat.
This op-ed was originally published in the Toronto Star