Around 1995, I was walking home late at night. I mean late: it would have been about four in the morning. The road I was walking up was lined on the side I was on by decaying post-industrial wasteland.
As I passed a gap in a fence, a fox nipped out and started walking alongside me. I don’t know much about foxes, but I reckon it was fairly young. It walked to heel, like a well-trained dog.
I was somewhat taken aback by having this companion join me on my journey, but it wasn’t doing me any harm. So I carried on, and it carried on walking with me. I kept glancing down at it, and it seemed to be ignoring me. But it kept pace with me.
A few hundred yards up the road, there was another gap in the fence. As we came to it, the fox paused, looked up at me, and turned off, vanishing into the darkness.
I could swear it nodded as if thanking me and bidding me adieu, but maybe I imagined that.
On reflection, I think what probably happened was that this young fox had made its way over to the territory of an older fox, that being where the foxy lady foxes were. And maybe it had stayed a bit too long, and now had to get back, but knew that the older fox was lurking, intending to punish the interloper in whatever manner cuckolded foxes do: probably with lots of biting and scratching, maybe to the death.
So it waited until a human came along, knowing that the older fox would steer clear of them; and the human that came along was me, and I gave the philanderer safe passage back to its own little patch of derelict land where a factory once had been.
And maybe it did nod at me, as it glanced up at me before diving through that hole in the fence, to thank me for seeing it safely home.
Or maybe I imagined that.