My Fox, Rome

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My love of foxes started when I was about 9 or 10 years old and my grandmother on my mother’s side won me a fox stuffed animal from the arcade at Sea World, San Antonio. I don’t know what it was about that stuffed animal, but he quickly became my favorite. I can’t say exactly when the fox became my favorite animal, but it was because of that stuffed animal that foxes were brought to my attention and shortly afterwards, I deemed them my favorite. I know for sure that they were my favorite animal by the time I was 12 years old.

After foxes were classified as my favorite animal I began collecting fox stuffed animals as I am a huge collector of stuffed animals and love the plush creatures. I only collected fox stuffed animals that I actually liked, and because it’s difficult to find a fox stuffed animal in the first place, I didn’t have that many.

In recent years, I’ve been desperately looking for a realistic life-size fox stuffed animal. It’s all I’ve been asking for for past Christmases and birhtdays, yet as each one passed, I never got one. As my birthday of 2012 passed and I again, did not receive a fox stuffed animal, I opened the Internet and typed in something along the lines of “realistic fox stuffed animal” into DeviantART, a website for artists. I figured that if I couldn’t find an already-made fox stuffed animal, perhaps I could find an artist that could make one for me.

As the searches came up, I wasn’t aware that my life was about to be changed.

I quickly opened all the images that drew my eye in another window, stopping after I’d clicked on several. I then clicked on each individual one to get a closer look and to read the artist descriptions. Pretty quickly, I realized that most of the ones I had clicked on were not stuffed animals in the traditional sense that I knew…they were literally stuffed animals.

I had stumbled upon taxidermy…and I liked it.

I had never given taxidermy any thought…It kind of freaked me out and I thought that most taxidermied animals I saw were weird looking and ugly. This was different, though. This was a different kind of taxidermy that I’d never seen before. It was called soft-mount. Traditional life-size mounting is what most people think of when they think of taxidermy. These are the rock hard animals that are posed on top of a rock or something. Soft-mount is different though. Only the head of the animal is rock hard, while the rest is filled with the same fluff that makes up stuffed animals. Soft-mounts are literally realistic stuffed animals that can be posed and flop about. They’re a lot less creepy and I was suddenly interested.

For days, I continued my search for a realistic fox stuffed animal and I concluded that a soft mount would be the best thing for me. I began subscribing to taxidermists, especially ones that specialized in soft-mounting or in foxes. After finding several taxidermists and doing a lot of research, I decided on Leslie, or “Little Miss Doe Eyes,” or Northern Harvest Taxidermy, a licensed mammal taxidermist. I contacted her and asked about commissioning her for a soft-mount fox. She let me know that she would be holding a sale on August 2nd in which she would be selling several pelts and then begin taking commissions on them. August was a month away, so I marked my calendar and began my eager wait.

As summer came to an end, August came and the sale started. I had especially became interested in red whitemark foxes and in “calico” foxes, sometimes known as platinum foxes. Leslie had a calico fox named Bella on her page listed under the title “The Most Beautiful Fox I’ve Ever Seen,” that I was really interested in and I hoped that I would get a fox that was just as, if not more, beautiful.

Bella, The Most Beautiful Fox

Bella, The Most Beautiful Fox

The sale began at 7:30pm on the dot, in which Leslie would post a giant list of pelts for sale, including pictures. It was first come, first serve, so I was on my computer at 7:20, refreshing constantly. When the sale finally showed up, I breezed through looking for all of the foxes. There it was, Bella. Leslie was offering the most beautiful pelt she had ever seen. But there was another fox that caught my eye, Romeo.

Just a Pelt

Rome as a Pelt

Romeo was a red whitemark fox, a red fox with white marks on his body. These two foxes were my two favorite kinds of foxes and now it was time to choose. Romeo was large, that was a plus, but Bella was female, what I was hoping for. Romeo was cheaper, another plus, but I had been dreaming about Bella all month long. I continued debating for several minutes before I finally made my decision. I chose Bella.

As the page refreshed, my heart sank. I was not the first to claim Bella. I asked Leslie what I should do, and she comforted that if the person who claimed Bella backed out or could not pay, I’d be next in line. I took comfort in this fact, but just a few minutes later, Leslie wrote back stating that the person had already sent payment. Bella was claimed and paid for. Taking all of this in, I decided that I should jump on Romeo before he was gone, too. I claimed Romeo, and he was mine.

I sent my payment to Leslie and she thanked me for the purchase telling me that she’d be done with Romeo in anywhere from 2-4 months time. That was a long time to wait, but I’d finally have my fox!

The wait began, and I tried to gather as many photos of him as I could. Unfortunately, Romeo was in Leslie’s freezer so she wasn’t able to take pictures of him. I only had one picture to look at. Shortly afterwards, I found the person who had owned Romeo’s pelt before Leslie, the one who had given him the name, “Romeo.” She had one other picture of Romeo alongside other foxes. This picture showed just how big he was…Romeo’s 60 inches long, way over the average of a male fox. He’s huge!

That night, I went to sleep dreaming of my fox. Before I went to sleep, I was contemplating everything about him. Romeo…Romeo…I didn’t particularly like the name “Romeo.” As I was thinking of his size, his beautiful pelt, his name, it suddenly came to me, “Rome.” Just drop the “o” and images of a grand, ancient empire comes to mind…it seemed fitting. I couldn’t wait until I had my fox, Rome.

It was going to be a long wait…

As summer came to an end, I moved back onto my college’s campus. Every night I went to sleep wishing that I had Rome until finally I decided to send a message to Leslie, just telling her of how anxious and excited I was. The next day, Leslie wrote back and she had news! Unfortunately, some of her news was bad…

She had begun working on Rome but his ears and her feet were giving her troubles. She was able to get past his ears, but said that she was struggling a lot with his back feet. They were weak and the skin was ripping as she worked with them. She sent me pictures and asked what I wanted to do. “Do whatever you need to do!” I exclaimed, not wanting to lose my fox. “I’m still in! I’m not going to give up on him!”

I felt like an anxious mother waiting on my child to get out of surgery. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Leslie continued working on Rome and a few days later I had another message from her. I opened it with excitement, but quickly my heart sank again. “Rome’s finished!” Leslie started off, but again, she had bad news. Unfortunately Rome’s back feet didn’t survive and she had to amputate them. “It doesn’t look too bad,” she explained. “His markings really help create the illusion that he still has his feet.” I agreed with Leslie, Rome didn’t look too bad, but I was still sad that he didn’t come out in one piece.

At least Rome was done, though! I gave Leslie my shipping address, though because it was the end of the week, I was going to have to wait a while. With a tracking number in hand, I looked up Rome’s shipping progress every single day and tracked his journey to Texas. It was another long wait to finally have my fox.

Finally the day was here. Rome was supposed to come in on Wednesday, a day I had class. Thankfully, we were working on papers in my first class and I had already finished mine, so I asked my professor if I could leave early. She agreed and I darted home. It was about noon, the time we normally get mail and as I rushed into my residence hall, I found Jose, an RA, logging the mail that had just came in. I quickly rifled through the packages but was disappointed when I found that Rome wasn’t amongst them. “Oh, we usually get another shipment,” said Jose. I waited another half hour down there, before giving up and going up to my room.

At about 1:40pm I came back downstairs as I had to get to my 2:00pm class. As I passed the Front Desk, I saw another bunch of packages…a new bunch! I glanced at the time, but decided to look anyways. I opened the door and saw “Brooks” on one of the packages. “It’s here!” I exclaimed, “Jose, why didn’t you tell me it was here?!” I grabbed the package and began opening it up.

Rome's White Marks

Rome’s White Marks

First, I realized that the package was much, much smaller than I was expecting. I whipped it open and there were a bunch of packing bubbles in the package. About half of it was just packing bubbles. Finally, I got to the prize…it was a trash bag. I thought it was odd that a taxidermist who loved and honored animals would pack my beloved fox in a trash bag. I opened the bag and was suddenly overcome by what I saw…There was fur, lots of fur. I had never touched fox fur before. I was speechless, elated, overwhelmed. I reached in and was surprised by how incredibly soft the fur was. It was long and blew in the air conditioning. It was glorious.

Finally, I reached in and grabbed the furry being. I pulled my arm out of the bag and saw my fox for the first time. He was so real-looking! He was so magnificent. He was so huge. He was so wonderful. He was Rome, and he was mine.

Unfortunately, I had to stuff him back in the box and run off to class. I made it just in time, but for the rest of the day I could not keep my mind off of my fox. At 6:30, I’d be able to see him again. At 6:30, I could hold him and love him. Just wait until 6:30…

Rome Spread Out on the Desk

Rome Spread Out on the Desk

At 6:30, I rushed home and was just as elated with Rome as I was earlier. I pulled him out of his box again and spread him out across the top of the Front Desk. I stroked him and admired him as residents walked by, confused and bewildered.

“Is that a dog?”

“What is that?”

“Is it real?”

“Can I touch it?”

“Where’d you get that?”

Everyone had their own opinion. Most people thought there was a live animal at first, before getting closer and discovering that it wasn’t. At that point, most people either thought I was weird or they were simply disgusted. I got a lot of odd looks that day. Only a few people were interested or at least open enough to the idea to stand there and talk with me a little about it.

Rome is beautiful.

Rome is beautiful.

I didn’t care. I was happy with my fox.

Later, I took him up to my room, and loved on him even more. I am still in awe of his beautiful markings and interesting colorings. His form is so elegant and he was so well-constructed. Everything about Rome is wonderful.

Rome & Me

Rome & Me

Rome is unique in that his arms are almost completely white. Most fox’s arms are black are deep brown, but Rome’s are white and speckled with black dots. He also has a broken white stripe running up from his nose between his eyes and up his forehead. Rome also has a large white patch on the right side of his neck that stops halfway. If this “collar” was complete, Rome would be a platinum fox, but because it is broken, he is a red whitemark fox. I love Rome’s colors and his unique white markings.

It’s been several months now, and I still love Rome as much as before. He is the ultimate fox stuffed animal and I am in love with him. He accompanies me on car trips and vacations and rests on my lap as I read or watch tv.

When I’m not petting Rome, he rests on the top of my bunk bed. I don’t have a roommate and I sleep on the bottom bunk of my bunk bed, so Rome get’s the top all to himself. He gets a whole mattress to rest on throughout the day before I come home and give him a hug. Like any pet, Rome calms me and helps me de-stress a bit.

I will always admire Rome. He is my fox and I love him.