Street Talk: Not today, rabies

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LISBON — You’ll never hear Mr. James Ross bragging about killing the rabid fox with a meat cleaver in his kitchen.

It’s a London-esque tale of quick thinking and self-preservation, but the 82-year-old isn’t crowing about it because the way he sees it, the ending is a sad one.

“I’ve lived with animals all my life,” the Lisbon man says. “I’ve had a lot of pets and they were my friends. With this fox, I figure we could have been friends but he was too sick.”

The fox was sick, all right. Deadly sick.

It happened last Monday as Ross was washing dishes in the kitchen of his River Road home. It was blazing hot outside so he had the doors open to allow a breeze to move through.

“When the fox came through the door, I wasn’t paying much attention,” Ross says. “I thought it was just a neighbor’s dog or something. I said, ‘Hey there, ol’ buddy.'”

But it wasn’t a dog and the animal wasn’t interested in becoming anybody’s friend. Before Ross had much time to think about it, the fox had crossed the kitchen, lunged and sank its teeth into the leg of his jeans.

For some, a frothing forest animal muckled onto the pants might induce a screeching, impotent panic, but not Mr. James Ross.

“The first thing I did was pull my leg right back right quick and pulled the fox off his feet,” Ross says. “He sort of skidded onto his side and I swung my other foot up and over and put it down on his neck. Once I had him there, he couldn’t get up. I was wondering, well now what am I going to do? I pulled a draw open figuring I’d get a knife and that’s when I saw the meat cleaver.”

We will spare you the details of the dispatching of the silver fox, which was later determined to have been rabid. Ross took no pleasure in the nasty business of fending off a wildlife attack with a weapon plucked from the silverware drawer.

“When it happened, I thought, well this is cruel,” Ross says. “But on the other hand, who’s going to go down here? Him or me?”

He’d been following the news, after all. Just a day before, two people were attacked by a rabid fox in Brunswick. Around the same time, a rabid skunk attacked a pair of dogs a few miles away.

It’s a disease that will drive a critter crazy and kill it slowly and painfully. In a situation like that faced by Ross, a quick death is merciful.

“I feel sorry for the animals when this kind of thing happens,” he said. “They’ve got that disease and they’re sick. They’re out there and they’re miserable.”

So, when things got hairy in his kitchen on a hot spring day, Mr. James Ross did what he had to do, no more and no less. When it was over, he contacted an animal control officer who in turn got in touch with the good people of disease control.

It was decided that since Ross had made such quick work of the sick fox, he probably didn’t need a long round of rabies shot or any of that noise.

For which Ross is extremely grateful.

“After they told me about how those shots go, I’m happy I don’t have to do that,” he said. “I was just lucky.”

There might have been a smidgen of luck involved, sure. He was lucky the fox didn’t attack while Ross was wandering around the house in bare legs, for one thing. He was, for sure, lucky that the fox wasn’t able to jump a few feet higher when it lunged.

But Ross is also one of those men who just seem to know how to roll with punches — to deal with the weird variety of adventures that life can throw at you.

Not long ago, fire ripped through the back of his house, burning half of it down and leaving Ross without running water to this day. That kind of thing will break a lot of people, but not this guy.

“All my life, when these things happen, I don’t get upset about it,” Ross said. “There’s a reason for it and I try to figure it out. That’s just the way it goes.”

This is a fellow who’s tough enough to put down a rabid animal with a cleaver, but who’s also compassionate enough to feel bad about it later.

And that’s why to me, he’s Mr. James Ross instead of plain ol’ Jim.

James Ross of Lisbon with the rabid fox that attacked him in his kitchen. (Submitted photo)

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