Few could have imagined that an Arctic fox, dwelling far from human society as its name indicates, would crouch under a car and beg the passers-by for food.
The stray fox was found recently in a housing estate near Taibai Road in Luohu District. A female shop owner in the neighborhood, who fed the fox for a couple of days, stated that the fox was once kept as a pet by a household and abandoned in the parking lot of the estate about a fortnight ago.
It is not the only Arctic fox that has been kept as a pet. According to a report from a local Chinese-language newspaper in Henan Province, an Arctic fox was spotted fleeing into a residential compound in Zhengzhou last October and was mistaken by the residents for a white dog. Another report from local media in Shandong Province stated that three captive Arctic foxes, all in bad condition, were found wandering at Taishan Mountain this January.
Wildlife pundits hold that as Arctic foxes are proven to be untamable due to their body odor and ferocity, the majority of them being kept as pets were most likely purchased from illegitimate or inhumane channels, such as poachers and fox farms. Moreover, the foxes may put on a protective coloration in summer, turning from the snowy white creatures favored by photographers and animal lovers into greyish, dog-like beasts.
Dating back to some 5,000 years ago when lynxes were tamed by ancient Chinese people into household pets, the domestication of carnivores has never lost its way. However, as fewer animals are tamed, some need to be physically altered for a better integration with human aesthetics.
Ferrets have become an avant-garde option of pet-keeping nowadays owing to their slim build, silky fur and round, Siamese cat-like face. The species was domesticated from European polecats some 2,500 years ago, and yet a pet ferret still needs to have its anal gland removed lest it sprays a smelly substance when frightened.
Tail docking and ear cropping are no strangers to keepers of dogs likes Doberman Pinschers, Cocker Spaniels and poodles. However, a handful of countries across the world, including Canada, Australia, and the U.K., have banned or opposed all kinds of cosmetic alterations on dogs, including those raised for shows.
As the adopter of an 11-year-old English Cocker Spaniel, I was asked why I did not opt to dock the dog’s tail when it was 1 year old and was asked why I do not keep a Corgi as pet when it was 10.
Frankly speaking, the predilection for a pet doesn’t remain stable even in a small housing estate. Some 10 years ago there was a fad of raising Cocker Spaniels, especially with golden or chocolate fur, among my neighbors, which has already been currently replaced by a keen love for Corgis, Shiba Inus and Toy Poodles.
It seems that humans are prone to dance to the baton of trends, and one of the worst outcomes of this is the out-of-fashion dogs being abandoned. However, the reason why Arctic foxes have gone stray isn’t because of losing fashion, or a systematical domestication that couldn’t be done in short notice. It’s because they are born to live running on the virgin lands of the Artic circle, not as pets cornered in the concrete jungles of human society.
All in all, what has been coined by a platitude really holds water in the discussion over proper attitudes towards keeping pets: Never judge any creature by its appearance, and never decide its life arbitrarily on the basis of that.
(The author is a Shenzhen Daily reporter.)