Fantastic Mr Fox!

Despite yesterday's butchered jelly fish saga, it didn't deter us from our next dissection project. The challenge came in the form of a dead fox. Simon had walked past it on his way to work yesterday and had texted me to tell me about the find. He hadn't imagined for one moment that we would bag it up and bring it home. I'm pretty sure he'd have kept quiet if he had known this would be the outcome.

Safe to say when Jenson heard there was a dead fox going spare, he had his shoes on faster than you could blink. We were quite a picture walking along Park Place armed with a shovel and wearing latex gloves.

I wasn't totally sure if it was entirely legit what we were doing, and given it was 8.45am in the morning and busy with people trying to get to work, we had lots of witnesses.

After much stroking and poking by Jenson we finally found a break in the traffic and passers by to bag up fox and lug it home. 

Our explorations began by prising open foxy's jaws, which Jenson was more than willing to do. I admired his confidence around the dead body and liked his enthusiasim.

Although mere novices it didn't stop us giving Mr Fox a good go. Again, the scalpel just wasn't going to cut it, literally, so I handed Jenson a kitchen knife instead. It's safe to say we won't be using that knife to carve the roast chicken on Sunday.

The skin was surprisingly tough but Jenson did manage to pierce the leathery layer. As the air rushed out of the body cavity, it was like watching a balloon deflate! It sounds as grim as it looked and it smelt pretty bad too.

Clearly picking up on my hesitancy, Jenson asked if instead of looking at its stomach content whether he could cut its tail off. We dug out his saw and, with tail held firmly in one hand, he set to work. He managed to cut the thin layer of skin easily to reveal the bone, but got a bit stumped at that point. He resigned himself to the fact that cutting up a fox is tougher than it looks.

Jenson was clearly disappointed. Not to be defeated I spent the next two hours trying to find someone else to cut the fox open for us. I contacted Gloucestershire University and Dean Close, but both had already broken up for the Summer.

Next I contacted various independent biology tutors from a list I had found on an education website. From the ten I sent messages to only three replied and all declined the marvellous opportunity. They instead told me I was basically mad and that I should dispose of said fox as quickly as possible.

Not one to take no for an answer, I posted on the Gloucestershire Home Educators Facebook page. Someone replied saying they could do it the very next day at 4pm.

Well, sadly this morning they messaged me to say they couldn't do it. We were all disappointed but I guess it's as the saying goes: if you want a job done do it yourself. Well, we didn't, but I asked Simon if he would. You can imagine his response and yet amazingly he agreed.

And so the rest of today turned into the perfect play day. I've never known anything like it. Jenson and Wren were unrecognisable as they spent hour after hour after hour engrossed in various role play and LEGO games together. At one point, whilst sat outside with me, Jenson told me how relaxing it felt to be playing with his LEGO while I read the paper. 

It came about after I had helped Jenson to finish building his new LEGO set: a Ninjago dragon. Safe to say he adores it and it was the clear inspiration behind their day of play together. We had it finished by 9am and they spent the next two and a half hours sat outside at the garden table embroiled in some LEGO battle of the sexes. I meanwhile tidied the house. For the whole time not once did I have to go and break up any fights or arguments.

It came round to 12 noon and it dawned on me they must be hungry. They gobbled their lunch down and for the next four hours I didn't hear a peep out of them. I sat and ate my lunch then read the paper for an hour before knuckling down to some work. The whole day was bizarre but utterly brilliant. They both went to bed that night cuddled up in Wren's bed, so inseparable were they.

I must admit that I did try and sneak them out of bed so they could witness the burial of the fox. Yes, turns out Simon didn't want to cut the damn thing open either, not only that, but he didn't much like my alternative suggestion, which was to bury it in the garden and then dig it up every few months so we could see how much it had decomposed. 

So, armed with a shovel I found a spare patch in the veg plot. The plants will love the extra nutrients I'm sure. Simon showed no interest in helping as he sunk a beer and pretended to have trouble lighting the BBQ. I can't blame him. He's had another rough week at work and shovelling some stinking fox isn't a great thing to come home to. The children ignored everything I had said about slipping out of bed quietly so Daddy wouldn't notice. Within moments they were pulling bottom wiggles through the kitchen door. I quickly rounded them up and once the hole was dug, shoved the camera into Simon's hand and dragged foxy over.

I unwrapped it. The decomposition over just 24 hours was remarkable. The shot below was taken yesterday morning.

This shot was taken about 30 hours later. 

Maggots had set in. The eyes had been eaten, the fur had been torn off and a hole had been made in its chest cavity. It was crawling with flies and their offspring.

I laid the fox to rest in its hole which we have since covered with bricks to prevent it being dug up by other animals. We shall unearth it in a month's time to see what remains.

The whole experience has been eye opening, or perhaps that should be eye watering!! I've learned a lot about myself and I'm disappointed to discover that I'm not as strong in the stomach as I would like to think. Turns out though no one else is either. Jenson was dead keen to cut it open, telling me with much enthusiasm on more than one occasion that he wanted to see inside it cause he wanted to learn. How can I deny that? Having thrown everything at the dissection but not finding anyone willing to cut the fox up, I couldn't just throw it in the bin. The decomposing idea was therefore a half way house. It's a brilliant thing for Jenson to see and a fantastic learning opportunity for him. I'll buy some pegs in readiness for that joyful day when we dig it back up!