Fox attack leaves Edgewood residents edgy

Rebecca Hyman

The residents of High Pond Estates are on high alert since a rabid fox shattered the calm of their peaceful neighborhood.

The state Department of Public Health confirmed the fox that attacked 71-year-old Shirley Doyle tested positive for rabies.

Doyle, who is receiving a course of rabies shots, said she’s still shaken by the incident. When she went for a recent walk, her daughter insisted she take a gardening claw with her just in case.

And she’s not alone. She saw a couple of neighbors in the manufactured home community carrying big sticks as they strolled along. And someone posted a sign at the entrance to the development notifying people of the attack.

Doyle, of 4 Edgewood Drive, credits the bravery and quick thinking of her neighbor Norman Millikan, of 2 Edgewood Drive, with saving her life.

She recounts how she had just been out for a walk and was cutting across her trim front lawn on the evening of Saturday, July 12, when she thought she saw a silvery-gray cat trotting down her tranquil street, which is lined with woods on one side.

Suddenly, the animal charged toward her, lunged at her ankle, sunk its teeth in and pulled her down to the ground.

Its teeth felt like “razor blades,” she said.

The 71-year-old grandmother managed to push the fox off with her sandal, but he swung around and grabbed the back of her leg, and this time she couldn’t shake him. She lay on the ground struggling with the frenzied animal and screaming for help. But it was a hot night and her neighbors had their air conditioners on. She feared no one would hear her calls. Her blood was all over the lawn.

“I thought I was going to die. The pain was so bad, I thought I was going to pass out,” Doyle said.

One house down, Millikan was watching “Dial M for Murder” with his wife when he remembered he hadn’t locked his truck, an unusual occurrence.

As he headed out to take care of it, Millikan heard Doyle’s screams. At first he thought it was just her grandchildren playing in the sprinkler.

Then he spotted Doyle lying on the ground.

“God was there. He sent him to me,” Doyle said. “He didn’t hesitate.”

Millikan grabbed the fox by the tail and threw it into the street. He expected the animal to run into the woods, but instead it came after him. It lunged at him three or four times, finally grabbing hold of his pant leg.

That’s when the retired mental health worker made his move. As the fox’s mouth was occupied, Millikan got his foot on the animal’s neck, grabbed its tail with his right hand and its hind legs with his left.

Millikan managed to hold the fox down until firefighters arrived and killed it with the blunt end of an ax.

“I can’t say enough about how wonderful the care has been,” from the emergency personnel on the scene to the staff at Brockton Hospital, Doyle said.

All along the animal was making an eerie sound and fighting to get free.

“He wasn’t giving up,” Doyle said.

But neither was Millikan.

Doyle says Millikan is her hero, but he shrugs it off.

“She would have done the same for me. You don’t stop to think, you just act,” he said.

Doyle, who’s lived on Edgewood Drive for two-and-a-half years, and Millikan, who’s lived there for 19 years, said they’ve occasionally seen brown foxes before, but they were always shy and ran away, the opposite of the one that attacked her.

Millkan said he’s a little more cautious outdoors since the incident.

“This fox was rabid. It doesn’t mean he was the only one,” Millikan said.

Doyle had a nightmare a few days ago the fox was at the foot of her bed tearing at her legs, which are both bandaged and bruised.

She awoke to find she’d been kicking at the covers as she struggled with the animal in her sleep.

Doyle will get a total of five shots, one per week.

Millikan said his doctors advised him he doesn’t need the shots since the fox did not break his skin.

Despite the shots, Doyle said she’s frightened she’ll contract rabies.

Health officials suspected from the start the fox was rabid, but finding out for sure still came as a shock, she said.

But Doyle reminds herself her doctors have assured her she’ll be fine.

“I am going to by OK. I will put this behind me,” she said.

But one thing she won’t forget is Millikan’s selfless act, she said.

“He’s a very easy-going, quiet guy. I don’t think he wants all the attention. But he deserves it,” Doyle said.

Bridgewater Independent