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'Cute little cat' turns out to be rabid fox

Old Lyme - Valerie Nye had just dropped her daughter's friends off at the Achille residence on Springfield Road Sunday afternoon when she asked family friend Alan Achille for a tour of the new home he's building around the corner on New Britain Road.

"We were standing in the kitchen and my daughter said, 'look it's a cute little cat'," Nye said.

"Alan then yelled frantically 'it's not a cat' and when I turned to run away, it jumped onto my leg. I didn't even have time to process what was going on," she said.

Nye was then viciously attacked by a rabid red fox, which prompted a quick-thinking Achille to beat the fox with a piece of crown molding - something he had had to do two days earlier when another neighbor was also attacked by a fox.

Reached by phone Monday, Nye can laugh about the incident now, but said it was no laughing matter at the time of the attack.

Nye said the fox was less than three feet away from her before it jumped.

"It was almost like we didn't see it in time, but it definitely looked sick and mangy," she said. "I didn't even know what kind of animal it was until Alan beat it off of me."

Recalling the attack, she said her two children were "more traumatized that the fox was beaten to death" rather than from the attack itself.

Old Lyme police and officials from the Department of Environmental Protection responded to the 911 call around 12:30 p.m.

Although Nye was not bitten by the fox, DEP officials advised her to get a rabies shot because the virus can be transmitted through saliva. After receiving the positive rabies test results Monday afternoon, Nye received the shot.

As the chaotic scene unfolded before the children's eyes on Sunday, Achille grabbed a piece of wood and hurled it at the fox, knocking it off Nye and stunning it for a few seconds, he said Monday night.

"This was all in a matter of 30 seconds or so, it just all happened so fast," he said. "But then it just got right back up and was literally hopping and jumping to try to climb onto her back, that's when I got a two-by-six and starting whacking the fox with it."

He said he knew how to react to Sunday's attack because last Friday, while he was visiting the New Britain Road home of Barry and Kathy Harrison, a fox tried to attack Barry Harrison while he was standing on his back porch.

"The fox came up the stairs and Barry felt something tugging and pulling on his leg," Achille said. "He was able to kick it off of him, but the fox came charging back at us."

He said that he and Harrison beat the fox off with sticks and when they found it in the family's yard, it charged at them again.

It was the second encounter that evening with the fox. A short time earlier Kathy Harrison said it stopped and looked at her and her husband as they ate dinner on their deck.

"It was the way it looked at us, like it wasn't afraid and looking back, it all makes sense now," she said.

She added she thinks the Friday and Sunday encounters involved different foxes because they had different coloring.

"If there's one of them, there's definitely more," Harrison said.

j.hanckel@theday.com

Staff reporter Jenna Cho contributed to this story.

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