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Loki looks affectionately at Marsh, who attests to the fox’s ability to be trained.

Indiana deputy cherishes pet fox

Trainable animal visits shops, gains admirers

Associated Press photos
Loki, a miniature arctic fox, accompanies Tyler Marsh during a visit to The Cup on the campus of Ball State University.

– It’s not every day you get a polar arctic fox with your coffee.

This day, though, Loki and his owner, Tyler Marsh, were an arresting sight on the patio at The Cup in Ball State University’s Village.

“He’s considered domesticated,” the 23-year-old Richmond resident, a Wayne County sheriff’s deputy, said of his striking pet, which is named after the trickster god in Norse mythology.

“They’ve been breeding them in Russia for 50 years.”

Just 4 1/2 months old, Loki – who should weigh about 20 pounds when fully-grown – is becoming well-known at the popular coffee shop.

“He’s got a little bit of a following here,” agreed Marsh, a former Muncie resident who still spends a good deal of time here, including working out at the Northwest YMCA.

Dark gray except for a thick light-gray tail with a dark tip and a light, round coloration marking his scent gland, Loki’s handsome face is undeniably fox-like, his piercing eyes alive with canine curiosity and his fur exquisitely soft.

“He has a real dense undercoat,” Marsh said, likening its softness to a rabbit’s, and noting that one remnant of his wild nature will be obvious in winter, when his coat turns off-white.

Other extraordinary characteristics? For one thing, Loki doesn’t bark or growl, which makes him welcome in his owner’s apartment complex.

“They really are pretty quiet animals,” Marsh told The Star Press. “They are more like a cat. They like to do their own thing.”

Nor, to put it bluntly, do they stink, a quality the deputy enhances by washing Loki every other day with Dawn dish soap.

Anything else?

“The best thing is, you can walk them like a dog, but you can also train them to use a litter box,” Marsh said, though he hinted that his animal-training skills might be way above those of the average person. “I’ve litter-trained a goat before, so ... ”

As he talked, Loki was constantly moving, his pink tongue lolling, and Marsh cautioned that a domesticated polar arctic fox is not for everyone.

“They don’t have a long attention span, so if you want to train them, it takes a lot of time,” he said. “He mouths a lot. He’s very high strung.”

Swatting one, if you are the kind of person who would do so, is a bad idea, something that will trigger an aggressive reaction in the quiet little fox.

“Even if you raise your voice, it causes them to be more aggressive,” said Marsh, who noted he is naturally soft-spoken. “They don’t do great with kids, but adults and older children are good. … If you’re a full-time student and you’re working, you shouldn’t have one. It’s going to end bad for you.”

Why did he want one? The urge to own an exotic animal was spurred when he worked at ME’s Zoo. He lived in Muncie when he bought his first one – a silver red fox, a considerably smellier animal than Loki – which was stolen.

That he loves Loki is evident in the way they interact, though even Marsh, who studied law enforcement at Indiana Wesleyan University, will admit his pet runs funny.

“It’s more like a bound,” he said. “He kind of runs like (the cartoon skunk) Pepe Le Pew.

By the way, if Loki’s nails aren’t kept trimmed, he can run right up a tree, and he also eats expensive holistic Blue Buffalo dog food.

Marsh enjoys taking Loki to places like The Cup, and educating people about him.

“I get a lot of mixed reactions,” he said, with some people thinking having a fox for a pet is horrible, and others thinking, like he does, that it’s wonderful.

“He and I spend a lot of time together,” Marsh said, smiling.

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