By Janet Abbott Fast
I will now tell you a bedtime story, about the The Great American Frog
The Matriarch, on hot summer nights, in her youth, sat on the back porch steps "Toad Watching". Her rear end sat on the top step, her front feet resting on the lower step. Whenever a toad came into her view she would first point it, then creep up and finally she began to play with it. She would pick it up in an attempt to bring it into the house. Toads emit a kind of toxin which causes a dog's mouth to foam. At some point I would notice that the Matriarch was still outside, and would investigate. Sure enough there would be a toad in need of rescue, and the Matriarch's mouth would be foamy. No, she wasn't a mad dog, but she was irritated that I interrupted her hunt to catch and perhaps retrieve. Even later this summer, she managed to find toads during her last outing before bedtime.
Her granddaughters, the Younger Ones, not only have adopted and refined the toad hunt and rescue but also have brought it to a new level. And they’ve added frogs to the game. Each summer night they whine until it's their turn to be out of their crates. They convince me that they are crossing their legs with an urgent need to pee. So I relent and they dash outside, trying to fit two through the doggy door at the same time. Often a great deal of barking follows. Usually they're barking at something outside the fence, a rabbit, or a toad, real or imagined. I go back and try to read or watch TV or otherwise relax. Again, if they're gone too long (the Matriarch taught me well) I investigate and call them inside. Several times this summer a toad or frog has accompanied them into the house (via the dog door and someone's mouth.) I chase the dogs out of the room, close the door and rescue the poor critter from behind a crate or inside a crate where someone took it as a treasure. The toad or frog is gently placed back outside, and the dogs are banned from access to outside for a while. In vain I hope they will forget there are critters outside. When it’s raining the hunt is more dangerous for the frogs or toads, as they like to be out in the rain catching bugs. The dogs seem to know this.
“Bring it to mamma,” I whine, I plead and I shout again. At first I think it is a green snake, then realize that snakes aren't out at this time of night. What looks like a snake are two large frog legs dangling from her mouth. He is a Big Frog! Finally she heads toward the laundry room, and drops her treasure—and he is indeed a very large green leopard frog, one of several who inhabit my various ponds. The frog glances at the carpeted stairs, but before he can go up the stairs, I manage to get him (or her) into the laundry room and prevent BB from entering. Of course the scared critter heads for a dark and unreachable corner. But I speak soothingly, apologize for the dogs' inhospitable behavior and then chide him gently for being in the dog run instead of closer to the pond where he belongs.
When I pick up him or her, I notice a dust bunny covering one eye. No matter,
I think as I avoid BB and walk through my bedroom and out on to the screened
in porch, avoiding any more dog contact. There I have an audience of five
interested cats staring at me and licking their lips. It is clear what
they are thinking, “Let us play, torture and kill!” However, I ignore their
pleas, open the screen door and place the frog on the top step outside.
I want to exit the way I came, but I am locked out of my bedroom! Thankfully,
I no longer lock the door from the dining room onto the porch, since the
yard is all fenced in. So I let myself back into the house.
They're good at tracking, especially a frog. Finally everyone settles down. Several hours later, after all dogs are crated and quiet for the night, I go out on the screened in porch. I open the screen door and see the frog is sitting on the ground waiting for me. He looks me straight in the eye. Clearly he's had a bath in the pond, the dust bunny is gone from his eye, and he appears to be waiting for me. I'm not sure what he is saying, but, no, I am not about to kiss him, or even let him kiss me. I tell him to stay away from the dog runs, and find his bugs elsewhere, at least until after 11 p.m. He thanks me for saving him, and asks me to thank BB for having such a fine soft mouth, that he's suffered no injuries.
The next morning when I go out on the porch to feed the cats and then the fish, I see and hear Plop! Plop! Plop! All three frogs are in place and safely in the pond.
© 2005 Janet Abbott Fast All Rights Reserved
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