Fairy tales were standard bedtime fare for the puppy throughout her babyhood. She was hyperactive and my droning voice eventually lulled her into a coma. Now the memories of those fairy tales provide fodder for puppy dreams of grandeur: “Ah, someday my prince will come and rescue me from this squalor, this humdrum existence at the edge of a swampy brook. A handsome red Doberman wearing a golden crown will drive a Mercedes limo up to the house, place a diamond-studded tiara between my adorable ears and although I will miss Mom, I will be whisked away to a place that appreciates me. That castle on the Rhine…” Her greedy puppy eyes squint in the sun as she fanaticizes her fairy-tale world.
Not a prince, but a very large, placid, warty toad the size of a boxer’s fist is squatting on the slate tiles of the porch. He gulps as toads are wont to do, gulps again. The puppy is fascinated. “My Prince,” she squeals. “My Prince, you’ve come at last.” Confusing Disney cartoons with the Brothers Grimm, she wriggles around yapping, “Someday my prince will come.” The toad gulps. And gulps again. He has nothing to do and nowhere special to go. Just another toad-day. He has a secret. I myself know what that secret is, but the puppy refuses to listen to my warnings and remains, as always, ignorant of the ways of the world. Especially of the ways of toads.
She leans in. “Oh, my Prince.” She delicately touches her long nose to his mouth. He blinks. He gulps. He does not move, nor return the gesture. She repeats her kiss, this time a bit more flamboyantly. “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, me, me. Your Princess.” Nope. Still nothing. He gulps. He focuses straight ahead and blinks.
Never long on patience, her frustration is growing exponentially. We have arrived at Puppy-to-the-Fifth-Power. “It’s me, me, me. Kiss me, you fool.” She nudges his back, nudges him again, laps his back, and her eyes suddenly spin in her romantic head. The toad gulps and seems to expand ever so slightly. The puppy’s eyes continue to spin. The romantic drool decorating her lips is now actually froth. Lots of froth. Big long strands of froth. “Blug, blug, blug,” says the puppy through the froth-drool.
Toads are slow-moving and probably not overly bright, so to thwart swifter and potentially-smarter predators, they secrete a mild toxin when annoyed. Legends and folk-lore among those inclined to persuasions of the consciousness-bending kind have long insisted that, “Man. Toads’ll make ya high. Lick one.” Ask the puppy. Her eyes are now spinning counter-clockwise.
She continues her amorous advances. The toad continues to secrete. Her drool reaches the ground. She swings her head around for a better position and frothy strands decorate her back like Christmas tinsel. “Blug, blug, blug” is still about all she can manage, and she looks to me for assistance. How can her affections possibly be spurned in such a manner? This is not like the books at all. No crown has appeared on the speckled amphibian brow. The toad remains disinterested to a stunning degree.
“No, blug, no, blug, me, me, Prince, blug, blug” She is in a frenzy of rejected love and euphoric toad-toxin. I myself am no stranger to the dog-toad relationship and years ago a trusted vet convinced me that the local toads pack a very mild wallop. Still, this is my baby and funny as it is, I can’t let her continue to suffer. I’m in fact a little embarrassed for her wounded pride. Like any good mother, I must deal with the cad who has hurt my daughter’s feelings. A plastic snow shovel leans on the porch just waiting for winter and I slide this gently under the toad as the puppy paws at her drool and whines, “Blug, but, Prince, blug.” I deposit the would-be prince nicely into the brook where he disappears with submarine-stealth provoking a wail from the puppy, “No, no, mean, no, Prince, mine.”
I hustle her into the house where a stash of biscuits helps to ease her anguish and some fresh water flushes away the toxins. Like any diva, she rationalizes, “He was merely assessing the situation. Next time I’ll wear my pink collar and have my nails done. He won’t be able to resist me then! You’ll see. I’ll send you a postcard from the Riviera.”
There’s an open spot on the fridge. Just waiting.
Causes Mara Buck Supports
Kennebec Valley Humane Society, Amnesty International