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Of Dogs and Frogs, Er, Toads

I think it’s safe to say that the weather in Oklahoma this year has been kinda crazy, with rain in July and August and whatnot. By whatnot, I mean the Cricket Apocalypse and various other insect population explosions around Dogville. One welcome sight, at least for me, has been the appearance of a number of toads in the evening. I have fond memories of discovering toads as a child on our farm, watching them hunt for bugs in the cool of the evening. The Dogville toads are remarkably well-fed, thanks to the bug overpopulation and are a little on the sluggish side. They post themselves around the outside lights and eat the insects until daylight drives them back into the cool soil under the building.

Suki, my Boston Terrier rescue, is fascinated by toads. Despite being 10 years old, she responds to a toad sighting with deep curiosity and fascination, occasionally reaching out a paw to thump them. So far, she’s shown no sign of trying to pick one up or lick one–I guess she just wants to see them jump. The toads, of course, just hunker down and stay still when she thumps them and I intervene before things get out of hand for the toad, so to speak. Once Suki discovers a toad, she returns time after time to that same spot, just to see if they have returned. Occasionally she approaches a rock with the same interest, but one thump and she’s on to other things.

Nearly all common Oklahoma toad species secrete a toxic substance in the skin glands behind their eyes that cause dogs to salivate profusely and often vomit. Most dogs learn this the hard way as overzealous pups and one time is enough to convince them that toads are not squeaky toys. Just like people, though, there are individual dogs that are hard-headed enough or vengeful enough to out a way to kill toads or eat toads or defend-the-family-farm-and-honor from toads, despite the unpleasant symptoms. In Florida and other states, the toad species are much more toxic, even fatal for dogs who don’t restrain themselves from mouthing them or killing them. Fortunately, our dogs get to be young and stupid at least once and survive it. I’m sure there’s a sermon in there somewhere, but I’ll just leave that alone. In the meantime, I’ll keep a careful eye on Suki and I’m sure she’ll keep a careful eye on the Dogville toads. /dtm

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