Birthday discovery begets amphibian hilarity

So my dog and I discovered a new park to visit. It’s not really a new park, just one we’ve never been to together. I took her there a few weeks ago on a night when the park was deserted to see if she would follow me into the water. I have this crazy idea of trying to get her into a kayak, and this was the first step.

She did follow me into the water and walked in farther than usual, but when I showed her the life vest, well that’s when things began to fall apart. The sound of the Velcro was apparently terrifying, and she just wasn’t having it. And that’s just fine – I know better than to push these things, and put the vest away to try another day.

Still, not to waste the trip, we stayed at the park so we could explore together. It’s a big park and was fairly empty, except for a handful of other people and their dogs, so it was quiet and I wanted to linger.

I let her lead me wherever she wanted to sniff. She seemed to be enjoying all the new smells and the occasional chipmunk, who would duck down a hole just as she was upon it, and disappear. And as usual, the squirrels made her crazy, teasing and laughing at her from the branches. We had a nice time, strolling along the water in the lush green grass.

Fast forward to late last week, the night before her birthday. We decided to head to the park again hoping for another quiet walk. We started off with the same routine as last time, taking a stroll up to and into the water, but it was much colder than last time and neither of us wanted to wade in very far. I let her talk me out of it, and we wandered down the beach to better things.

Having a bit more time than our last visit, I took a much wider route around the park, and part of that route led along the stream that feeds into the park. Being almost autumn, the sun sets earlier and earlier now, and even though it was barely eight o’clock, dusk was falling. As we walked along, I saw something move and heard a “ploop.” I figured it was a crayfish fleeing back to the safety of the stream, but as we continued to walk, there was another “ploop.” And another.

I was delighted to realize what the sound actually was. The water’s edge was lined with frogs! And even funnier, my soon-to-be 11-year-old dog apparently had never seen one before. Hard to believe, but from her reaction, it had to be true.

Once she figured out what was going on, things quickly became hilarious.

She tried to chase the frogs, which were pretty good sized and plentiful, but couldn’t manage to catch one. However, one frog that jumped to a rock just below water level fiercely stood its ground, and she was beside herself trying to figure out what to do about that.

She balked and wavered quite a bit, and would step just a bit closer every few seconds, and repeat. The stone-faced frog did not move. She almost pawed at it, but lifted her paw, and then changed her mind. Perhaps she thought it would explode, bite her back, or something worse. I began to laugh and tease her. This 60-pound dog was shivering at the thought of being confronted by a frog.

She continued to inch closer and closer, almost touching it with her nose. Still the frog did not move, and continued to stare her down. I was very impressed with this frog’s fortitude. I can’t imagine having an animal more than 5,000 times larger than I am, with sharp claws, big teeth and bad breath within inches of my face, filled with curiosity about me and still standing my ground.

It was great though, watching my elderly dog become a puppy again for a few minutes. The surprise, the curiosity, the indecision. It was really an amusing situation, and I was enjoying it thoroughly. And I think deep down, she was too.

Eventually the uniqueness of the situation wore out its welcome, and my dog turned her attention to the squirrels again. The frog had won the stare down! As we walked along the water, we must have seen about 100 frogs frantically trying to scamper out of our way and into the water. My dog tried hard to catch them, to no avail. I don’t think she would’ve liked the taste had she been successful. But it was great fun to watch her try.

As we walked along, even though darkness had fallen pretty heavily, I could still see the movement and constant sounds of “ploop” as each froggy hit the water. I had a smile on my face as we made our way back to the car. I was thinking of a time long ago when my children were small, when turtles, toads and frogs were a regular source of entertainment for us.

We never let one go by without picking it up, being careful of the big pee that happens when you do, and admiring them for a while. Yes, I know that’s against the law, but we didn’t care. We treated them very well and always put them back exactly where we found them, or in a better and safer place if that happened to be the very busy road we lived on. We had a lot of fun with those crazy little creatures.

And I smile again as I write this, because little does my old friend know that she will wake up on the morning of her birthday to a raucous serenade of the Happy Birthday song, a well-loved (I think, anyway) tradition in my family, and a day filled with hugs and wonderful doggie surprises. My best friend for the last four years, and hopefully for many more.


Originally published September 9, 2016.

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