Critters: Part III

In this chronicle of what’s moved into my house and yard since March, I want to move now to a happier tale. Not everything that happens in my household is a disaster. So in this post I want to describe the young toad that’s managed to charm me this year.

My yard always has toads. In fact, it’s even equipped with a cute toad house that was a very kind gift.

I used to flinch and jump during my first summer here, shying from plump toads that hopped from the evening shadows across my sidewalk. Initially their presence excited my Scotties to fever intensity. There was a spell of determined toad hunting, resulting in the excavation of the backyard sprinkler system and a great deal of spitting and mouth foaming until two stubborn dogs learned not to bite their prey and not to dig up Mama’s expensive sprinklers. Since then, the dogs have become indifferent to our amphibian wildlife. And while last year there was some temporary investigation into what was living between the dog house and the patio’s brick wall, once we discovered that it was only Jumbo–surely the largest, fattest, most obese toad I had ever seen–Jumbo hunting ceased. (Incidentally, Jumbo cannot fit through the doorway of the toad house.)

This year, ever since spring temperatures warmed up, I’ve noticed that the dogs no longer want to drink from their outside water bowls. Because they’re outdoors a great deal, I make sure they always have water in the shade. Two large, deep bowls are kept filled on the patio by the back door. Indoors, there is one small stainless steel bowl. And while normally they prefer to drink outside, this spring they have marched past the outdoor bowls to drink inside. I am constantly replenishing that inadequate metal bowl. They gulp down its contents like they’re dying of thirst.

I was puzzled by this at first, and then recently when I took the dogs outside for their bedtime stroll, I found a toad in the bottom of a bowl, submerged completely beneath the water.

Using a garden trowel, I fished him out and bumped his backside gently to send him hopping off the patio and onto the grass. The next night, there he was again, taking his evening bath.

Small wonder the dogs did not want to drink the water he’d been swimming in.

This toad is small as amphibians in my yard go. I am calling him Phelps Jr. No doubt, once the June bugs come out, he will feast well under my patio windows and grow rotund.

Meanwhile, he’s a smart toad. After several dipping sessions with the trowel, he’s learned to take his bath earlier in the evening, before we troop outside at bedtime. I no longer catch him in the water. Instead, I see a very small puddle on the dry cement next to the bowl. It makes me smile every time.

And I go inside to fill the utility room water bowl yet again.

toad1Given that the evening patio lighting is too low to get a real photo of Phelps Jr. floating at his leisure, I’ll share this old photograph of my rubber toad instead.

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