Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wildlife Encounters

                Left to right: Fred, Ethel, Lucy

Strolling along this morning with the dogs on our usual morning walk. Not thinking of anything much, just enjoying the cool air on my skin, glancing around without really taking in many details.

When suddenly, something close to the ground moved in back of me.

The irrational part of my brain went ballistic with SNAKE. The rational part said "too early/not on the entrada/not the right season for fer-de-lance".

Yeah, sure--guess which part of my brain won hands down!

While still mentally recovering, I saw that it was a huge toad. I'm not up on the different toad species, but I do know that in this area we have poisonous cane toads--and there is a small field of sugar cane in back of the house. We're most likely to see them around the house in the dry season, but it's not uncommon to see them this time of year.

We moved to Panamá in the month of June. We had been warned about the toads, especially since we had two dogs and were told that the toad venom, which is secreted on the skin, is powerful enough to be fatal to dogs. One of our dogs, Ethel, our black Lab, has only two interests in life--fetching her kong and eating. So one morning at that time, when Ethel refused her food, we went into a flat panic. The most likely explanation is that she drank from a water bowl we had outside the house at that time, one that had had a toad visit. As we frantically looked for help and any kind of information, we were told that toads will sometimes use such small water sources to bathe or refresh themselves.

We were also told that there was nothing that could be done except wait.

For two days, Ethel refused to eat, no matter what we put in front of her. My hope lay in the fact that she was drinking water, always a good sign, Then on the third day, she casually walked over to her food bowl and began eating as if nothing had ever happened (translation: she scarfed down her food at a speed close to that of light).

So, this morning, after being relieved that all I had seen was a toad, I looked over to where Fred was standing in the grass--and watched yet another large cane toad hop in front of him. Fred, who has more curiosity than sense, stepped after it and to my horror, put his head down close to the toad, his nose millimeters away....

I screamed at the top of my brass-lined lungs, "Fred NO!!!" I'm sure they heard me in Dolega. Fred, who normally ignores me, since he knows perfectly well that any command from me is not in his self-interest, actually looked up, startled; then he trotted away from the toad, still looking at me, obviously wondering what had gotten into me this time.

I really don't need scares like that at 6 o'clock in the morning.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Fred: What were you thinking, giving Joyce a scare like that? Don't you know that toads are icky, yucky creatures who should be left alone at all times? Especially so very early in the morning, when a big shot of adrenaline can do serious damage to the nerves of the one who feeds you? Please, Fred, leave the toads alone!