With the intense heat of Missouri summers, we’ve resorted to taking walks in early morning or at night. There’s a great paved trail here at Fort Leonard Wood that the troops will occasionally use and is open to the rest of post, so we try to hit this trail whenever possible. The trail meanders up and down the hills of Missouri and takes us on a scenic route past shooting ranges with plastic, green army dummies used for target practice, empty shed-like buildings where raids are taught and locked gates to dusty roads that run to some secret deep in the woods. There’s nothing uninteresting about living on an Army post.
That night Dusty joined Ethel and I as we began walking on the trail, beginning with Ethel leading me and ending with allowing her to roam a little as we walked back. She loves the trail and loves bounding in between the trees beside us to smell something interesting or eat a clump of grass or two. There had been a lot of rain and that night frogs were cautiously creeping up on the dry pavement. Ethel was ecstatic. She bounced from one frog to the next and followed them with her ears flopped forward and nose to the ground as they hopped away for dear life. She’d lose them in the grass when they figured out to stay still but then she’d see another one on the pavement and begin to terrorize the other instead. Frogs release urine as a defense and suffice to say, every frog jumping left behind a wet mark on the pavement. Then there was the Toad. The biggest, ugliest frog I’d ever seen sat on the trail ahead of us and stared at our oncoming party.
“Craaawwwk” the Toad loudly threatened as we approached. Ethel looked up at me, panting from excitement and from the exertion of chasing much, much smaller amphibians. “I don’t know if she should chase that guy,” Dusty warned but Ethel was already gone, springing forward to reach the still immobile frog. She stood over the beast, her ears hanging down over her face as she looked down on his lumpy back. She bent closer to sniff him and in one horrible, awful moment, opened her mouth and lifted him up.
“NOO! ETHEL, NO!” I yelled, absolutely horrified that my perfect princess lady had just eaten a disgusting, slimy monster. Hearing me yell in terror, she jumped back and immediately dropped the still-alive Toad from her mouth. The Toad gave another croak and then hopped off into the grass as Dusty ran forward to grab Ethel, who was already trying to get back to me. But when I got to her, she was shaking her head back and forth as if to get the taste of the frog out of her mouth. The sides of her jowls started to drip a white foam and when she shook her head, she sprayed handfuls of foam all over us. “Ethel! Ethel, what’s wrong?!” I cried and Dusty went after the Toad to get a better look at what it was. “Maybe call Meg or Kati?” Dusty called back to me. “I’ll call the vet first, see if I can get anyone,” I answered, trying to stay calm. Dusty ran for the car and Ethel and I made our way after him, foam still flying from her mouth. Loaded up in the backseat with her, I finally reached someone at the 24-hour vet located off post.
“Hello, what’s your emergency?” a bored teenager answered. “Hello, I th-think my Great Dane ate a poison frog. Or tried. Eat the poison frog. But it was in her mouth! And now she won’t stop shaking her head and there’s so much foam coming out of her mouth!” I babbled panicked to him. “Hold, please” he said, sounding not in the least bit empathetic or even interested in this dilemma.
The most obnoxious hold music began but thankfully only played for a second until a voice came on the line. “Hello? Are you the one with the Great Dane?” A female voice asked, sounding more caring than her teenage coworker. “Yes! She tried to eat a poison frog! She can’t stop spitting foam!” “Was this a pet frog or a frog from outside?” “Outside. In the woods. It was a wood frog! A huge, poison wood frog!”
The woman on the other end chuckled and answered in her Missouri drawl. “Hun, there’s no type of poison frog in Missouri. These frogs just taste bad, real bitter, to the dog. They just can’t stand the taste and their spit starts to foam. Great Dane’s a real big dog and they have big mouths, so that’s a lotta foam. Ain’t nothin’ to worry bout.” “They just taste bad? That’s it?” I asked in disbelief. I was sure Ethel was dying. “That’s it, hunny. Dontcha worry. Just give her some treats or let her drink some water and that’ll get the taste right outta her mouth.”
So we made it home, got Ethel to drink some water and gave her plenty of some homemade peanut butter ice cube treats. There have been plenty of times that I’ve felt like an idiot and the night Ethel ate a poison frog is no exception.
Needless to say, when there’s a frog on the path now Ethel switches sides to steer clear.