STEVE BOUSER: Why Did the Toad Cross Into the Garage?
As I entered our darkened garage one recent evening, a small, ghostly shape detached itself from the clutter at my feet and silently hopped away.
After putting down the chain saw, pruning lopper and other brush-clearing equipment I was carrying, I turned on the light and confirmed my suspicions about the identity of this minuscule trespasser that had found its way inside when I left the door open: It was an immature, olive-brown toad.
Feeling exposed in the uncomfortable glare, the reclusive little amphibian moved farther away with measured plops, secreting itself among the garden implements leaning against a side wall. Every effort of mine to catch it or shoo it back out the door only caused it to grow more alarmed and wedge itself in tighter among the rakes and shovels.
My anxiety about getting the intruder back out the door sprang not from any squeamishness on my part but rather from concern about the welfare of the toad itself. Trapped inside that bone-dry interior once I had closed the door, surely it couldn't survive for long.
There was a half-full bowl of dog water elsewhere in the interior, but surely young Mr. Toad couldn't have been depended on to find it, much less climb inside for a refreshing drink or hydrating dip.
After expending considerable time on my hands and knees, carefully moving items around, I finally succeeded in cornering the elusive critter behind a shovel. Scooping its warty little body up, I carried it outside and gently deposited it amid the mulch and leaves under an azalea bush. Then I quickly closed the door and dusted off my hands, pleased with myself for having done my good turn for the day.
Not so quick. At dusk the next evening, after another stint of working in the yard, I approached the garage door, this time having left it securely closed just to be on the safe side. But no sooner had I pulled it upward than I again caught a glimpse of a small shadow hopping past me and into the garage without so much as a by-your-leave.
It was a toad -- the same toad, I was sure, because it made a bouncy, determined beeline for the same familiar bunch of tools. It had apparently been waiting patiently there in the leaves beside the door, poised to make a mad dash back inside when the chance presented itself. I don't know why the nervy little thing was so hell-bent on occupying my garage.
Again I managed, with some effort, to chase down, corner and grab the lilliputian home invader. But this time I set out on foot, walking fully two blocks up Weymouth Road, feeling the toad struggle protestingly inside my fist the whole way. Finding a suitably secluded spot under a holly tree, I set it free and bid it adieu, giving it a little poke in the bottom to set it on its way. And again I dusted off my hands as I headed back home.
No more than two evenings later, I once again entered the garage -- having left the door open for a time, under the mistaken impression that the coast was clear. And sure enough, there was you-know-who, looking proud of himself -- if perhaps a bit weary from his long trek. At my approach, he once again headed for the same old hiding place.
At that point, I'd had it. "OK, little buddy," I said out loud. "Have it your way. If you die of thirst, you die of thirst. Don't blame me." Whereupon I pulled the big door closed, turned off the light and retired to the house.
For a week or so, I was too busy to work in the yard and had no occasion to enter the garage. Then one morning, after putting the trash out, my wife came and got me. "You've got to see this," she said, dragging me back out to the garage by the arm and pointing at the floor.
And there sat Mr. Toad, looking fat and soggy -- right in the middle of the dog water bowl! You'd have thought it was his own private jacuzzi.
He and I took a three-mile car trip after that, during which he indignantly employed his toad defense mechanism of peeing on me before I unceremoniously put him out.
If he finds his way back this time, I'll put a little shirt and pants on him and make him a member of the family.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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