One of the reasons my marriage to a
carnivorous Republican worked so well, at least for the first four years, was
that he traveled a lot. He unwittingly afforded me the luxury of many weekends
spent hanging out with subversives of all kinds to support their causes and quietly planning the overthrow of the
government. And of course, shuttling wildlife to and fro, and contemplating
their place in our lives and our place in theirs.
On a very quiet
night during a lull in the drama of the ducks, I was researching the Greyhound
racing industry, and seething over its treatment of dogs as well as the support
it often gets, through subsidies, to help it survive. South Florida is home to
the most racetracks and Greyhound farms and trainers in the country, and you
can’t turn on the radio or the television without encountering a commercial for
the tracks. And you can’t drive on the Interstate without seeing signs telling
you when to exit for the “Dog Track.” If you’re from a less draconian state
that doesn’t allow dog racing, the first time you see one of those signs it’s
bizarre. It just doesn’t seem real that Americans, who claim to love their dogs
so much, would use and abuse them for their own gain. It seemed odd to me that
the people here simply accept, as a fact, that dog racing is a legitimate
sport. I was deep in thought, trying to figure out how I was going to stop the
racing of dogs, when I heard a faint ribbit.
Being home alone
for the weekend made me particularly susceptible to being startled by strange
noises. My imagination conjured a frog desperate to return to his home and
family, but trapped in a surreal world of artificially-cold air, very little
dirt, ostensibly no available water, and precious few bugs to eat.
I followed his
call, but so did Emily The Hunter. The race was on; I had to find the frog,
whom I named Kermie, before my vicious feline was able to sink her claws into
him. Though she hadn’t managed to kill anyone yet, I wasn’t about to roll the
dice on whether she really did have some kind of predator instinct.
The problem with
finding Kermie was that Emily had an edge; she had some kind of sense that was
working for her other than hearing. When Kermie wasn’t making a peep, Emily was
still on the move, sniffing him out, I guess. She had quite a system, slinking
down low and moving swiftly from one plant to the next, one bookcase to the
next. Every now and then, she stopped moving, craned her neck, and sniffed in
all directions. Based on whatever data she collected, she’d alter her course
and continue her search. Her routine was so impressive that for a moment I
thought if she ever went outside she might actually
survive for ten minutes.
Just then, I was
startled by a shrill sound: the telephone. Dave was calling to say goodnight.
It was only 8:30, but anyone who knows me knows that after 8:00 pm I begin my
lightning-fast descent into incoherence, and can easily be asleep by 9:15 if
nobody stops me. When I answered the phone, I inadvertently pressed the
“speakerphone” button, and as soon as Emily heard her daddy’s voice, she
trotted over to the phone to rub her face on it. So much for the predator
instinct. When I informed Dave of what Emily and I were doing, he reminded me
that some frogs are fatally poisonous to cats. She was already terminally ill
and didn’t need any help getting closer to death. I had to find Kermie before
Emily, and relocate him for the good of all. Translation? I wasn’t allowed to
go to sleep until I knew everyone was safe.
Kermie didn’t make a sound and Emily fell asleep between my knees. Several
hours of uninterrupted slumber passed and I forgot all about Kermie, Emily, and
everything else, and was deep in a dream where I was driving to Brooklyn via
the Brooklyn Bridge, and I was in a rush but there was so much traffic that I
got out of my car to check out what was holding me up. And what was holding me
up—what was holding us all up—literally, were billions of frogs weaved
That was enough to
wake me up, and when I opened my eyes and realized I wasn’t going to Brooklyn,
I saw Kermie, five inches from my face, on my pillow. Before I could even
process his presence and figure out what to do, I heard the scrapes of Emily’s
paws on her litter box in the guest room bathroom. Lucky for Kermie, she was
otherwise occupied. Emily’s scraping scared Kermie though, and he took off, out
of the bedroom and down the stairs, with me in hot pursuit. I was convinced he
jumped into the pot of Skip, our Dieffenbachia, so I put Skip outside and
declared myself victorious.
I went back to
sleep, thinking I hadn’t a care. Emily returned to the space between my knees,
and we both fell back asleep. I couldn’t have been sleeping for more than a
couple of minutes when I inexplicably awoke to find Emily wasn’t between my
knees—or anywhere in the bedroom. I instantly developed a tension-filled knot
in my gut that meant only one thing: Kermie was still in the house and he was
in mortal danger. It was almost sunrise, and he was probably waking,
stretching, and preparing for his day, and his movements caused some kind of
rustling that alerted Emily to his hiding place.
As I skulked
around my own house, all I could picture was Emily tearing Kermie limb from
limb, then suffering a grisly death from ingesting the poison that ran through
Kermie’s froggy veins. When I reached the living room I was aghast to see
Emily, lying on her side, relaxing and licking her paws. It’s too late, I thought, she’s
already had her way with poor Kermie, and now she too is not long for this
There is a God, I thought. Now all I have to do is find Kermie and
bring him outside to live the rest of his life in peace. He started
frolicking with abandon in the dried green moss at the base of Bob, our
resident Spathophylum. Clearly, he had complete disregard for his life.
Emily leaped to
the rim of the pot, about two feet from the floor, and promptly fell back down
because she had nothing to hold on to. I caught her on the way back toward Bob,
and I confess, tossed her into the bathroom, all while keeping an eye on Bob. I
grabbed a Tupperware container, and as the first ray of sun pierced our bamboo
blinds, I captured Kermie.
Outside he went,
transported in plastic, back to his home in the wilds of suburban West Palm
Beach. I carried him toward the lake and released him under some shrubbery.
Just then, Wilbur the Muscovy duck came waddling out from the bushes, where he
had apparently spent the night very well camouflaged (he’s mostly white and I
didn’t see an inch of him). I greeted Wilbur and wished him a good day, and
began walking back to the house.
I couldn’t turn
around fast enough when I heard the shrieks of Kermie, whom Wilbur had in his
mouth. And right before my eyes, I discovered that Muscovy ducks eat frogs.