Or, Kermit Sang the Truth, Y’all
I know normally this is a dog blog, but today it is a frog blog because I want to tell the story of a very special frog I had a connection with this summer. I also thought I’d share how I, and all people with MCS (and all living beings for that matter), have an important connection to frogs.
But first, the story.
We have had quite a number of frogs in the gravel around the house this summer. Most of them were leopard frogs — either Northern Leopard Frogs or Pickerel Frogs — but this is the story of one special frog who was not a leopard frog.
All around my house is gravel. I am severely allergic to mold, which is why I live in a house with no basement and gravel around it and lots of sun and air. The gravel supports good water drainage and prevents vegetation from growing near the house, which otherwise can be a source of wood-boring insects, mold, and other Things We Don’t Like. For some reason, frogs and toads really seem to like the gravel next to the house.
Every evening, when I’d take Barnum out, a slew of leopard frogs would leap under the ramp toward the house to escape our scary, big, noisy mammalian selves. When the weather got wet for a brief period, I asked people who walked Barnum to rinse off his feet in a basin before bringing him in so he wouldn’t get my bed all muddy or sandy. One day, the basin was left outside next to the ramp and then we had a series of thunderstorms. The basin filled up with water.
The day after the rains had ended, there was a frog in the basin. It was a little frog with a green head and a brown body. It was just hanging out, its head out of the water, and its body in the water, chillin’….
I thought it was fine, but one of my PCAs who cares about all living creatures, even wasps and yellow jackets and ants, was concerned that maybe the frog was trapped and couldn’t get out. So I put my hand under its legs and it leaped away, totally fine.
From then on we saw the frog in the basin every day. Usually it would hang out near the side, face out, body in. Occasionally, it would sit on the edge of the basin.
One morning, a large rock had appeared in the middle of the basin. I knew right away that my tender-hearted PCA had provided the rock for the frog so that it would have a place to rest safely in the water.
The frog LOVED that rock. The frog spent all its time on the rock, which it blended in with so well that if you didn’t KNOW there was a frog living there, you would just walk on by. If you looked, you could see the eyes sticking out where the frog was pretending to be a brown rock.
Everyone was very fond of the frog. We always looked for it when we went in or out of the house and reported on what it was doing. It was never around at night. It spent its nights elsewhere, perhaps at a frog nightclub, drinking grasshoppers. And it spent its day in the basin/homemade pond on its rock. My tender-hearted PCA was concerned that the frog might be lonely or hungry because she never saw it socializing with other frogs or hunting anything. We kind of made fun of her a little bit about this. (My PCA, I mean, not the frog. We would never tease the frog; that would be cruel.)
I looked up the frog in my Audubon Field Guide. It looked like a Northern Green Frog, but was much smaller than the measurement given. I looked them up online and found out that their size can vary quite a bit. This frog was about one-and-a-half inches long. I decided it was likely either a juvenile frog or just a petite, svelte frog.
I also learned that male Northern Green Frogs have yellow throats, whereas the females’ throats are light tan. I tried to get a look at our frog’s throat, but it was difficult to tell because the frog was generally partly submerged (and on the rock) and the basin is a sort of yellowish-tan; I couldn’t tell if it was reflecting on its throat. But eventually I decided it seemed like it had a yellow throat. For quite some time we agreed the frog should have a name, but I didn’t want to name it until I knew its sex. (I know; I’m terribly old-fashioned, hung up on these binary gender distinctions in amphibians.)
So, since it was a Green Frog, I wanted a name that started with “G,” and when I decided it was a boy frog, I chose the name Gordon Webfoot. I got some pictures of Gordon to post on my blog. We sometimes added water if it seemed like the basin was getting low, and when it got really gross, with lots of dead bugs and algae and leaves, we’d clean it out and put in fresh water. Everyone was happy.
One day, I managed to get a really close look at Gordon and realized that his throat was tan, not yellow, which meant Gordon was a female frog. (She had a bright yellow stripe along her jaw line on each side, and that had thrown me off.) So I changed her name to Gordana (pronounced as “Jordana”) Webfoot.
She was a confident, mellow frog. I could go rolling by in my big, noisy powerchair on the metal ramp, right next to her basin, and she didn’t move a muscle. I could take close-up photos of her, and she didn’t care. I introduced her to my parents. My mom thought she was cute. My dad said she was too small to be a real frog, but size isn’t everything. She had heart. Barnum mostly ignored her, except one time when he got up really close to sniff her; she jumped off her rock and landed under the ramp. But later she was back again. Gordana was a very cool frog.
The weeks went by. My PCA became concerned about fall coming. What would happen to Gordana? She suggested I look into a terrarium. I said absolutely not. She was a wild frog — born free and living free — and I would not subject her to a life of captivity. I had visions of Gordana returning each summer to her basin.
Then one morning, my PCA — Gordana’s fairy godmother — said that Gordana was not in her basin. She also said that a garter snake had been seen leaving the area. “But snakes don’t eat frogs, do they?” She said.
I said that yes, frogs are a favorite of snakes. (I know what garter snakes eat because I used to have one as a pet. Her name was Falstaff. That’s a story for another time.)
She said, “But it was a really small snake. I don’t think it could eat an entire frog.”
I said that snakes’ jaws can open really wide, and it would be no problem at all to swallow a small frog like Gordana. But I really hoped she was wrong. I hoped Gordana would come back. I went out to look for her from time to time.
For three days, we all looked for our froggy friend. We never saw her again. We were all sad. On the fourth day, we washed and emptied the basin and brought it inside. We miss Gordana Webfoot.
The end. . . ?
No! Wait! There’s more!
Don’t let Gordana Webfoot have died in vain! Were you deeply moved by the bond between a 40-something woman and her frog? Or even mildly amused? Would you like to give back to the frog community? Or would you like to, you know, not have the planet die? Then you want to know about Save the Frogs! — America’s* First and Only Public Charity Dedicated to Amphibian Preservation!
Save the Frogs! is an awesome organization. They have a really fun, colorful, engaging website. They save amphibian habitat through education, awareness-raising, and direct action, like pressuring public officials not to destroy the habitat of endangered amphibians in their areas. They organize and advocate against pesticides and other chemicals that harm frogs. They sponsor fun events like Save the Frog Day, the Frog Art Contest and Show, Drumming for the Frogs, eco-tourism to help frogs in other parts of the world, information on how to build your own frog pond, and the annual Frog Poetry Contest. The have the frogblog and provide Cool Frog Facts. They are all about the frogs, dude!
What do frogs have to do with people with MCS? Or people at all, for that matter?
I’m so glad you asked! People with MCS are often referred to as “the canaries in the coal mine.” Many MCSers call themselves “Canaries.” Canaries were brought down into coal mines because they were more sensitive to poisonous fumes than people. If the canary suddenly keeled over, the miners knew that the air was full of dangerous fumes and got the heck out. People with MCS react to poisons most people aren’t aware of; we are the warning bell of what is harming us all.
But frogs are the REAL canaries. Biologists call them “bioindicators.” From the Save the Frogs! website:
Most frogs require suitable habitat in both the terrestrial and aquatic environments, and have permeable skin that can easily absorb toxic chemicals. These traits make frogs especially susceptible to environmental disturbances, and thus frogs are considered accurate indicators of environmental stress: the health of frogs is thought to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole. Frogs have survived in more or less their current form for 250 million years, having survived countless ice ages, asteroid crashes, and other environmental disturbances, yet now one-third of amphibian species are on the verge of extinction. This should serve as an alarm call to humans that something is drastically wrong in the environment.
That’s right, according to Dr. Kerry Kriger, founder of Save the Frogs!, “Amphibians are without a doubt the most endangered group of animals on the planet. There are six major factors negatively affecting amphibians, and all are due to human activity.” (Wonder what they are? Find out here.)
Yes, Gordana Webfoot is gone. But it is never too late to be inspired by her memory. Please check out Save the Frogs! And if you’re so inclined, make a donation in any amount to Save the Frogs! in Gordana’s memory.
– Sharon, the muses of Gadget and Gordana, and Barnum, service
*Although Save the Frogs works on frog preservation all over the world!