A dog may be man’s best friend. But one dog, Lady, decided she needed more friends — and she found plenty in the knot of toads living at the local pond. A suburban family’s secret struggle with an uncommon addiction comes to light in this personal essay by NPR’s Laura Mirsch.
Lady “was really perky, and happy, and generally excited to see you when you came in the door every day,” recalls Andrew Mirsch.
But that was before the Mirsch family moved into a new house.
“We noticed Lady spending an awful lot of time down by the pond in our backyard,” Laura Mirsch recalls.
Lady would wander the area, disoriented and withdrawn, soporific and glassy-eyed.
“Then, late one night after I’d put the dogs out, Lady wouldn’t come in,” Laura Mirsch says. “She finally staggered over to me from the cattails. She looked up at me, leaned her head over and opened her mouth like she was going to throw up, and out plopped this disgusting toad.”
It turned out the toads were toxic — and, if licked, the fluids on their skin provided a hallucinogenic effect.
What followed was the Mirsch family’s quest to stop their cocker spaniel from indulging herself. But it wasn’t easy. Lady was persistent, and resourceful.
The situation seemed to resolve itself when the toads went into hibernation for the winter.
But when they returned, so did Lady — and with a vengeance.
“We couldn’t keep our dog’s addiction a secret any longer,” Laura Mirsch says. “The neighbors all knew that Lady was a drug addict, and soon the other dogs weren’t allowed to play with her.”
In the end, Lady seems to have found a way to manage her problem.
“She seems to have outgrown the wild toad-obsessed years of her youth,” Mirsch says, “and now only sucks on weekends.”