If you are familiar with African Dwarf Frogs, you will agree that they hardly illicit feelings of deep affection and warmth. They aren't attractive by any stretch of the imagination—angular, sullen, tiny specks for eyes. Not even a whisper of a turned up mouth that could be taken for a semblance of a smile. No redeeming Kermit-like Cuteness—they aren't even green.
I'd read about the small, weird creatures when we first adopted a pair. Five years seemed to be the maximum life span and they were fairly low maintenance. One of the frogs didn't make that age milestone before he (She? Who knows?) succumbed to some unpleasant looking whitish vileness that took over its skin.
I'd been on Frog Death Watch for about a week before a business trip as "AJ" the remaining frog seemed to be uncharacteristically hanging around the fish tank surface. He wasn't fending off the gold fish that raced him to his Frog Food as he usually managed to do. In fact, one of the goldfish had ballooned up quite a bit and forced me to come of up a strategic feeding plan that distracted the goldfish so the frog could gobble up a few morsels.
I felt the end was near.
I didn't want our son to discover the pending lifeless body of his pet, so it was I that did the early morning checks on the tank and kept up with the feeding games.
My efforts to soften the blow were for naught as the frog was quite inconsiderate in choosing to croak (sorry, couldn't pass that one up) while I was away. The devastation on the other end of the phone as I was informed of the beloved amphibian's demise was much greater than I'd anticipated. I couldn't help but wonder that if my son’s grief was exponential and he was this broken up by the frog's exit, how were we going to deal with the passing of our now 18-year-old cat, Fuego? The Old Man feline routinely climbs the ladder to Jack's loft bed to purr him awake each morning. Furry and good-natured, inclined to join us for breakfast for a taste of cream cheese or small dish of milk, Fuego has been part of our family and the kids' lives since they were born.
I put those thoughts aside as I had to focus on returning home to bury AJ the
frog, ensconced in his Tupperware Tomb—"on ice" in the fridge, as my husband, in attempted sadness, reported. Apparently, I had to be part of the funeral services.
As with all of my children's pets, they are really TINO—Theirs In Name Only.
The 3 cats wait for ME to arise and get their day started. The fish, I'm certain, squirm a bit faster as they see my blurry figure walk by the tank. Sporadic talk of acquiring a dog often includes what breed would be best. I'm holding out for the Walk Itself, Feed Itself, Poop in a Bag and Toss It In the Trashcan Breed. It made sense that I should be part of the frog's last rites.
Laid to rest in the back yard beneath a disproportionately gigantic slab of stepping stone slate, our son seemed to be okay with the ceremony happenings. A scrawled R.I.P. he'd scratched into the stone was his addition to the marker.
I watched for further signs of despondency, but he really seemed to be alright. In fact it wasn't too many days later that Jack came home bursting with Big News: "Mom, Adam has a lizard and its turning colors! He thinks it’s going to have babies! Can I have one!?"