Last weekend, I witnessed another gruesome attack. Fortunately, I was not the victim this time, but it was still incredibly traumatizing:
On the tail end of a highly successful dog-sitting season, I accepted one final job to start saving for the upcoming opening of Tin Roof Louisville. It was a brief dog-sitting stint — just a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night– but I felt it would give me plenty of pocket change for the indefinite number of cheese quesadillas and Bud Heavy pitchers that would soon plague my bank account.
I arrived at the house around 6:00 last Friday evening ready to romp with the pups. As I put the key in the back door, I heard a rustling in the bushes behind me. I turned around to see a large frog jump out at me from underneath a nearby rock. At first I was startled, but the frog had assumed a fairly non-aggressive stance and so I gave him a slight nod of hello. We made eye contact with each other for a few more seconds, as I thought to myself, “this is awesome.” Surprisingly enough, we’ve never had frogs as pets, so I was eager to spend some quality, one-on-one time with this foreign critter.
Anxious to catch him before he hopped away, I ran in the house, grabbed the dogs and sprinted back outside like an 8-year-old boy scout embarking on a creek walk.
I lead the dogs around the perimeter of the frog as not to disturb him. Once I was certain we were alone, I bent down to offer him a finger of salutation.
I screamed. Sometime between my then and my arrival, a snake had decided my frog would make a much better snack than friend. The snake had the frog’s entire leg in its mouth and was dragging him towards a hole.
For a few seconds, I stood in shock. I’d never seen anything like this before. In fact, I’d never even seen a wild snake before. I didn’t think we had snakes in Louisville. Sure, I’d heard of Garden snakes, but where was the nearby garden? My deductive reasoning lead me to believe that this snake was bad news, probably an escapee or fugitive of some sort, so I scooped up a handful of rocks and began throwing them at the snake’s head.
“STOP IT! STOP IT!!”
It took me less than 10 seconds to launch into a full-on “PROTECT THIS HOUSE” battle with the snake (an instinct of mine that’s served me well in my lengthy dog-sitting career). I threw the rocks as hard as I could, but because I am like an 8-year-old boy scout in more ways than one, my impossibly soft-hitting rocks did not cause the snake much damage.
“Drop him! I said DROP HIM!” I leaped onto a nearby picnic table to initiate an aerial attack. From my lofty perch, I roared and threw any and all nearby objects as hard as my body would allow. I’m almost certain that any neighbors within earshot have reported back to the homeowners that I’d been abusing their dogs.
The snake was completely unbothered by my attempted attack and continued to swallow the frog inch by inch. At that point, I decided I’d better bring in some back-up. I called my mom — the science teacher — who at the time, I figured was as close to a snake handling expert as I’d ever find.
“Mom! I’m here and there’s a SNAKE eating a FROG. I don’t know what to do. Oh my god this is awful. I’ve been throwing rocks at the snake but it won’t let go!”
My mom hates these types of phone calls from me — she gets them more often than you’d think. About once or twice per month, she’ll answer the phone and I’ll immediately launch into a shrieking and crying episode, the subject of which is completely indiscernible. 9 times out of 10, she’ll assume I’ve been in a car accident, but it’s usually something more along the lines of accidentally taking the wrong highway or thinking about germs in a paper-cut.
“JOANNA! Go back inside. I mean it. Stop it. There’s nothing you can do. He’s gone, Jo. The frog is gone.”
“No he’s not! He’s not gone. He’s still alive, he’s looking at me!”
The snake — with the frog’s leg still in his mouth — was pulling the frog backwards into his cave of doom. The frog was clinging to rocks and branches, but he couldn’t grab hold of anything substantial. The whole time, the frog was staring me right in the eyes.
I then realized that I was literally the last thing this frog would ever see. One more glance at me, and he was off to the promise land. My sweaty, roaring face and bulging forehead vein would be the last thing to ever to grace his eyes. I did not feel comfortable with this responsibility, nor with the thought of leaving him with such an unflattering image of me at my worst angle. I hopped down from the picnic table and took a moment to review my appearance. For the frog’s sake, it wasn’t looking good. In a rush to leave the house, I’d thrown on my rattiest pair yoga pants (which, at least were black) and a dirty, homemade tie-dye t-shirt. I put the “rat” in Gym Rat, even though I hadn’t set foot within 5 miles of a gym.
I tried to calm myself down and adopted a more solemn, gentle expression. Out of respect, I brushed the cat hair off my yoga pants and flattened out my wrinkled tee. I rubbed my cheeks to even out my blotchy complexion, but it was pointless — in my unsuccessful attempt at spear-throwing, I’d already sweat off 2 of my 4 layers of bronzer.
“Mom, this is awful.”
“Joanna, I’m serious, stop looking at it. This is what snakes do. They need to eat too, you know? The frog is gone. It’s over. Stop looking at it.”
We argued for a few more minutes after I told her that this is not what snakes do because we only have vegetarian Garden snakes in the East End.
Frustrated with my logic and nervous at the all-to-possible idea of a self-sacrificing rescue stunt, my mom said, “It’s over. It’ll be quick. Go. Back. Inside.”
Resigned, I bid adieu to my poor frog. To my mom’s point, it looked like this was going to be anything but quick, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue. I thought about his wife, his kids, and I hoped they weren’t nearby to witness any of this. I said a little prayer for him and walked back inside.
I then called the homeowner to tell her that I’d arrived, and to briefly touch on the fact that she had a homicidal reptile living in her backyard.
“Hey, I’m here.”
“At the house. With the dogs.”
“You weren’t supposed to come until tomorrow. You start Saturday, not Friday. We’re still here. I just left to run a few errands.”
“Christ. Well just so you know, there’s a snake eating a frog in your backyard.”
And it is with this story that I announce my semi-retirement from pet-sitting. While I do plan to take on the occasional job here and there, I’ve decided to put an end to traumatizing events such as this and spend more time with Buster in his twilight years of life.