• Carmen Marie Fabio

Froggy weather

Like most writers who are quite adept at doing just about anything to avoid writing, I'm peering over my laptop screen at the television as my eyes flitter between the keyboard and the broadcast of Testé sur des humaines, a panel show of products and services tested and vetted by the three hosts.

And on this particular program, one of the hosts agreed to undergo hypnotherapy to help deal with her debilitating and pathological fear of frogs.

Her terror was so pronounced, she immediately burst into tears just knowing there was a frog – even safely contained in a covered aquarium – in the studio, and it was painful to watch her struggle through the sessions to overcome this handicap.

It was also a reminder of how, by sheer necessity, I overcame my own fear of frogs, as the youngest in a large family and neighbourhood full of kids, it would have been social suicide to admit being afraid of the warty little buggers, prone to unpredictable hops. The frogs, I mean.

Feigning an interest in the small amphibians waved in my face in what is a scenario likely played out in any suburban or rural childhood environment left me able to differentiate between toads, bullfrogs, and 'true' frogs. It didn't matter that I was trembling on the inside. Just expressing an interest and throwing some facts and stats at the offender was enough to deflate the attempt at scaring the bejesus out of me.

It worked and like most things in life that are deemed repulsive, it was counterbalanced with an attraction factor.

The fear that gave way to an acceptance metamorphosed into a genuine respect after going on myriad frog hunting expeditions with my boys. Once captured, my sons would carefully extricate the frog from the net, identify the breed (race? type?) and proudly hold it up to be photographed before gently releasing it back into the swamp. From them, I learned to identify everything from beautiful Pickerel frogs to common garden toads, with my favourite being the stunning Leopard tree frog with the gold rimmed eyes.

Raising young kids on a budget involves creativity and many a family outing was done on the cheap. Kids aren’t too picky – they’re known for playing with empty boxes – so a trip to a swamp armed only with nets, buckets, Billy boots and bug spray didn’t cost anything and kept them happy for an afternoon, or early evenings on fruitless expeditions to find elusive spring peepers.

I guess these outings left an impression as over the years, I’ve been on the receiving end of many ranine inspired gifts including – but not limited to – porcelain cache-pots, a large concrete garden toad, and a stuffed frog that was at the foot of my bed until the giant eyes creeped me out enough to relegate it to the closet.

We’ve been inundated with news reports documenting threats to bees – credited with pollinating our food crops – and fungal infections that stand to kill thousands of bats leaving us at risk of increased mosquito populations.

Losing our little amphibious friends, 200 species of which have already reportedly been lost since 1980 due to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, will also affect us, particularly in the field of research into human medicine.

April 30 is international Save the Frogs Day dedicated to amphibian education and conservation action and what better way to educate the next generation than a trip to the swamp with a net, bucket, Billy boots, bug spray, and a camera.

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