Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Luco & Bufotoxin

The day before yesterday I was almost rid of the dog forever. He was let into the Outside, and came back foaming at the mouth. The prison guard's husband roused the prison guard from bed and she wiped the dog's tongue with a wet cloth, sweeping back and forth while the dog gagged and squirmed and tried to scramble out of her grasp.

On most days I would have been filled with joy to see the dog in this situation. On most days I would be happy to lose him permanently, whether to the Outside or to death, although perhaps I am getting older and thus more subdued, because I no longer actively wish him dead.

Until I see his face. The prison guard's father calls the dog "the blob," and I personally could not more heartily agree with that assessment. His face drives me down a loathsome spiral wherein I question the meaning of even pretending to shuffle through life, my head down, ears flexed back, a deep, quiet growl filling the air around me.

And then again my mood is changed when I think of these toads. They are Cane Toads (Bufo marinus), although down here they are referred to as "Bufo Toads" (which is really quite silly; bufo is Latin for toad, so people are basically saying toad toads). They are quite dangerous. Poisonous. They secrete a venom called Bufotoxin - a toxin so strong it can kill cats, dogs, and even humans (I suppose they must be rather small to expire from this, but one can never really be too safe).

Behold: the Cane Toad. They were brought to South Florida (and other places as well) purposefully; they were meant to kill the insects that devour sugar cane. It just reminds me of how often the good intentions of humans and other animals result in at least unexpected consequences, and sometimes even tragedy (whether or not the dog's death would have been a tragedy is a debate I am not quite prepared for, reader, so I will acknowledge that it is possible that it would be seen in such a light).

Some people lick the toads. Some dry their skins out and then smoke those skins. They do this to experience the hallucinations and disorientation brought on by the bufotoxin. I suggest instead these rather obviously desperate people spend a day with the dog; nothing has been more proven to cause hallucinations and disorientation than extended time alone with ce monstre.

I digress. Cane Toads are nocturnal. They are disgusting. They are an invasive species, but then again, are not we all?

Where is my home town? Planet? House? Maybe I am no better than the Cane Toad, slobbering noxious poison all over the Internet instead of all over the dog; perhaps it is the same thing. 

Do not ask me, I am just a crack in the sidewalk. A number on a mailbox. A leaf blown down the street. A fragment of a photograph.

Ask, instead, the dog, that generous giver of answers. That being who knows only that which is easy and instant, like the taste of salt, meat, and like the soothing feeling of being pet; he who does not grapple as I do with these questions. With the urgency of poison. Alienation. Invasive species. He who does not notice he is foaming at the mouth, who lives only and completely in the moment, wagging his tail idiotically, begging for another piece of cheese.

Ask him and he will tell you my home is here with him. In this prison. Locked forever inside. Perhaps I will inquire into whether or not he can bring me a Cane Toad.  Maybe my salvation is the delirium of bufotoxin. 

But as always this seems too easy. If I do not struggle with these questions, who will? If I do not admit to you my ambivalence about "the blob," then I am being intellectually dishonest. I will say this; if he had died, I would have felt his absence. If he had died, I would not, as I would have previously supposed, have laughed with joy.

The Cane Toad seems to me a metaphor for all our struggles; we are sometimes terrible to each other, causing violence and suffering, and other times when we are trying our best to be good, we do the same thing. How can we know the consequences of our actions? Good intentions are not enough to make the thing we do itself inherently good. Good intentions in the end, perhaps, only make us look more the naive fools. Willing to bet on an unknown. Willing to put our effort into that which we cannot comprehend.

Like the Cane Toad and all our beautiful and beneficent trust that this would finally make life better. Or like plastic, the miracle of technology which will eventually kill us all, disintegrating into smaller and smaller pieces, but never actually fully deteriorating; our bodies will fill with plastic and we will choke and gasp as the creatures in the ocean do now, and we will know then how sorry we have made ourselves over convenience.

But what do I know? I am just a tick on the dog. A toad in the yard. A hand on the clock.

A tubby cat door.


  1. Slippy cheats death yet again!

  2. I lost a dog because of this toad, it was a 4 months old boxer cub, I was so devastated.