The Froggers

 My garden pond is teaming with wildlife at the moment. We have Koi Carp, Goldfish, a couple of Green Tench and a few dozen newts, frogs and toads. I also have two energetic Springer Spaniels. Both of them are accomplished frogger’s, Molly, my black and white Springer, could frog for England at the ‘frogging Olympics’ if such an entity existed.

She is so accomplished that she sometimes comes trotting into the house with three frogs at a time, her mouth gently but firmly closed over fat bodies, leaving a tangle of green legs hanging out of the sides. Usually though, it’s only one unfortunate creature that has been caught unaware s as it came out of hiding, thinking it’s safe to go about catching dinner.

Maisie, my liver and white Springer, isn’t quite as adept at catching them, though she could still be an international at the event. She likes to see them jump, so she’ll give them a whack with her paw, then chase after them and repeat the exercise until they are steered in the direction of the pond. She knows they live there; she saw them in the bottom when we dug it out a month or two back.
Once the escapee is back in its watery gaol, she’ll go in search of another, looking under shrubs, stones and bits of old log we have scattered about the place.

Occasionally she’ll pick one up and trot around the garden with it. If we spot her, a quick ‘leave’ will see her cough up the absconding prisoner. She will then guard it carefully until we, the warders, stroll up to return the inmate to its watery cell.

Molly doesn’t give up her prize anywhere near as easily. She is a hoarder, a collector, an expert on the species. It really doesn’t matter if she has a frog or a foul-tasting toad. Once they are caught, they don’t get released until they been carefully inspected, catalogued, sized and sexed. We always groan when we see her with one, as we know what a tough job we have ahead of us, trying to negotiate a ransom.

We have tried numerous techniques over the last three years. All have worked for a while, but only a while. Once she works out our release strategy, she steels herself to resist and we have to move on to plan D, E, etc. Currently we are deploying plan I.

Initially, she would drop on command, albeit reluctantly. Then she decided to be stubborn, it was her frog, she went to the trouble of catching it, why should she give it up just because someone asked her to? It just wasn’t fair, and she wasn’t going to do it. Surely there were rules about this sort of thing? The European Court had rights for humans, why not for frog catching dogs?

We moved on to plan B.

This strategy consisted of grabbing the loose skin at the back of her neck whilst saying ‘NO’ sternly and repeatedly. This worked about twice.

Plans C, D and E, were as ineffective as plan F and were quickly discarded as we didn’t always have sausages in the fridge.
For a while we stuck to plan G.

Plan G was a simple system to employ. We just herded her into her cage and waited until she dropped her captive. The prisoner would then play dead and Molly would eventually lose interest, enabling us to retrieve it and return it to the pond.

Plan H was very successful and we really thought we had, at last, cracked it. This plan emerged out of a ‘think in’ with a dog trainer, an animal behaviourist and a painter and decorator called Henry who lived just around the corner. The latter’s idea of ‘whacking her round the back of her head with a bag of soft putty’ was at first laughed off, but then placed back on the agenda as a fall-back item to be discussed in case of emergency.

Eventually we discovered that the professional dog people knew best and the tip of forcing fingers into both sides of her mouth did cause her to eject the creature. We had to be quick in picking the poor thing up before Molly realised it was still available for recapture though.
Unfortunately after a week or so, she discovered that by clamping her jaws tight shut, bracing herself and giving us a look that defiantly said, ‘do your worst, I’ll never spill the beans, or the frog’ we would eventually give up and not wanting to risk hurting it, revert back to plan G and herd her towards the cage.

As I said we are currently successfully employing plan I.

This plan was formulated one late autumn night, when we were walking the dogs on the country park.
My wife was suffering from a very heavy cold and croaked, almost frog like, that she was having difficulty breathing as her nose was completely blocked. I was about to sympathise and tell her that I too had a cold coming on, when I had that EUREKA moment.

The next time Molly caught a frog I was there in an instant. Grabbing her firmly by the collar I placed two fingers of my free hand over her nostrils and waited. Within 30 seconds she had released the frog. I had done it!! Plan I was the big one, the master plan, the winner of the best plan of the decade award. I felt like telling the world, maybe I could sell the secret and become rich.

It still works, months later. She does try to beat it, she now takes up to ninety seconds to release, her breath sounds like gravel rattling round in the bottom of an old bucket, her eyes roll and she paws the ground but she does give it up. I think even Molly knows there will be no need for a plan J.