My wife and I were watching TV in the den a few Fridays ago when a thump at the front door told us we had a visitor. I could see no face through the top door pane, which meant the presence was low to the ground, and possibly of the four-legged kind.
Maybe the neighbor’s dog had gotten loose again and was rubbing his wet nose around the threshold, angling to get in. There also was the possibility of a ghost. My wife, who doesn’t overthink things the way I do, opened the door to investigate. A toad was near the welcome mat, though he seemed too small to be making that much commotion.
But as we watched our social caller, it was clear he was the source of the ruckus. While we stood in the moonlight, he lunged at the door a few more times, like a linebacker charging an opponent.
He soon tired of being a battering ram and hopped off to a dark corner of the porch stoop. I fetched a flashlight to get a closer look.
He was an American toad, distinguished — if one can ever call a toad distinguished — by his drab color, which was somewhere between Confederate gray and dirt brown. My Audubon field guide also noted the pale yellow back stripe, which looked more like an uneven stain than a sharply defined marking.
I’m not sure why a toad came knocking on my door on a Friday night. This isn’t what I’d call conventional toad behavior, but it wasn’t the first time I’d experienced unusual visits from animals. In 1992, when I was bachelor in a small apartment, a blue jay came to rest on an azalea near my window sill, fixed his gaze on the television, and sat transfixed as Ross Perot, then running for president, produced a series of charts explaining the national debt. Perot seemed to throw the bird into a hypnotic trance, although he ultimately proved less captivating with voters.
A few years ago, a box turtle hoisted himself up on two legs so he could peer through a bottom pane of our French window. He stayed there for a half-hour, watching C-SPAN on the TV a few feet away.
What accounts for an interest in public affairs among those beyond our species, I cannot say. And whether our toad friend wished to come inside and watch the “PBS Newshour” also will remain a mystery.
After we went outside to greet him, he watched us a couple of minutes, apparently trying to decide if we were going to eat him, before opting to play it safe and disappear into the shrubbery.
I’ll admit what might by now be obvious — that our encounter with the toad was probably the highlight of our Friday, if not the whole weekend.
I am thinking we should probably get out more.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.