GROSS!

Here's a little pile of dog toys. Most puppies love toys and ours are no exception. This past week, they added a new toy to their collection.

It all started with a stiffened tail we found on the porch one morning a few weeks ago. How sad we were to realize it belonged to a monkey:( Normally, monkeys stay up in the trees. Occasionally they'll dash across a patch of ground to get to some fruit in an isolated tree but you never see them hanging out on the ground. We hoped the rest of the monkey that belonged with the tail had been sick or injured and that's how the dogs got ahold of it, or that it was already dead when they found it.

A few days later, all the dogs had an air of monkey guts about them. They'd been engaging in their delightful practice of rolling around in dead animals. When the dogs showed up with the headless carcass, Bill flung it into the middle of a pile of brush over the embankment at the end of the driveway. When the dogs promptly retrieved the remains of the monkey to resume their game of rolling-in-stinky-guts, Bill had to triple bag the carcass and bring it to the beach, where he threw it in a trashcan.

The following week it was the carcass of an anteater providing the canine entertainment. You'd think that with thousands of wild acres surrounding our house we could find a spot to dispose of body parts, but together, five doggy noses (my three, Emily's two) can find anything anywhere. So Bill bagged the anteater body and drove it far away to dispose of it.

Last week we had a fresh monkey arm on the porch. The tiny human-looking hand made bagging up the appendage doubly repugnant. Soon after we found the arm, Tootsie came walking through the yard with a pelvis and one leg tangled up in a long strip of fur resembling a shawl. Bagging that, we hoped we'd seen the end of monkey parts, but Tootsie had taken a liking to chewing on the monkey's lower jaw, which we found among the other puppy toys always lying in the grass. (See photo.) (If you want to.)

By now, we're pretty used to gross stuff going on on our porch.

For example, this enormous toad did a pretty decent job of filling up a dog bowl 9" in diameter. At the end of the dry season all the critters are looking for water. Toads find it mighty handy that I leave two big bowls of water on the porch for the dogs. It wouldn't be so bad if they would just take a dip and leave, but most often we find the dogs' water black with poop in the morning. To remedy this situation, we decided to elevate the bowls so the toads couldn't just step right in. Confident our plan would work, Bill made some water bowl stands by spraying some old gallon paint cans black. We could hear the toads laughing when they showed us what they thought of our feeble attempt to thwart thirsty toads.

In an effort to discourage it from returning, whenever I dump a toad out of a water bowl, I let the puppies have a little fun with it before it hops off into the night. The dogs have no taste for toads. They just like to play with them and then let them go. If, however, they do succeed in discouraging one toad from returning, there are plenty more to take its place in the water bowl.

While we're on the subject of gross, one day I saw this little creature writhing around on my floor. I couldn't figure out what it was. It had no eyes or head. I shuddered when the word alien crossed my mind. There was no other explanation for the spazzy thing - until I found out that geckos drop their tails when threatened. With two cats and three dogs as housemates, the numerous geckos we live with have many opportunities to feel threatened. Tailless geckos in our house have no reason to feel embarrassed because so many of their friends lack tails as well. Eventually their tails grow back, although they don't match the rest of the gecko as well as the original ones did. I'm still deciding if the number of bugs they consume makes up for the quantities of gecko poop all over our house. At least the poop doesn't bite.

Gross is so relative. I used to think all toads, along with most other amphibians, were gross. Now, as long as they're minding their manners in regard to toilet habits, I just consider them essential components of our jungle home menagerie.

This is what Bill found recently when he moved the dryer away from the wall. I was so touched! The house toads had heeded my plea to mind their manners and agreed to poop in the same discreet spot, making it so much easier to clean up.

So is this gross? Well, if you look at it from a civilized, spotless house up north where, along with family pets, ants and little spiders are about the only critters in residence, yeah, a dustpan full of toad poop is really icky. Here, compared to little piles of toad poop and pee scattered all over the place, we look on it as thoughtful and considerate.

Merriam-Webster's simple definition of gross is: 1. very obvious or noticeable, 2. rude or offensive, 3. very disgusting. To me, all three of these definitions add up to a description of Donald Trump. Imagine if we pulled the dryer away from the wall and, instead of toad poop, we found Donald Trump! Gross!