MELISSA BLOCK, host:
When she arrived here this summer, Laura Mirsch was simply one intern among many at National Public Radio. Soon we learned that she had a story to tell, one filled with mystery, drama and redemption of sorts. It was the story of her dog and began with its adoption.
LAURA MIRSCH: My dad's only rule walking into the Humane Society was that we weren't allowed to get a Cocker Spaniel because he thought they were too high maintenance. Of course, an hour and a half later we left with an adorable Cocker Spaniel puppy. We voted on the name. My mom argued for Trouble. My brother Andrew petitioned for Romelle Von Barberosa and I won with Lady. Lady was my baby from the very beginning. First she lived up to her dizzy namesake.
Mr. ANDREW MIRSCH: She's really perky and happy and generally excited to see you when you came in the door everyday.
Mrs. MIRSCH: She was sweet and engaged to interact with the kids and family members.
Mr. MIRSCH: She was a really nice all American dog.
MIRSCH: However, all of that changed when we moved into our new house.
Ms. MIRSCH: She would just kind of wander around the pool, looking around glassy-eyed, maybe throw up and then crawl under the bushes and go to sleep. You know, her behavior can be different. A total change in personality.
MIRSCH: We noticed Lady spending an awful lot of time down by the pond in the backyard. Then late one night after I put the dog out, Lady wouldn't come back in. She finally staggered over to me from the cattails and looked up at me, leaned her head over and opened her mouth like she was going to throw up, and out plopped this salvia covered, frothy, disgusting toad. And it wasn't the last time.
Mr. MIRSCH: Well, after Lady had sucked on the toads, they would be bleached white and they would still be functional. They would hop around and they would try and get away but they would just be pale and really gross.
MIRSCH: Toad licking has been documented across the world as the Fox Television show Family Guy explains.
(Soundbite of television show, “Family Guy”):
Unidentified Man: When licked these toads trigger an intense psychedelic euphoria that's just great. Toad licking is also known as lily padding, frenching the prince and doing Kermit.
MIRSCH: At our house it was called toad sucking, and Lady started doing it all the time, no matter what we tried.
Ms. MIRSCH: She was pretty unstoppable once she knew that she needed to have it. You know, with any kind of addiction in the family like this, you try different types of intervention. We tried just putting her out in the front yard and not in the back so she couldn't get to the toads.
MIRSCH: At first she was just running into walls, tripping out, barking at random things. But it got worse. As Lady's usage increased, my brothers and I would sit wide eyed and horrified in front of the TV.
(Soundbite of commercial)
Unidentified Announcer: This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs.
MIRSCH: We wondered if Lady's brain was also sizzling away inside of her head. Our next hurdle with Lady's toad abuse was her withdraw.
Ms. MIRSCH: Winter was going to come and we were going to have a dog that wouldn't have toads.
MIRSCH: When the toads started hibernating, Lady's withdrawal pushed us all to more drastic measures.
Ms. MIRSCH: I took her out and I was standing in my pajamas at four in the morning. She wouldn't come in. So I actually helped her to try to find a toad because I realized I was never going to get back to sleep until she had her fix.
MIRSCH: Luckily she made it through the winter. We hoped that she would forget about the toads, but on the first day of spring, she was back at it even more intensely. We couldn't keep our dog's addiction a secret any longer. The neighbors all knew that Lady was a drug addict and soon the other dogs weren't allowed to play with her.
Ms. MIRSCH: Sometimes I would try to explain to people that weren't in the neighborhood and often I was met with just complete disbelief that this could not be the case, that we did not have a dog that was addicted to toad sucking.
Mr. ANDREW MIRSCH: How many people can say that their dog habitually uses drugs? Toads no less.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. MIRSCH: There were many people out there that just thought I was totally loony.
MIRSCH: After a few years, Lady learned how to use the toads, what her limits were. She didn't have any more wild trips or freak outs. Generally she just sat around contemplating the anthills in the driveway. It was especially awkward when mom had the PTA ladies over for coffee. Lady didn't move the entire time.
Ms. MIRSCH: They had no idea that she was just too stoned to notice them.
MIRSCH: She seems to have outgrown the wild toad obsessed years of her youth and now only sucks on weekends, you know, just for fun.
BLOCK: Laura Mirsch is a student at the George Washington University here in Washington. Her story was originally produced for NPR's Next Generation Radio project.