Edmonds’ resident frog expert, Thayer “The Frog Lady” Cueter, is the keeper of “Slew,” the fabled bullfrog who stars in the annual GroundFrog Day celebration this Saturday, Jan. 30 in downtown Snohomish.
Slew’s croak on GroundFrog Day will signify the beginning of spring, but if his croak is absent, then it will be declared that spring will be deferred six more weeks.
Cueter will hold Slew, preceded by royalty Princess Amphibiana and Princess Frogalina and driven in a fire engine with his Slew-curity down First Avenue to the official ceremony at Gazebo A in downtown Snohomish.
This year’s GroundFrog Day will consist of a ceremony, games, a DJ, and crafts and face painting. Post-ceremony events include “Slew’s Pond Party” at the aquatic center and a photo opportunity at Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse.
“GroundFrog Day kicks off the season for kids; we can’t not celebrate the children,” said Darrell Charles, GroundFrog Day Event Chair.
Prior to Cueter’s involvement, GroundFrog Day organizers would bring in a bullfrog, which is deemed an invasive species in Washington state, from New York. Once the festivities had adjourned, the bullfrog was subsequently released into the Washington wilderness.
“A problem we had is that bullfrogs are completely illegal in Washington state. That’s how Thayer got involved, she’s licensed to have them,” said Pam Osborne, Manager of the Snohomish Chamber of Commerce.
Slew isn’t the only frog that the Frog Lady cares for. Cueter is the founder of Just Frogs Toads Too Amphibian Center and Foundation.
Just Frogs Toads Too Amphibian Center is home to 158 frogs, lizards, turtles and bugs and, although starting as a specialty gift shop for frog and turtle lovers, the center has progressed into an animal rescue center.
To spread her passion for amphibians, Cueter focuses on education and outreach by speaking at schools, requiring all people adopting one of her rescued animals to go through a series of six educational courses, and taking part in various community events, including GroundFrog Day.
“Children love animals and it’s hard now especially in the Edmonds [School] District because the animals are not allowed in the schools and the classrooms,” Cueter said. The most rewarding part of her job is the opportunity to engage with families.
The foundation side of Just Frogs Toads Too focuses on wildlife education and uses donations in full toward the care and shelter of homeless animals.
Cueter’s unique profession and appreciation for frogs was sparked at an early age. She was born on St. Patrick’s Day and received her first stuffed froggy friend as a symbol of good luck on her birthdate.
These gifts continued and she has received a frog collectible for every birthday, holiday, event and occasion since she was a child. Today Cueter has over 10,000 pieces of frog memorabilia and 2,000 of those pieces are on display at the amphibian center.
The Guinness Book of World Records named her collection “the largest collection of frog memorabilia.”
It wasn’t only her extensive collection of frog collectibles that prompted the formation of Just Frogs Toads Too, but her childhood upbringing in her home state of Michigan.
Cueter’s mother was an animal rescuer and she grew up raising frogs and turtles.
“I was infatuated with metamorphosis and scientific side of frogs living outdoors,” said Cueter. “Every time we found a turtle outside, my mother would make it a pet.”
This experience is what drove Cueter to enter the veterinary field.
Watching her veterinarian uncle growing up she noticed a trend in the care of amphibians and turtles.
“Frogs and turtles are what I call the forgotten few; frogs and turtles used to be euthanized,” Cueter said. “When you have a doctor that will actually take time to want to fix the turtle that got run over by a car or fix the frog that got run over by a lawnmower, that’s what I had a passion for.”
She is a licensed veterinarian technologist who specializes in herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles; however, she has worked on many animals from frogs to beluga whales.
“Our metamorphosis life cycle is we started out as a little egg; we’re now a full fledged frog but were looking to grow,” said Cueter.
Looking forward, Just Frogs Toads Too is looking to expand into a full-size museum, hosting rooms of live animals, books and educational materials, and space to display all 10,000 pieces of her frog memorabilia collection.
–Story and photos by Anna DiBlosi