Fort Worth

Long, strange journey of Toki the Goodwill snake has a happy ending

Toki, the albino red-tailed boa constrictor — not python — that was found Thursday in a Goodwill donations sorting facility is once again curling himself around the arms of owner Austin Pair, 22, of Keller.

The snake’s journey had more twists and turns than Toki himself.

“I’m getting my baby back,” Pair said when Goodwill assistant manager James Murphy, an experienced snake owner himself, brought Toki to his owner in a tub in a Saturday morning reunion ceremony at the Goodwill facility where he was found.

Pair said he and his family went on vacation to Hawaii in late May. He left Toki well-fed and in an aquarium.

“I had to kind of makeshift a lid for it,” Pair said. “He’d gotten out before, so I’d taped it, reinforced it, put weights on it — but he pushed the light fixture over and disappeared.”

Pair and his four Saginaw roommates tore the 4,000 square-foot house they shared apart, to no avail. At one point they found evidence of an altercation between Toki and a roommate’s pet cat, but no Toki, and as the months went by, Pair figured Toki had slithered out of the house and into the wild.

Pair said he was “very disappointed, devastated” to lose his first-ever pet snake, who he got while still in high school and said would slither up to his head on Pair’s toes and watch Dallas Stars games with him on TV. He got the first of now four ball pythons that he owns a few months later, but said, “You can’t replace (Toki). I was sad to lose my first baby.

“He’s an albino, which is the coolest thing. I’ve always had a fascination with random animals like sharks and snakes, things most people are afraid of,” he said.

Then Pair, who manages a Starbucks but is trying to become a snake breeder, decided to downsize and move back in with his parents in Keller.

He donated two couches and some clothes to Goodwill in the move, and this is where Toki’s story not only becomes murky, but somewhat miraculous.

Pair theorizes that Toki must have been living in the sofa, which he took to a Saginaw donation center recently.

He and Murphy think the cold in the storage room in Saginaw must have prompted Toki to slither out of the couch and into some donated clothing, for warmth.

Then, someone working in the Saginaw center unwittingly loaded Toki onto a Goodwill truck bound for the sorting center at 4005 Campus Drive in Fort Worth, a winding journey of nearly 17 miles, where he was found by donations processor Tassy Rodgers while sorting clothing.

Owner Austin Pair is reunited with Toki, the red-tailed boa that was found in a bin of clothing at a Goodwill center in Fort Worth recently. Stephen English

Toki picked the right piece of furniture to camp out in, because Pair sold another couch and tossed out a recliner. And he picked the right shift to be discovered, since snake-smart Murphy was working when Toki was discovered and knew just what to do.

A friend called Pair and said, “Hey, did you donate to Goodwill recently?” and Pair was alerted to recent news coverage of Toki’s discovery. He frantically called different Goodwill centers, afraid that someone would claim to be the owner first.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my God, they’ve found him!’ I was floored, I couldn’t believe it,” Pair said. “Super ecstatic.”

Pair said Toki, a three-footer, probably survived so long because bigger snakes can easily thrive on just a meal every few weeks and can survive for months without food.

Toki will be coming home to a much more secure snake habitat, Pair said.

Pair acknowledges that Toki might have tried to escape because he missed his owner.

“It is possible. We have that good connection. I hung out with him every day, watching TV, playing games, so I imagine he was pretty lonely for a week,” Pair said.

At the end of his winding journey, Toki wound himself around Pair, sometimes staring into his eyes and accepting kisses.

“I wish I could speak Parseltongue,” the snake language in J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter novels, Pair said. “I bet he could tell us a lot.”

Stephen English: 817-390-7330, @sbenglish74
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