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Croaking into viral fame

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Porch visitor puts Williston woman in the spotlight

By Yanet Centeno

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Special to the Pioneer

If Toby could meet any celebrity, it would be Kermit the Frog. Amphibian representation matters, you know.

Toby the Toad and Savannah Mikell, the Williston native who found him on her porch, haven’t met Kermit yet, but they did make their debut on live television on July 31.

An anchor from Jacksonville’s WJXT Channel 4 news channel invited them to come on air after Toby’s Instagram page, “yaboi_toby_toad,” racked over 13,000 followers within two weeks.

“I was so excited when the news anchor texted me that I cried,” Mikell said.

Mikell, a 23-year-old psychology junior at Saint Leo University, said their popularity started with a comical picture she took of Toby on a miniature couch in her dollhouse.

“He hangs out on my porch all the time, and I thought it’d be funny to take a picture of him sitting on the couch,” she said. “It got so many likes and shares [on Facebook] that I kept it going.”

Three weeks after starting Toby’s Instagram account, Mikell has uploaded 32 pictures of Toby with various props barbecuing, playing the guitar and even driving a toy car.

Mikell said all the props in the photographs are from a dollhouse her aunt made for her when she was 6. Mikell built the gardening prop herself, however.

Toby, a Fowler’s toad, lives alongside other toads on Mikell’s porch and tends to hide behind a framed painting Mikell made that says, “Ode an die Freude.” He enjoys eating little bugs, Mikell said.

“His favorite meal is a tasty moth,” she said.

Although people have accused her of torturing Toby and forcing him to live in the dollhouse, Mikell said Toby comes and goes as he pleases.

Sometimes Mikell won’t see him for two or three days, but he usually makes an appearance on rainy days. Mikell said she spots him right away when Toby’s back.

Mikell said she can distinguish Toby because he is vibrantly colored and smaller than the rest of the toads lounging on her porch.

Growing up, Mikell’s grandmother, Doris Mikell, taught her how to tell the sex of toads and her father, Chuck Mikell, would always bring her baby animals.

There are no plans for Toby the Toad besides continuing to run his social media account, Mikell said.

“If the hype died down tomorrow, I’d be satisfied knowing Toby has made thousands and thousands of people smile,” she said.

Mikell’s mother, Gerie Griffin Forde, said she’s amazed how well-behaved and indulgent Toby is when her daughter puts him in the poses for photos. She is thrilled but not shocked that her daughter is posing a toad.

“Savannah has always loved kitties, horses, dogs, butterflies, lizards and all kinds of interesting bugs,” she said.

Forde does not help her daughter with the props, but she said she is constantly on the lookout for new ideas for Toby’s photos.

Shannah Parkin, a 23-year-old senior from the University of Florida and Williston resident, said she attended Bronson Elementary School with Mikell and has always known Mikell as a person who loves animals and plants.

“I really enjoy Toby the Toad because you can really relate to him,” she said. “Just the fact that he is living life with us is comical and humbling.”