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Friday, December 02, 2022

Meet the Gainesville woman behind the viral toad

<p><span>Toby the Toad is posed with props from Mikell's dollhouse, which was made by her aunt when Mickell was 6. This photo was published on the Instagram account "yaboi_toby_toad" July 17 with the caption "who comin ?"</span></p>

Toby the Toad is posed with props from Mikell's dollhouse, which was made by her aunt when Mickell was 6. This photo was published on the Instagram account "yaboi_toby_toad" July 17 with the caption "who comin ?"

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

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

toby the toad 3

Savannah Mikell (center) and Toby the Toad appeared on Jacksonville's WJXT Channel 4 News on July 31.

An anchor from Jacksonville’s WJXT Channel 4 News invited them to come on air after Toby’s Instagram page, “yaboi_toby_toad,” obtained more than 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 the 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.

toby the toad 2

Toby the Toad lies in bed. This photo was published on the Instagram on July 13 with the caption "he snooz."

Mikell said most of the props in the photographs are from a dollhouse her aunt made for her when she was 6. Mikell built the gardening props herself.

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.

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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. Mikell’s grandmother, Doris Mikell, taught her how to tell the sex of toads.

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. Forde is not shocked her daughter is posing a toad, however.

“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 UF dance and psychology senior, said she attended Bronson Elementary School with Mikell and has always known her as a person who loves animals and plants.

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

Editors' note: The story has been updated as of Tuesday morning to reflect the correct elementary school Parkin attended with Mikell. The Alligator reported differently. 

Toby the Toad is posed with props from Mikell's dollhouse, which was made by her aunt when Mickell was 6. This photo was published on the Instagram account "yaboi_toby_toad" July 17 with the caption "who comin ?"

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