Snake breeder Brian Gundy was showing his snake collection to a new family that moved into the neighborhood in March 2004, when he realized that his Sinaloan milksnake snake was halfway down the throat of his California kingsnake. After slowly removing the 10 to 12 inches of the snake from the kingsnake's throat, Gundy says it showed no sign of life. This is when his nine years of experience working as an animal health technician at Campbell's Central Animal Hospital kicked in, as he began giving CPR to the snake. After a tense10 minutes the snake was revived. Gundy, being a Christian, aptly named the snake Lazarus.
Welcome to Brian Gundy's world. For the owner of For Goodness Snakes, caring for the serpents is all in a day's work. After growing up with snakes, raccoons, hawks and squirrels as childhood pets, it's no wonder that Gundy is in the snake business. The Campbell resident caught his first snake at age 5 and by the age of 12 bought his first boa constrictor.
Eventually his snake collection became too large, and he began selling off the reptiles. His decision to reduce his collection turned into a profitable business, and he became a snake breeder. In 1995 Gundy and his ex-partner Mike Austin teamed up to create For Goodness Snakes. Austin developed a sensitivity and had an allergic reaction to the rodents being fed to the snakes. This forced Austin to leave the business eight years ago. The two, however, remain close friends. Gundy continued to operate the business, which marks its 15th year.
Gundy, who works as a production-control coordinator for a Fremont company by day, says he's not focused on the financial aspect, but enjoys the interaction with customers and other breeders. "I love sharing my passion and developing the human relationships that are involved in the business," Gundy says. All of Gundy's snakes, which are ball pythons and boa constrictors, are kept in the "snake den" near his home. Gundy breeds snakes of all ages, colors and sizes, from his Sunglow boa to his month-old baby pythons. His inventory includes such exotic snakes as an albino-motley boa, a caramel-albino ball python and a spider-ball python.
Part of his business includes doing demonstrations with his snakes at children's birthday parties. Gundy says he never thought his "snake parties" would become so popular. The idea began when Gundy was volunteering at his children's schools, giving educational reptile demonstrations. It wasn't until a parent called, asking if she could pay him to do one of his demos for her child's birthday party that Gundy realized this could add to his business. "It never dawned on me before then that parents would be willing to pay me to come give these snake demonstrations," Gundy says. The snake parties are a hit, with Gundy averaging two to three parties a month. For the demonstrations, Gundy brings a few snakes to the parties, educating the children about reptiles. The kids are able to touch and hold the snakes, but Gundy says he is aware that not everyone enjoys snakes as much as he does. "My goal at the parties is to make every single person comfortable," Gundy says "I work well with the children and parents that are fearful of the snakes."
Gundy remembers working at a party where a young girl was petrified of snakes and refused to be in the same room with them. Gundy worked with the girl, slowly easing her into a comfortable state and making her realize that the snakes were docile creatures. Over the course of the party the girl had progressed to being in the same room as the snake, touching the snake and even holding the snake around her neck. By the end of the party Gundy smiled as he heard her say, "Mom, I know what I want for my birthday."
The nature of his business has led to some life-threatening experiences. In 1978 Gundy was bitten by a rattlesnake, a venomous snake, putting him in a coma for three days. The experience left Gundy with a newfound respect for venomous snakes. Gundy says he's been bitten around 100 times in his life, but the snakes he currently keeps are docile. When Gundy, 54, retires he hopes to spend more time not just with his snakes but other animals as well. He says his favorite animals are dogs, not snakes. "Snakes are not intelligent animals," Gundy says. "With dogs you are able to develop a close relationship and bond." Nevertheless, Gundy continues to breed snakes, entertain and educate children with his slithering serpents and sly sayings.
Seven sneaky slithering snakes simultaneously shed their shiny, scales. Now say that three times fast.