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Lazarus and the PredatorLazarus, the Sinaloan Milksnake
by Brian Gundy
Reptiles Magazine
Living With Reptiles
Volume 6 Number 3
March 1998

        My name is Brian Gundy. The story I'm about to relate is true. My partner, Mike Austin, and I are a team of snake breeders located in the San Jose area of California. We have been subscribers to REPTILES magazine for years, have never read about anything like this and thought REPTILES readers would find this story interesting.

         A family with two small children moved in across the street, and it didn't take long for them to find out that I had snakes. On March 24, 1997, Allison and her two children came over for a tour of my snake collection.

         I was showing them my colubrids when Allison noticed two snakes together in the same cage. I immediately panicked when I realized the Plexiglas partition that separated one of the California Kingsnakes had fallen over, allowing the Sinaloan Milksnake to enter the kingsnake's cage.

         My worst fears were realized when I quickly opened the cage door to find the Sinaloan Milksnake halfway down the throat of the California Kingsnake. A very sick feeling came over me as I removed the two snakes from the cage. Not only was I sick about the loss of the Sinaloan, but was also concerned for my neighbor's 4-year-old daughter and her 7-year-old son. Just minutes before, they had touched a snake for the first time, and now they were watching one being eaten alive.

        I quickly, but calmly, picked up the two snakes and tried to loosen the grip the California Kinsnake had on the Sinaloan Milksnake. I gently opened the kingsnake's mouth and began to slowly remove the 10 to 12 inches of the Sinaloan Milksnake from its throat.

         The Sinaloan showed no signs of life. Its mouth was wide open and its body was limp. Sweat started dripping down my face, and I apologized to my neighbors for having to witness this tragic event.

         I had worked at an animal hospital for nine years and have had CPR classes. I thought I should at least try to revive the snake. I first laid it down on the floor to see if there was any movement at all, but there was none. I then took the Sinaloan and put its head in the palm of my hand. I wrapped my fingers around its head, brought it to my mouth and gave three short breaths into the snake's mouth. Then I ran my hand from the front to the back in the area of the lungs and then gave more breaths. I continued this procedure for approximately 3-4 minutes without any reaction from the snake.

         My neighbors watched with great interest as I tried to revive the snake. At one point during the rescue, I considered putting the Sinaloan back in with the California Kingsnake's cage. After all, it was a good meal. But I stuck with it.

         Five to 7 minutes went by before I saw any positive reaction. I laid the snake on a flat surface and saw slight movement, almost like a spasm. A few minutes later, I saw the snake trying to stick its tongue out. I remember coaching the snake, "Come on buddy, you can do it."

         It was interesting to see my neighbors cheering the snake on as well. I was about 10 minutes into the rescue when things started happening. The snake continued trying to stick its tongue out and he would eventually bring it back in. I found that if I pinched its head, it would move its head back. So I stopped giving it mouth to mouth and concentrated on stimulating movement.

         My neighbor was so impressed with the whole experience that she told her kids that they had just witnessed a miracle.

         The snake came back to 100% of its vitality within a couple of hours. I called my partner and told him what had happened. "Brian, only you would consider giving a snake mouth-to-mouth," he said. Mike also suggested that we call this snake Lazarus. Lazarus ate a mouse the day after the incident and is doing fine.


Slithering snakes put the hiss in serpents
by Emilie Crofton
photograph by Jim Medina

The Campbell Reporter
August 17, 2007

         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.