Photography by Gabriel Cano

It was a big mystery. Why were little boxes of toads appearing on porches around the neighborhood?

The Amphibian Fairy, it turned out, was Lakewood Hills neighbor Amy Ananian.

She was oblivious to all the hubbub until her mom — unaware that her daughter was the culprit — texted her a screenshot of a post from Jill McGill: “Anyone know what’s up with the boxes of baby toads being left on many front porches?”

McGill’s post elicited a few baffled comments: “Really?” “Strange.” “Why would someone do that?”

Ananian fessed up in a post of her own:  “[It was] Your crazy neighbor across the street. There are tons in my yard, and I thought the kids would get a kick out of how small they are.” Unaware of the deluge of responses it would generate, she added, “I have more if you need them.”

Apparently, East Dallas needs toads. Lots of them. A flood of posts and comments, along with private messages, ensued.

At first, she gamely agreed to do toad delivery, asking interested parties to DM their addresses to her. But 70-plus comments later — including one that said, “This thread certainly is hoppin’” — Ananian had to change her tune and instructed toad lovers to pick up boxes of the little guys from her porch.

Just how did Ananian get into the toad business? Blame Sir Bentley Archibald of Clayton, better known as Archie, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

One evening, Ananian was getting ready to head to Rockwall for her grandmother’s 95th birthday celebration and decided to step out to her backyard one last time to give puppy Archie a potty break. Then she noticed something odd.

“When I looked down, there were tiny black specks on the sidewalk,” she says. “Upon a closer look, I discovered they were moving. I was excited to see they were baby toads, but of course, my first thought was to not let Archie eat one.”

Driving home that evening, Ananian reflected on her childhood days when she and her sister spent a lot of time outdoors, exploring and discovering.

“We found tadpoles swimming around, which of course, turned into toads hopping around,” she says. “My dad, Boyce Wilson, explained the life cycle of toads, telling us the stages and changes they would go through throughout their lifespan. He instilled his love of nature in me.”

Ananian was eager to share her love of the natural world with the numerous young children in her neighborhood. So, the next day, she went to work.

“I thought the kids would get a kick out of seeing the baby toads,” she says. “I have some clear acrylic boxes I use for crafts, so I put a few pieces of Wandering Jew and Horsetail Reed and some water into the boxes, along with a few of the baby toads. I took my toad gift boxes and started knocking on doors around me. If no one answered, I just left the box in the shade where people would find it when they returned home.”

Little did she know that her kind gesture would become the mystery of the neighborhood — at least temporarily.

McGill, who discovered Ananian, says: “The kids found the toads first. We thought somebody left them at the wrong house. Then we discovered their friends received them, too.”

McGill’s children, ages 4 and 6, were as intrigued as their mom about the perplexing toads.

“The mystery of who left them was as much fun as receiving them,” McGill says.

Ultimately, children would not be the only beneficiaries. Forest Hills neighbor Lory Posteraro was at home, recovering from COVID, when she requested some toads.

“Amy offered to deliver the babies to me,” she says. “Such a random act of kindness [was] so deeply appreciated after four weeks in bed with a fever.”

Many commented on using the toads for mosquito control and promoting a healthy ecosystem. Deborah Whitington of Lakewood offered to “take the rest of them off your hands” and was soon in possession of an Ace Hardware bucket o’ toads, which found a new home in the pond on Bob-O-Link.

Ananian’s kindness was repaid. One person left a little money for the box, along with a plant, which Ananian says now sits on her desk “to remind me there is good in the world. You just have to open your eyes.” Someone else anonymously left $20 for her. Several sent photos of charming habitats they had set up for the toads. Many thanked her for reminding them of happy childhood memories.

“My hope is that this creates a ripple effect and small gestures will start to happen,” Ananian says. “My neighbors appreciated the joy of giving and the childlike excitement of receiving something unexpected. Always pay it forward. Little acts of kindness no matter how small can create a memory and serve as a thoughtful reminder that we are all walking through this life together.”

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