HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Norfolk family had a heartwarming reunion on Friday when they made the trip to Henrico to pick up their pet snake that had just made a solo journey by U-Haul.

Deon Jones, a 14-year-old who just moved to Norfolk, cried tears of joy when he learned he would be getting his pet snake, Nate, back after days of thinking it was gone for good.

“It’s awesome!” Jones exclaimed. “I’m so happy it has survived, so I can be here today to be with my snake and be able to take it home.”

Just a few days ago, the future between Jones and Nate looked a bit less sunny. The family had rented a U-Haul to move into their new Norfolk home. However, they ended up moving in without their slithery friend, because Nate had appeared to have gone missing somewhere along the journey.

“I didn’t want to leave him behind,” Jones recalled. “But I thought he left us behind.”

One moment, Nate was in the U-Haul with the rest of the family, but the next moment he was gone.

“We looked inside the engine, under the floorboard, inside the little silver thing that holds the engine,” Jones said. “We couldn’t find it nowhere.”

After finding the python in a truck during a standard vehicle check, local U-Haul manager Megan Hamm, made the reunion possible.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever opened up one of our trucks and found a live animal,” Hamm said. “Most of the time it’s somebody’s E-ZPass.”

Hamm found the snake in horrible condition. It was frozen, alone, and likely hungry. Virginia Wildlife Management and Control helped nurse the reptile back to health overnight. After a social media post released by the group went viral, Nate’s owners realized what had happened. Virginia Wildlife Management and Control spokesperson Richard Perry noted how special this journey has been.

“We thought this story was good, but yesterday it just took a complete turn,” Perry laughed. “It just took a good story and made it fantastic.”

8News learned this has been a special journey for a special snake. Nate is more than just a pet to the Jones family.

“It’s named after my father who passed away in May,” Jones said.

Jones’ father had promised the teenager a pet snake, but he died before that could happen. Deon’s mother brought Nate into the family and the reptile quickly became a spiritual reminder of Deon’s late father.

“I felt like I’d just name it after my dad, because he was supposed to be here,” Jones said.

The family added they will not be letting the snake out of their sights and that they are forever grateful to U-Haul and Virginia Wildlife Management and Control for saving Nate’s life.