Monday, February 2, 2009

A Tale of Sloth...The Three-Toed Kind

Hah, you thought I was going to wax philosophical on some of my procrastination lately. Well, no.

Instead I thought I'd share a story from several years ago in Costa Rica. It is one of those that never really leaves me and I find myself telling it at odd times. And now I also love Sloths as a bonus side effect.

So here is the story...

I was standing on a sidewalk between sights and I noticed a young man who looked like he was hugging a stuffed animal.

Now that is a strange sight for a nice conservative place so I subtly got a little closer and realized it wasn't a stuffed animal. Instead I was looking at the cutest face I had ever seen. Smooth baby head, a big contented smile and eyes that crinkled up at the corners because of that big smile. And of course, long arms with wicked long claws. It was a beautiful three-toed sloth.

My mouth was hanging open and the guy saw me and laughed. He, surprisingly, spoke very clear and unaccented english. He was outside waiting for his wife and child who were shopping in a store that didn't want his sloth in there.

At any rate, I did ask and he did tell his story. I can't remember his name, but he was an only child because it turns out he had a congenital heart problem that his sister had died from as an infant. His parents were told not to have more children because they too would have the problem. I later had it translated and looked it up and it was essentially very leaky valves which caused depleted blood to enter the arteries, lowering the oxygen percentage in the blood. Surgery for this was far too expensive for his family, who had a small farm. After his sister died and his parents were faced with him following her they went to an old healer from the rural parts one of his parents hailed from.

The healer had said that if the boy had a three-toed sloth, he would live to grow up.

Now, this is clearly ridiculous but the parents went with it. There are laws against that kind of thing though and an adult sloth isn't exactly tame. The father set about locating and tracking all the sloths in an area while the mother worked the farm. Apparently it was not a short procedure and the father searched and tracked for a long time, like months.

But finally what he had been searching for happened. A baby sloth had fallen off of its mother onto the ground. His father waited and hoped and sure enough, the mother sloth didn't come down for the baby. (They often don't depending on the age of the youngster or the danger.) So the father grabbed it up and headed home.

The baby sloth was fed on goats milk and a very carefully prepared diet as it grew and it lived on the boy. Yes, on. It hangs from his chest with its arms over his shoulders even now. At night, it slept on a stand much like a bird stand so it could hang upside down. This same sloth had lived with the boy who was now a man and when I asked how long it would live, he said that it could live to 25 or even 30 years and he hoped he would not have to live without him.

He let me hold his sloth. I didn't ask but he could tell I was twitching to. He simply put his hands around it's little chest and tugged slightly in my direction. I stood next to him and the sloth moved one long arm over to my shoulder and transferred himself. He was snugged in and comfy very quickly. He stared up at me like I was the worlds most fascinating creature with that smile on his face.

The feeling is instantaneous. And I could immediately understand why the healer said what he did. There is an odd sensation that goes with a sloth like the feeling at the height of a good massage. Total calm. Considering that heart problems are made worse by stress, well, the sloth by it's very nature allows no stress to be felt by the wearer.

When I pointed him back by moving his arm, I felt strangely bereft. Sad and almost like I'd lost a friend I could never get back. The man patted me on the back and said that is how everyone feels.

We were outside for about an hour I'd guess and eventually his wife and daughter came out. He said that his daughter did not have the heart defect and that he himself was doing quite well.

I found out when I came home and researched the three-toed sloth that the smile is actually just the way they are all the time. The same with the upturned smiling eyes. I also learned that the claws aren't generally dangerous as they are really not aggressive but they are ideal for hooking into trees for hanging around.

Most people I tell that to don't really fully believe me and I'vd had a hard time finding proof. Recently on one of my random searches I found a sort of proof via another person who had a similar experience and had the foresight to take a picture. You can see it here: It is on the first part of the very long page.

One of his parting wisdoms was that the three-toed sloth was slowly going away and he felt the world would become a bad place if that happened. He also said that when a baby sloth falls and no one finds it, they are eaten. He said that he thought every baby that fell should be given to someone who needs it and then the world would have peace.

Very profound there. Wouldn't you say? I never forgot this encounter and whenever I see a three-toed sloth, I just want a hug.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story!
I can see why having a Sloth, or anything or anyone else, that would hug you, smile up at you, and make you feel wanted, would help restore your health.
Now, I want a three toed Sloth too!
I guess my little Miracle Eve is the farm's Sloth!
Enjoyed you tale so much.
Have a great day.

Milah said...

That is an awesome story! What a privilage to have that experience. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for leaving a comment on my blog!

Corinne R. said...

Ohhhhh, now I want a sloth! Thanks for sharing your story : ).

hickchick said...

What a great story, it really leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling doesn't it?
Great site BTW, I'll be back!