Dory and Destiny

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“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”

After a quick google search I finally know the author of this often spoken quote.  I can’t lie though, I am usually guilty of rolling my eyes when hearing this phrase.  It is especially annoying when repeated by well-intentioned friends shortly following a heartbreak.  However, today, I read these words with a renewed energy and I think I actually now know what Alfred Lord Tennyson was trying to say.  Maybe it really is better to love, no matter the outcome…after all we are all limited in our time on this planet.

If you have ever heard me speak about or read me write about sloths…my message always centers around how much I love them.  There is a plethora of reasons to find sloths scientifically fascinating and solid conservation programs are the only way to ensure their survival; however I personally work with sloths because of the love.  Probably my greatest sloth love story was that of ‘Monster’.  boo-face-flower-in-mouthThe most perfectly symmetrical faced three-fingered sloth that will ever exist.  Having been orphaned at only 2 weeks old, her journey to freedom was one of courage and curiosity.  We went through the same struggles and the same triumphs together to secure her freedom and after many euphoric months living, eating, climbing and sleeping in the same jungle home her mother once roamed; Monster’s happy ending was tragically shortened by one of the stealthiest predators in the rainforest: the ocelot.  Frozen, staring at the ground, trying to explain away the truth that was glaring back up at me.  I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t exist…I certainly couldn’t keep working with sloths.  No that was it…I was done…I loved her, I lost her…I didn’t even want to think about going through this again.

In the aftermath, I hung on only because of the support from The Sloth Institute (TSI) and Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR) teams that not only rallied behind me, but they also rallied behind Monster’s memory.  Monster was the first, but she wasn’t going to be the last.

Dory and Destiny
A few months ago, TRR received a baby three-fingered sloth, now named Dory, who was found on her mothers dead body laying on the ground.  The exact cause of her mother’s death is still unknown – something that we will continue to investigate.  Looking at photos of her clinging to her mothers lifeless fur, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly was going through her mind?  Did she realize that she was an orphan?  Did she realize that had those good samaritans not walked past, she would have died?  Once I was finally able to meet her, staring down at her face for the first time, I was struck with just how much she looked like Monster.  Memories started rushing back and just before I began to feel overwhelmed with emotion, I realized that while this was absolutely not Monster, this was a sloth who could benefit from what we learned through Monster’s journey and maybe this time the happy ending would last a little bit longer.

About a month after Dory was rescued, TRR received Destiny; a one-eyed three-fingered baby sloth that was unfortunately the weaker twin and was found near the ground emaciated and unhealthy and with an enlarged heart.  In TRR’s care, under the watchful eye of sloth mom, Leslie, and Veterinarian, Janet; they both are thriving and quickly becoming best friends.  Neither of their personalities are much like Monster’s at all.  Dory is a lot fiestier and independent while Destiny is much more needy and always seeking Dory for a cuddle.  I cherish each time I get to visit them, help care for them through the day and night and bring them their favorite foods.  Every time I see them scratch their faces or their arm pits, I sigh…one of those really good sighs that spreads warmth through your body and makes you feel fully at peace.

So yes, I can say with absolute certainty that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  Because once you have loved, you realize that you can love over and over again.  And maybe no love story will ever be as innocent as the original, but with each subsequent chapter you create a book of stories that in many ways…never…really…ends.
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