106 years old and increasingly tolerant of dogs…

106 years old and increasingly tolerant of dogs…

THE 19th-century French poet Gérard de Nerval used to take his pet lobster for walks in Paris at the end of a silk ribbon.

Asked why he was so fond of this animal, he replied: “I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea and they don’t bark.”


Personally I have always preferred sloths to lobsters, except for culinary purposes. Recently, however, I have learnt something about dogs which considerably raises my estimation of them.

This knowledge came in a newsletter from SloCo, the Sloth Conservation Foundation in Costa Rica.

Sloths, as you know, are extremely good at hanging upside down near tree tops and remaining almost motionless, which makes them difficult to detect and has frustrated attempts to estimate numbers.

Now, however, SloCo has initiated the first sloth census thanks to two new sloth-counting methods. 

The first uses specialised thermal drones to detect sloths, but the second is even more imaginative: dogs that have been trained to sniff out sloth poo.

The first such dog to have gained its sloth scat detection certificate is Keysha and she has already sniffed out dozens of piles of sloth poo. I made a call to Keysha to congratulate her but was surprised to find her less than happy.

“I always wanted to be a sniffer dog,” she explained, “but I was hoping to sniff out terrorists or drug dealers, not sloth poo.” 

“Don’t disparage your achievement,” I said. “Sniffing out terrorists and druggies may help reduce the evils in the world, but sniffing out sloths has a far more positive effect. As the great philosopher Arislothl said: ‘Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast, or a god, or a sloth.’ A sloth’s divine tranquillity makes it the best role model for humans and their solitude is something we should strive towards. Sniffing out their poo is an important step towards achieving that ideal.”

The dog looked thoughtful, then smiled in agreement. “You know,” she said, “you and Arislothl have really taught me to be proud of my work. I’m most grateful.” And went off barking happily. I am thinking of applying for the post of dog counsellor to SloCo.

-William Hartston

Beachcomber column for 18 March 2023 

Daily Express

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