DUNEDIN — In true two-toed sloth style, its eyes are ever so slowly opening.
When they do, the infant born last weekend at a Dunedin pet store will be able to see the 30 to 50 people who visit it every day.
For now, employees at Pet Safari are calling the little sloth Surprise because that's the one word that describes its birth.
The baby was born to mom Blondie and dad Baby on Sunday afternoon in what could be the first pet store sloth delivery. Because the mammals lack clearly defined external genitalia, store owner Larry Lipke had always thought Blondie was a male. So, of course, he had no idea she was pregnant.
It was a customer who discovered the baby shortly after it was born.
"I got a panicky call from Larry (saying), 'My male sloth just gave birth!' '' said Dr. Don Woodman of Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor.
Woodman, who was out shopping, quickly drove to Pet Safari to check on the baby. He said it appeared strong and Blondie was doing a good job taking care of it.
Store manager George Talmadge said Blondie has allowed him and Lipke to softly pet Surprise on the head, but no one else.
He said she "starts shaking and gets really upset'' if anyone else tries to get too close.
Because the animals snooze for 18 hours a day, Surprise is sometimes hidden from view, so Talmadge advises visitors who want to see it to come in between 4:30 and 6 p.m. when Blondie is up and eating her dinner.
They are in for a treat. He said on the cuteness scale, Surprise is "a 10.''
He is planning a contest next week to name the baby sloth.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.