Let’s get this right out in the open: you’re not going to read about Heather and Henry Galvin’s pet kinkajou here. This is a story about pet anteaters, not about kinkajous, also known as honey bears.
Kinkajous are nocturnal, fruit-eating mammals in the raccoon family that live in trees and hang from branches with their prehensile tails.
But we’re not here to talk about kinkajous in an anteater story, even though Piggy the kinkajou lives underneath the Galvin house not far from the anteaters.
This is about Samantha and Artie, a pair of furry, nocturnal, long-snouted, insect-snorting tree-climbers whom Heather and Henry purchased from a breeder in Michigan for $10,000.
“We don’t have kids, so we have to spend money on something,” said Henry.
The anteaters live in a 14-foot-tall enclosure underneath the Galvins’ elevated house with branches and boards for them to climb and a plastic wading pool for their bathing pleasure.
You may have seen Samantha, the more social of the pair, walking nonchalantly on a leash down King Street with Henry one Second Sunday. He has her in a diaper because, you know, and also because, well, you know. Kidding aside, anteater pee is skunky.
Samantha was a hit on that particular Sunday, beckoned into stores by giddy proprietors, especially the crew at Kate Spade. Confronted with an anteater, most folks have a bevy of questions for Henry. The short answer is: domesticated anteaters are cute and playful and affectionate.
You won’t catch Fred, the Galvins’ 70-pound Sulcatta tortoise walking down King Street. Same for The Flash, their baby Aldabra tortoise, destined to grow to 500 pounds. Those two lack the social graces of an anteater. Fred loves bananas and eats grass, serving as the Galvin family lawnmower.
But this isn’t a story about exotic tortoises or garden equipment. Nor is it about Kona the golden retriever or the two greyhounds and five Chinese box turtles being fostered by the Galvins.
It’s about anteaters, native Central Americans in the sloth family who lack teeth but sport rapier-sharp claws designed to rip open trees full of insects. Fortunately, they have the mellow, human-bonding demeanor of dogs.
Feeding the anteaters is a challenge. Surprise: they don’t get fed ants, although insects are the bulk of their diet in the wild. Instead, the Galvins buy expensive insectivore food pellets from a specialty store online and then mix them with hamburger, eggs, honey and Vitamin K to counteract their natural hemophilia.
Anteaters are not for most people. “It’s like having a two-year-old all the time,” said Henry. “You can’t let them run around the house by themselves because they will pull apart shelves and tear things out.”
Samantha has bonded with the dogs; Artie’s a bit more standoffish, and will sometimes flash Kona with what the Galvins call his “come at me, bro” posture, in which he stands on his hinds legs and puts his arms out to the sides. Though he’s just eight pounds, Kona knows to back off.
One final thing about anteaters: they’re not aardvarks, not even in the same family. “They’re much cuter,” said Heather.