Asher, a young two-toed sloth, clung to Terry Wise’s sweater Wednesday as he chomped on some veggies from a wooden bowl.
One of his long arms reached out for a zucchini slice as Wise talked about him and the foundation she started for her son, Colton Wise.
Asher is not just a family pet.
The small, furry animal is a therapy animal, offering solace to grieving families. It is something Wise said her family knows about all too well.
“We lost our 10-year-old son on Dec. 11, 2014,” said Wise, who started The Colton Wise Memorial Foundation with her husband Bryan in 2015. It was just a few months after Colton died unexpectedly of a cardiopulmonary collapse.
“We started the foundation in his name. We really just wanted to reach out to grieving families,” Wise said.
Terri and Bryan, who also are owners of Our Zoo to You, a business that uses their animals in educational programs throughout Medina and surrounding counties, are president and vice president of the foundation board.
It is through Our Zoo to You that Colton found his love of animals and would often cuddle up with a snake, reptile or exotic animal at the family’s Chatham Township Home.
“We wanted to honor him, something that would reflect his love and generous nature,” Bryan has previously said.
Therapy animals help individuals and families in many ways. As such, Asher is just doing his job when he stretches his body across the chest of the person holding him.
“Part of our mission statement is bringing people closer to God through animals and nature and we needed to find a way to bring in donations to the foundation,” said Wise. “So, Asher came to us. Part of his cost was a (tax-deductible) donation to us.”
The Wise family got Asher from Kalahari Resorts, who allowed families to pose for photographs with him. Wise said the resort prefers to work mostly with baby animals so in October when Asher was getting a little too big for family photos, the Wise family adopted him. He is now about 10 months old.
Community members can visit and interact with Asher for $75, which is considered a donation to the organization. Grieving families can come and interact with Asher for free.
They are working on putting together a room for the sloth, which will be decorated to match the habitat of the sloth. Once it is finished, visitors can hang out with Asher in his new room.
“They can come in to work with him almost like an animal therapy-type program,” Wise said.
For more information on Asher and the Colton Wise Memorial Foundation, visit www.ourpeaceofheaven.org/about.html.