Pocho and Chito: A Reptilian Love Story
“People fall in love in mysterious ways. Maybe it’s all part of a plan.”
Surely Ed Sheeran didn’t have interspecies bromance in mind when he penned those lyrics for “Thinking Out Loud”. Love is an unstoppable force, though, one which can cross seemingly unassailable barriers, like the ability to speak and whether you walk on two legs or four. Today I’d like to tell you the story of a Costa Rican man named Gilberto “Chito” Shedden and the crocodile who loved him.
Shedden, a fisherman by trade, was going about his usual business one sunny day in 1991. However, this sunny day would be different than any other, as the tour guide and naturalist would encounter his future hetero-lifemate dying on the banks of the Reventazón River. Pocho the crocodile, when Chito stumbled upon him, was in very dire straits. Weighing only about 150 pounds, the crocodile had been grievously injured by a gunshot wound to the head, losing his ability to hunt and feed himself. More concerning, though, was the fact that Pocho had lost his will to live. Chito, being the animal lover that he was, would not abide this, and he ferried the wounded beast home in his boat away from the river Styx.
For six months Chito fed, bathed, and slept with Pocho. During the day he would hide Pocho in a pond under some nearby trees, and at night he smuggled the reptile into his own home. He continued to sneakily nurse the injured animal back to health until he received a permit to legally own and care for Pocho. This relationship put a strain on Chito’s marriage. But Chito was undaunted by how his wife and others felt. He knew that food alone would not restore Pocho’s will to live, so he showed the crocodile how to chew food again, how to relax, and how to have an open heart.
The therapy worked. Six months after bringing the crocodile home, Chito released Pocho at a nearby river to return to his own life as a wild crocodile. Unbeknownst to Chito, though, the crocodile followed him home, sleeping on his veranda just so that he could be close to his best friend. After discovering Pocho the next morning, Chito knew that he would never be able to say goodbye to his scaly compadre, so he welcomed Pocho once again into his home to be part of his family. This was too much to bear for Chito’s first wife, and she left him for spending too much time with Pocho. For his part, Pocho was able to find a new wife and daughter, remarking:
“Another wife I could get. (A crocodile behaving like) Pocho was one in a million.”
For the next decade, Pocho and Chito would maintain their friendship, publicly performing for tourists at an artificial lake in Siquirres. The two would swim, caress, and kiss each other in the water to the delight of onlookers. Though the the shows would pay well, the love of his crocodile was truly the only compensation Chito needed.
Pocho died a natural death in 2011. He never once harmed Chito, living out his end of days as the man’s best friend and constant companion. Pocho was afforded a human funeral, and he went to crocodile heaven with a heart full of love.
For being possibly the only man in existence to ever love a crocodile with the kind of bromantic passion of which only hetero lifemates are capable, Gilberto “Chito” Shedden earns my metal salute of the month.