Bear came into our lives when we were still mourning our beloved Golden Retriever Worf, who was our constant companion at home, out windsurfing, or hiking and snowshoeing in the mountains. He was our Hero Dog who showed us the trail when melting snow concealed our return paths in the forest. He was “Happy Dog,” as a little girl in a stroller named him when we were out for a walk, and Test Anxiety Counselor for Thor’s and my students at the university. Big paw-prints to fill!
As we started pondering a new dog to join the family, Thor was set on another Golden, as they generally have such great dispositions. So when our friend Brenda, who fosters rescue dogs for a local group that saves animals from “high kill” shelters, told us we had to meet Bear, an indeterminate Chow-possibly-black-Lab mix she was fostering, we were skeptical. Thor had heard that Chows tend to be aggressive, but Brenda assured us that Bear was a very mellow fellow who got along with all people and animals with the exception of squirrels….
We met Bear, who really is a big teddy bear – and when we took him for a hike in the forest, he looked like a mini bear emerging from the wild. We were surprised by how well-behaved and calm he is, especially for a youngster who’d been found wandering in Idaho and had spent time on “death row.” Thor took him to campus to see how he’d do as test-anxiety counselor, and the students went into a rapturous lovefest, which Bear lapped up. Thor also reports that it didn’t hurt when they got smiles from all the pretty gals as they crossed campus.
Thor then left him briefly in his office, where as a paleontologist he has shelves full of different animal skulls. Accustomed to Worf’s perfect manners, Thor was surprised to return and find Bear munching happily on a pig skull he’d selected from the display obviously provided as dog treats. Another strange discovery: Bear likes to back up to a bush or tree, wiggle his butt, and deposit his load. Somewhat of a challenge to collect in a doggie waste-bag.
The biggest challenge yet was awaiting at home, with our cats Tucker and Turtle. They had arrived as rescue kittens while Worf was still with us, and they grew up adoring him. Not so with Bear. I don’t blame them—he must look terrifying to them, and unfortunately they seem to resemble squirrels if they take flight. So while we all make adjustments and Bear starts obedience classes, we have built dog-proof, cat-permeable gates in the house to establish safe zones, and we keep Bear on leash in the yard if the cats are outside. Tucker already is curious enough to creep close and sniff Bear’s tail while Thor holds Bear’s collar. Turtle has performed a hilarious Ninja Cat routine creeping around the edges of the family room in slow motion to check out the sleeping Bear.
Not without some anxiety and sorrowful pangs of comparison with Worf, we’ve decided to adopt our new doggie pal. Initially a bit subdued and cautious, he’s now cavorting in the back yard, so I think he approves of us, too.