One spring evening in 1999 a young chocolate bundle of joy wandered into our yard looking for a handout. The little guy didn’t look like a normal country stray. I put him on the porch with a nourishing doggie meal and headed to the phone. Many calls later I had the name of his potential owner, but also learned he had been roaming the area for almost a month. I left a found dog message on their recorder and bedded the little guy down in the mud room for the night.
Priorities of puppydom brought forth a burst of energy with the rising sun. It didn’t take long to have our two resident dogs Annie and Shep panting from back and forth chasing and our senior cat Tonto swatting at every unwanted attempt at play.
Around mid morning a flashy red truck came barreling down the driveway. A tank top clad fella with an attitude flung his door open and said “I hear ya got my dog”. A brief conversation revealed the owner traveled and left Bear, as he called him, to fend for himself. It didn’t take long to make the decision to send Mr. Macho on his way...without his English Labrador Retriever.
Our family had now grown to three dogs. It was agreed that Bear could sleep in the mud room but would be an outside dog. However, by the end of the week he had the run of the house along with Annie and Shep. We were not very good disciplinarians.
For the next twelve years this gentle soul would fill our lives with his spirit of endearment. He loved people and exhibited a world of patience with our grandkids. He developed a special fondness for the ladies and gained a mischievous reputation for his muzzle placement when greeting the arrival of any female.
It is hard to remember Bear ever causing us much trouble. Oh, he would occasionally sneak off behind the barn and develop a sudden case of deafness when I called him. Upon his return there would be evidence around his jowls of some tasty morsel he had discovered. Yuk!
Tonto, our senior cat, had learned to tolerate our other two dogs but the addition of a frisky young pup was just too much. Tonto had chosen the garage door entry step as his domain. Bear would spend the rest of his life attempting to dash past the lighting fast feline claws in an effort to get through that door.
Checking cattle during calving season became a favorite chore for Bear. The 10 PM and 2 AM nightly trips to the corral with Bill established a special bond between the two of them over the years.
When our other Labrador, Annie, passed away at age 14, Bear took over her job of bringing in the morning paper. He faithfully carried out this duty every morning for the rest of his life.
Bear and Shep, our Australian English shepherd, remained best buddies until 2008 when after two cancer surgeries he also passed away. Bears sensitive spirit mourned the loss of his friend for a long time. Over the next three years Bear enjoyed life as our #1 resident dog. His loyal companionship filled our lives with love and devotion.
Early in February Bear collapsed for no apparent reason. He was not as lively the next few days and his normal high jump act at mealtime ceased. When his ritual of toy sharing stopped, it was time to go see Dr. Trupp. Lab reports revealed a low red cell count, however, abdominal x-rays showed no signs of internal bleeding. A quick trip to K-State University for a potential blood transfusion showed some improvement. We were encouraged, but sadly, three days later the count dropped again. Dr Trupp put him on additional medications for comfort but gave us little hope. We will be forever grateful for the many years of outstanding care Bear received from West Ridge Animal Hospital.
Bear never did really know he was a sick boy. We spent most of our time at this point letting him know how much he was loved. He always wagged that big brown tail in response.
On February 28th Bears red cell count dropped to a critical level. His breathing became heavier. We knew we would not let him suffer. The following day Bill made him a casket just as he had for Annie and Shep.
We made the final drive to meet with Dr Trupp the afternoon of March 2nd. Holding hands by is side we said our tearful final good byes to our loving Bear. The ride back to the ranch was heartbreaking. We wrapped him in a warm fleece blanket with his favorite bone and squeaky toy. Our note on his blue satin bow read “Bear~ in our hearts forever”.
Bill and I buried him next to Shep in the ranch cemetery. His tombstone will read Faithful Companion. We will miss our gentle Bear.