When I take my dog for a walk, it is typically part walk, and part strolling buffet. Apparently, the walking part is for me and the buffet is for him. This really makes the walks challenging since I have to spend much of the time pulling him away from some nasty sidewalk snack in order to continue our walk.
Obviously, this can be a huge distraction, and was probably the reason I almost didn’t see the bear.
The bear was lumbering toward us on the street and the odd thing, aside from the fact that there was a bear walking down the street in the suburbs, was that this particular bear was on a leash being walked by a woman.
My dog hardly seemed bothered by this development and continued sniffing rocks and eating dirt, even as we moved closer and closer to the bear.
I, however, was speechless. This was the ‘burbs. People around here don’t keep bears on a leash. We keep dogs, sometimes cats, and occasionally our children on a leash. Besides, I was pretty sure that my town had an ordinance that prohibited any pets that could maul or crush you.
I took a longer look at the bear and decided, based on it’s size, that it was probably a juvenile, just a couple of years old but still pretty darn big. He didn’t look aggressive, but then again, my experience with bears was limited to the National Geographic Channel and Winnie the Pooh, so I really didn’t have any idea how old or aggressive a suburban bear could be.
As the other woman approached with her bear, I waited for my dog to start to growl or get agitated, but he seemed completely disinterested in anything other than sniffing the dead bird in the road.
“Excuse me,” I said to the other woman as we began to pass each other. “Is that a male or a female?”
“Male,” she replied. “His name is Bubba.”
He looked like a Bubba. Or maybe a Baloo.
“I have to say, I’m really surprised to see him on a leash,” I continued.
“He doesn’t really need one,” she admitted, “But I’d probably get in trouble if I walked him without one.”
“I bet!” I exclaimed, imagining a bear traipsing down the street with no harness or restraint of any kind. That’s the kind of thing that gets schools closed and wildlife experts with tranquilizer guns out in a hurry.
“Did you rescue him?” I wondered.
“No,” she replied. “We got him from a breeder.”
“Really?” I exclaimed. “There are breeders for these guys?”
“Oh sure,” she responded. “Lost of people want them because they’re such gentle giants.”
“Gentle?” I repeated.
“Totally,” she said. “Except when he’s hungry, and then he’s a real bear.”
I let this sink in and decided I didn’t want to be around when Bubba was hungry.
“So what do you feed him?” I asked.
“Just dog food.”
“Really?” I exclaimed again. “I guess that kind of makes sense since they probably don’t carry bear food around here.”
She stared at me. “Why would he eat bear food?”
“Um… cuz he’s a bear?”
She laughed hard. “He’s not a bear. He’s a Newfoundland. A Newfie. It’s a kind of dog.”
I turned bright red.
“Not a bear,” I repeated.
Right.”
“He looks like a bear,” I argued.
“Yes, but he’s a dog,” she assured me. “Just like your dog.”
I looked down at my dog who had chomped his way through a pile of twigs, a patch of grass, and was now working on a rock for dessert.
“Mine’s not a dog,” I said. “He’s a goat.”

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