I have two canines in my family. Maia, my stunningly beautiful wolf dog and Storm King my large black and white Aussie. Stormy is nine years old. He was born under the deck of my friend’s farm in New Paltz, NY. His canine dad was my old dog’s best friend. Storm’s dad was neutered at age twelve. The day after his surgery he was found on top of Stormy’s mom. I picked Stormy out of a litter of ten when he was only two days old so he could keep his tail. He fit in the palm of my hand and resembled a rodent with a white streak down his head, a marking he no longer has. He was the first to bark and the first to leave the litter. In his younger years, he was my agility dog and then a therapy dog. He has a badge with his smiling headshot that says “Pet Therapist”. His main jobs are keeping loose dogs away from my Maia and making people fall in love with him. Many say his eyes are human. He is fluffy, has broad shoulders, his front elbows turn out and paws turn in making him ramble just like a small black bear. “He is just like a little bear” people say as they put their arms around him and squeeze. He is a “bear-dog” I tell kids. “Wow, a dog mixed with a bear” The children believably respond in awe.
The other night, Storm and Maia accompanied a friend and I to a venture in Santa Barbara. On our way back to Ojai we stopped at a familiar spot on the 150 to let the dogs pee and to walk out into a field to look at the stars. We were almost back to the car when a loud frightening noise disturbed the peaceful silence. “Roaar … Roooooarrr .. Rooarr” All four of us froze. My mind went from “What the hell was that….mountain lion…bear?” to “that sounds just across the road and he is mad” to “get in the car fast”. I grabbed Maia’s collar and ran the short distance to the jeep, lifted the hatch and helped her geriatric body into the car while saying, “Stormy, in the car” He launched into the car and I considered following him through the back, but I wanted to see the bear so I swiftly moved to the drivers door and got in. I turned on the headlights and pointed the car in the bear’s direction. We all sat there for a moment while we caught our breath. My friend said, “That was definitely a bear.” I replied, “I wonder why he was so mad”. At that moment Storm appeared in-between the two front seats. He sweetly licked both my friend and I on the cheek. “Mom” he says, “That bear thought I was a bear! He said to me, ‘You get out of there’. I was really scared.” My friend and I chuckled. “I could see that” my friend said, “He does look a bear and ‘You get out of here’ was very clear.” Curious I asked Storm what he said to the bear. Storm answered, “I told that bear, ‘not until my mommy tells me to’. Then when I was jumping in the car the bear asked me ‘where are you going?’ I told him I was getting in the car. Mom, that bear hated me. I thought he was going to run at me and bite me. I am glad you told me to get in the car.” The next morning Stormy told me he had a nightmare about the bear.
As I look at Stormy, it is easy to see that from a short distance, in the dark, by the light of the moon and the stars, my little fluffy Aussie even looks like a black bear to a bear.