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A bear walked out of the woods….
….and the dog merely shrugged
When the large, black bear ambled out of a field and over a stone wall about 100 feet in front of me, my walking companion, Peggy, let out a muffled shriek, I fumbled with my phone in an unsuccessful attempt to get a picture, and I had only one thought:
I am so lucky to be walking Zoey and not Bella right now.
Our golden retrievers Zoey and Bella are sisters, but as different as two siblings could be. Zoey is built like a tank, broad and husky, and is almost always unnervingly calm. Bella, in contrast, is smaller, thinner, shy and easily frightened. When Bella meets someone new, she gets excited and too often, tries to jump all over them
Zoey? She sits down with grave dignity, looks directly at the visitor and lifts a paw for a shake, as if she is the mayor, running for reelection and asking for votes.
So when Zoey saw the black bear amble out into the street before us, she tilted her head as if to say, “Wow, a bear! Who knew?” And she sat down on the pavement, watching with great interest as the bear crossed the street and strolled into a forest. She didn’t utter a sound.
Bella would have bolted into the next county. She would STILL be running.
Now, I do not live in Montana or Maine, both wilder (and utterly lovely) states. I live in Connecticut, a state so genteel I used to joke that there should be signs at the border saying, “You are entering Connecticut. Please wear pearls.”
Bears have been little more than a rumor to me. I won’t count the number of times when, camping in Canada, I saw bear tracks in the woods and said, “Nope, we can’t set up the tent here.” Before meeting a life-sized Yogi while walking my dog, I never saw a bear outside a zoo.
I’ve seen deer by the dozens, one moose five years ago, one bobcat three years ago and, unfortunately, snakes. One was wrapped around a basement pipe like the snake in the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag used during the American Revolution. (Hint: when an electrician in your basement screams, “Whatever you do, don’t come down here!” it’s time to go for a walk). Another snake, resting comfortably in a flowerbed, was so big I thought it was a hose. Until I noticed the eyes.
But bears? Nope.
A few days later after my brief encounter I read this story in The New York Times; (the link is a gift article for those without a subscription). It confirms that bear sightings are, indeed, a thing here. One blundered into a small-town parade. Another ate his breakfast at a bakery and really made a mess of the place while sampling the donuts. There is no bear hunt allowed here, no active attempts to corral a population that may be getting too accustomed to humans for our mutual comfort. This state, much of which is lush, suburban and well-off, doesn’t seem to know what to do about wildlife that doesn’t eat brie.
As for me, aside from my regret at not snapping a picture, the event only served to illustrate the contrast between our two furry, sweet canine sisters, both less than two years old. Zoey continued to be unruffled as we walked home. In contrast, excitable Bella, on a leash, was straining to chase a butterfly as my husband held her off with some difficulty.
We may live on a farm but they, and my barn cat, Kiko, are the only animals we keep. Frankly, they can be enough of a handful.
After two weeks, I haven’t seen any more bears. But I’m keeping a watchful eye out now when I walk to the barn at night to tuck the cat in her bed and take a look at the stars. Glimpsing a bear made me realize that I spend a little too much time in the darkness gazing at the constellations and not looking around me, so now I carry an extra-powerful flashlight during my evening ramble.
I don’t need any more bear encounters to remind me that I live in the country. One sighting in 32 years is plenty.