After Ms Bear had been with us for several
months I wondered whether she would ever become
what I thought a real pet should be. She looked
like a little black teddy bear that I wanted to
pick up and hug and just carry around. But if I
picked her up she would wiggle and squirm and
grunt until I put her down. I wanted her to sit
on my lap. She wouldn't. I wanted her to sit
beside me and be petted. She wouldn't. But she
was so cute that no matter what she did or
didn't do it was OK so long as it didn't put
her in danger. I just resigned myself to being
the owner of a dog who had her own ideas about
how she would conduct herself. Instead of me
changing her, she completely revised my thinking
on the subject of dogs.
I thought owning a dog would be like owning a
cat. I used to have cats. I especially liked
Siamese cats. The cats I owned were friendly.
You could pet them and hold them on your lap.
They would lie around and sleep. They didn't
bother anyone until they wanted to eat or wanted
out and then they would softly meow and rub
against my leg for attention. Otherwise, they
sort of melded into the background.
Like the cats, Ms Bear did sleep a lot but she
always kept her radar-sharp ears on alert. I
would think she was sound asleep until a fly
or a bug came close then in one sudden
unexpected move she would snap and the flying
intruder became as Jonah from Jonah in the Whale.
Unlike my quiet cats, when Ms Bear wanted to
eat or go outside, the whole house knew it.
She didn't just stand and bark for attention.
She would bark first while standing near
whatever she wanted: the door or the food dish.
If barking didn't cause me to come running,
she would come to get me and impatiently lead
me to the door or to her food bowl. If it was
feeding time or if I wanted Ms Bear to come in,
all I had to do was shout, "Ms Bear, Alpo" and
she would come running. My cats, on the other
hand, were never impressed when I called them
using food as a bribe.
My cats never demanded attention, never insisted
upon riding the lawn mower when I cut grass, never
expected to be in the car or truck every time it
rolled out of the driveway, never lost their cool
at the sight of a "cow," never insisted on one
brand of food, never threatened the Veterinarian
or Groomer, never pushed the neighbors garbage
can over, never interfered with my weed-eating,
never held visitors prisoner in their vehicle,
never went down to the lake and rolled in a dead,
rotten fish and came home smelling like a skunk.
Ms Bear did all those things regularly. Did you
ever smell a rotten fish? Phew.
Ms bear did share this trait with cats: climbing.
She couldn't climb trees without cat claws but
she would climb all over the furniture. Example?
Well, let's just say that if it was within her
jumping range, she would jump on it whatever the
furniture. And if furniture was close enough
together, she would jump from a lower thing to a
higher thing. The higher the better. She didn't
climb up on furniture to wantonly knock things
over; she climbed on furniture to get as high
as she could in order to lie down and go to
sleep up there. I used to say that we should've
named her Ms Mountain Goat instead of Ms Bear.
Ms Bear had another trait that was catlike:
curiosity. She investigated everything. I had to
keep dangerous things out of her way as
though she were a child. Example: one night I
was working on a TV. I had set it on my workbench
and out of its enclosure. The power was on.
Ms Bear climbed up onto the workbench, walked
over to the uncovered TV and stuck her nose on
a 24,000 volt lead. That's the first time I heard a
dog scream. She screamed. She came over
to me and jumped from the workbench into my lap
and lay there trembling for a long time. She was
lucky -- I was lucky. She could have been killed
on the spot. The only lasting effect was a one
inch white burn line on her otherwise black nose.
I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor. Not
as some ritual or show of humility but because
I did a lot of electronics work and the floor
provided enough room to spread out my many wires
and components for easy identification. Ms Bear
was an electronics nut. She loved wires. She
loved messing up my wires. If I didn't keep a
close watch on her she would get right in the
center of my dozens of small wires and start
scratching them until she had them all raked
together in a small mixed up bundle. Of course
this extra painstaking work made me very happy.
If there was any one particular thing about Ms
Bear that worried me the most, it was that she
would overestimate her invincibility. She would
challenge any animal no matter how large. She
liked to wander and often we traveled in strange
territory. It kept me busy trying to keep her from
wandering off and tangling with some animal that
could tear her to shreds. Yes, I did have a long
leash and yes I did try to keep her where she
belonged. What do you do when your dog chews
through a steel cable? She could and she did.
Several times. That mouth full of Scottie teeth
were mighty strong.
My electronics work kept me on the road a lot.
I always drove my Chevrolet Suburban and there
was always a co-pilot with me: Ms Bear. That truck
was her second home. I believe she thought of the
truck as her rolling doghouse and indeed it was.
Over the nine years Ms Bear was with us, we put
over 200,000 miles on that old truck and Ms Bear
was my co-pilot on almost every one of those miles.
Ms Bear loved to ride. If I had to go someplace
all I had to do was yell, "Ms Bear, truck." She
would come running, ready to go. If she was
busy guarding a tree which housed a squirrel or
if she was watching a rabbit's hiding place she
might linger, but when I started the truck engine
she would come bouncing across the yard. She
would then lie down beside the driver's side
truck door waiting for me to pick her up.
When Sarah rode with us Ms Bear's perch was on
top of a large wooden storage box that I built
behind the front passenger seat. She could sit or
lie down and still see out the side window. I
covered this box with thick carpeting, had her
water and food bowl close by and she had access
to the entire truck from there. It was a real
rolling dog house with room for humans and my
Ms Bear enjoyed her co-pilot status. Much of the
time she kept a sharp lookout for "cows." We were
never attacked by one. I attributed that to
Ms Bear's vigilance and fierce barking. Usually
when we stopped to stretch our legs and I walked
her on a leash, people couldn't help making
remarks about how cute she was. Sometimes I was
asked if she was a show dog. I would reply, "No,
but she is a sho' nuf' dog."
Strangers often wanted to give her a bite of food
and they would offer it to me to give to her. I
would say, "No, you can give it to her." They were
always reluctant and I didn't blame them. Ms Bear
had a bear-like face and a mouth full of big teeth.
I would say, "You can give it to her. She won't
even touch your fingers." That was another
remarkable thing about her. If you put your hand,
holding food, right in front of her face, she would
slowly and carefully take the food in her mouth
and never touch your fingers. When a stranger had
done this once they always wanted to do it again.
Ms Bear never went hungry. It's no wonder she was
overweight; everyone wanted to give her food.
Ms Bear was very polite. After we became
accustomed to each other, I noticed subtle
behaviors that I considered remarkable. In
addition to taking food from the hand of
strangers while never touching their fingers,
when I did something for her and she approved,
she would quickly touch my leg with her nose. I
learned that she was saying, "Thank you".
Sometimes when I had to give her medicine or
pull a tick off of her or do some other procedure
that could hurt, I would speak soothingly trying to
explain why I had to do it. After the deed was done
she would touch me with her nose. This action told
me that she understood and it was OK.
Needless to say, Ms Bear had become a focal point
of all activities. Wherever I went, Ms Bear went
too. I had devised a method of keeping her cool
when the vehicle was parked in the summertime
so I never had to worry about her becoming too
hot while waiting for me. I used a digital
thermometer that recorded the temperature so I
could tell how efficient the cooling device was.