Bear at the Animal Shelter

Erika Abrams started fostering cats and dogs a couple years ago. She volunteers with Catering To Cats and Dogs rescue group who pull a lot of dogs from Gaston County Animal Control. Due to their limited facility at animal control, they have a 48 hour policy meaning if a dog or cat comes into their facility, it has to be adopted/rescued within 48 hours or it can be euthanized for space.

In January of 2012, Erika had come to Gaston Animal Control to pick up a dog that, without her realizing it, had already been picked up. While there she walked through the kennels and came upon a dog named Bear (don’t let the name of this little fella fool you) – a Papillion and Chihuahua cross. Bear had just been a ‘surrendered’ meaning the current owner decided not to keep him for whatever reason. According to Erika, Bear just looked very, very scared.

They agreed to let Erika take the dog ahead of schedule and when she brought Bear to her home, he was accepted right away with her 5 other dogs. Erika was surprised to learn later that evening that immediately after Catering To Cats and Dogs rescue group put his picture and description up on Facebook, Bear had already been selected for adoption.

One week later, as she drove to PETCO to meet and turn Bear over to his new owners, Erika was crying with the realization she was about to give up Bear. Wanting to stay true to her passion of helping as many animals as possible and continuing to foster, she felt at the time that she could not keep Bear, as then she would have 6 dogs of her own with no room left to foster any more. But, what Erika didn’t know is that soon she would become even sadder.

Within 2 hours in his new backyard, Bear found a hole in the fence and escaped. That’s why it is so important that homeowners make sure that any fencing that they have in their backyard is safe and secure so that animals don’t have the opportunity to escape. Maybe people need to think about having a stronger type of fencing fitted instead, similar to this vinyl fencing in Simi Valley in the hopes that it is more durable so that animals like Bear can stay safe in the garden with their families.

Woods where Bear escaped

Erika, immediately after learning the news, decided to go and look for him herself, feeling a huge burden of guilt for having given him up rather than speaking up that she wanted to keep him for her own. As she arrived at his new home, she saw that the surrounding area was heavily wooded. Initially, Erika thought that she would be able to just bring some treats and yell out his name, and he would come, based on the good relationship they had already established just in the short time she had had him. That didn’t work.

Erika and some volunteers had printed and distributed about 500 posters in the area and reports started coming in about a dog fitting the picture and description almost 5 miles from where he had escaped. Not surprising when you considered that Bear had smelled food since the sighting was around a Burger King and Hardees.

Abandoned barn in woods

Three days passed and then a week with Erika driving 45 minutes every day each way to go search. After almost three weeks, with Erika not sleeping all night, and with others who had volunteered to search most having given up, hope was fading, especially with a small dog in the wild. He would surely either get attacked by coyotes or run over by a car if he was not brought to safety soon.

The big break came when, from one of the posters, she received a call from a gentleman who owns a pest control company where Bear had been spotted sleeping in his woods next to an abandoned house. Bear had paired up with another stray – a Rottweiler that he would curl up with at night. The protection and warmth of the Rottweiler was what probably allowed Bear to survive. Surprisingly this was located only a few blocks from where Bear had escaped through the hole in the fence. He had made his way almost all the way back.

When Erika came to the location and spotted Bear, she was sure he would remember and come to her but evidently his fear overrode everything else and every time she would approach, he would run away.

A gentleman by the name of Mr. Cook, who lives directly across from the pest control company, saw her efforts and could tell how dear Bear was to Erika. He had also received a Bear poster in his mailbox and had been watching him for several days. He promised her and Erika’s husband, Matt, that he was going to catch Bear for them, which they thought was going to be impossible.

The Cook’s

One day later, Mr. Cook looked out his window and saw Bear run through his yard to catch a meal with his neighbors Coonhound that was being fed outside. Mr. Cook immediately went outside and approached the two dogs. He petted the coonhound and then petted Bear. To his surprise he was able to pick Bear up and only received a few scratches. That was all the fight Bear put up to finally be back in human hands. Mr. Cook walked Bear back across the street to the pest control company and brought him inside to safety.

Erika got the call with the good news and could hardly believe that it was true. She immediately came to pick up Bear. On the ride to Bear’s ‘forever’ home with Erika holding Bear, he was kissing the tears flowing down Erika’s cheeks.

Erika with rescued Bear

But what was perhaps of greatest surprise, when they arrived home, Bear pranced into the house and was enthusiastically greeted by their other dogs, as if he’d never left.

There are several happy endings to this story and one very sad one.

Bear became an almost constant companion to their female Mastiff, Jazzy that had to have two knee replacements. See the picture of Bear with Jazzy.

The other happy ending was when Erika and Matt visited Mr. Cook to thank him again, it was not just for rescuing Bear, her husband said, “Thank you for giving me my wife back.”

Bear and Jazzy

There was a sad part to the story. In later conversation with Mr. Cook, Erika learned that the Rottweiler who had semi-adopted Bear had been found and had passed away in the woods, probably succumbing to heartworm disease. He had probably been the only reason that Bear had survived.

by Erika Abrams April 2013

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