The third great trauma of my life happened last week.
I watched an unhealthy black bear attack our lover pup, twice. Both times I prepared myself for another tragic loss.
For a few weeks, we have had several black bears visiting the property where we live. There are two houses at this idyllic warden station in a wildlife corridor near the Athabasca River, twenty kilometers south of Jasper in the national park. It’s been a treat to see mamma and baby bears playing around our yard when we come home from work in the evening.
There have been no negative encounters between the bears and our neighbors, our Lucy or us.
Lucy was lounging in the back seat of my station wagon with the doors open. I was about to go out and get her when I saw the small mangy black bear approach the car. He wasn’t passing through; he was sniffing and lolling about the car. His fur was patchy and he had a snout full of drool.
I opened the front door of the cabin and started yelling. The bear ignored me and grabbed Lucy from behind, threw her on the ground and attacked her. Lucy yelped out, but was helpless under the claws and teeth of the hungry muscles that pinned her to the ground. She passed out, stopped fighting, and I thought it was over. I just watched our fourteen-year-old Akita meet her death.
The bear lost interest and moved five meters away to eat grass and bushes. I was about five meters away in the cabin watching Lucy’s chest rise and fall. Her eyes were closed. I thought; this is a slow and painful death. After several minutes, Lucy jumped up and started running away from the bear. The bear ensued, chasing her. I felt mortified. They went out of sight. I didn’t want to see her gruesome death. There was barking, yelping, and a kafuffle. Next thing I know, Lucy is on the front porch barking. The bear is gone.
I let her in. She can barely walk. She is bleeding from the neck. She is a mess. I am shocked and baffled, but grateful. I wonder if she needs to be put down. I call Tim. I call the vet. I decide to take her into town to the vet. I couldn’t get a hold of Tim, in retrospect; I learn that Tim’s phone died.
I get in my car and drive around the property, I honk and chase off a healthy bigger black bear. As I round the corner back to the cabin, I see the sick predacious bear. I also drive towards it honking. It doesn’t scare as easily as the healthy bear. But, I feel I have gained enough space to get Lucy in the car.
Lucy doesn’t want to leave the cabin. I carry her seventy-five pounds of life into my car. I get her blood on my hands; I will never forget this moment. We safely load into the car and I drive as fast as I can. This is one of the few times in my life where speeding feels like a vital act.
I watch Lucy carefully; I cannot believe she is alive. I constantly look over my shoulder, is she still conscious?
The vet palpates Lucy’s chest and belly and determines there are no obvious internal injuries. She shaves the neck where the puncture wounds are. She puts Lucy on pain relief and antibiotics. We are sent on our way shortly after. I cannot wait to find Tim and reunite our small family.
Since, this incident, I have witnessed myself and Lucy experience PTSD symptoms. I have seen Lucy recoil from me as if I am an attacking bear when I touch her in the wrong way. I have had bears wandering through my dreams. On our property, I startle at shadows.
Our week away to Squamish has been healing. The coastal air and warm waters have protected us from mad bears and dark shadows.