BEAR AND I
At the time of this writing I’m 57 years old: In those 57 years I’ve
met and interacted with many people: Some I would classify as acquaintances, others friends. There have been a few good friends,
fewer, best friends. I can, however, tell you who was the best of the best of my friends; his name was Bear. I gave him that
name. You see Bear was my dog. I say was, because unfortunately Bear is no longer among the living: He met a violent end.
That’s why I feel compelled to tell his story. Bear is dead, but I want his memory to live on: Not just in my mind,
but with you who love your pets’.
I may dramatize as I write of my Bear, but most will be fact.
When Bear and I first met, I was working for the city of Bangor, located in
southwestern lower Michigan; I was a police officer. I found an ad in the local paper from someone wanting a good home for
a German shepherd pup.
I drove to the address I wrote down. As I pulled into the dirt drive and stared
at the mobile home it reminded me of many of the homes I’d visited as a cop; run down and in need of repair. Indeed,
in need of being torn down! The front yard was more dirt than grass. A few children’s toys lie about: A wagon with three
wheels, a tricycle with only one pedal. I looked at the windows, either without curtains or with homemade coverings.
I walked up the steps to the front door and knocked on the thin metal covering
of its flimsy frame. I heard light footsteps from within, then the door opened.
I stared into the face of a woman, thirty to thirty-five, brown disheveled
hair; a cigarette hanging loosely from her thin lips.
"Hi, I’m the one who called about the German Shepard pup."
The woman stared at me, her eyes going immediately to my shoes, then up. She
then looked me in the eye: That’s what makes women such good witnesses, and police officers’; they are so observant.
"Yes," she said. "My dog had several pups. They’re all weaned now and
I just can’t afford to feed them all."
"May I see them?"
"Sure. Please excuse the way the house looks, the kids tear it up faster than
I can clean it."
I could see a dark-haired girl of about five peeking from behind the woman’s
tanned legs; exposed by cut-offs, cut way too high. As she opened the door, a boy of about eight ran to a nearby couch, launching
himself onto a cushion and sending up a dust cloud.
The woman led me to a room down the hall from the living room and cautiously
opened the door, "Take your pick. Just keep the door closed so the rest don’t get out."
I entered the room and was nearly overcome by the smell of dog feces. The one
window to the room was open but supplied little respite, as hot humid summer currents entered it. Opposite the door, on an
old worn throw rug, were four pups. All but one cowered against the wall.
"Hey guys," I said in a low calming voice.
"Woof," was the reply from the one pup daring to challenge my entrance.
"I’m not going to hurt you," I said, as I slowly made my way to where
the pups huddled.
Again, "Woof," came from the brazen pup.
I stared at him. He was more black than brown, typical Shepard markings; however
I found it hard to believe he was ‘pure bred.’
I took a doggy treat from my shirt pocket, knelt down and offered it in the
palm of my right hand. ‘Mister adventure’ slowly walked to my hand, smelled the morsel and quickly snapped it
up. I took a second snack out. This time I put it in my left palm. The pup came to me a little faster this time. As he nosed
toward the snack I extended my right hand and softly stroked his thick coat. I saw his tail, curled over his back, start to
"You’re a lot huskier than your brothers and sisters. You remind me of
a young Bear, yeah, a Bear."
When I left that day, Bear lie on the seat next to me. I left behind an authoritarian
suggestion to either provide a cleaner living environment for the rest of the pups’, or take them to the animal shelter.
I reinforced this ‘suggestion’ by the purposeful disclosure of the badge I wore on my pant belt, usually hidden
by my untucked tailed shirt.
As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, Bear and I closely bonded.
My departure for work each evening found Bear staring out my living room window, his countenance showing his displeasure that
he was not going with. In the wee hours of the morning, when the rest of the world was sleeping, I would pull in the drive
and see Bear’s face at that same window; his mouth slightly opened, as if in a grin. His body twitched with excitement
as he bound for the door to meet me, tail wagging madly: Shrill yips coming from his growing lungs. Only after much petting,
and a few of his favorite doggy treats, would he settle down; at my feet as I watched TV. If, while in my recliner, I slipped
into sleep, I would awake to his body heat against my legs.
Bear and I shared long walks. I never gave Bear any formal training, but while
on these walks I did make it a habit of keeping him on a tight leash at my left side. There were two reasons for this. One,
I wanted him to get use to staying near, not just straying all over. Second, I looked to the future of taking him on my ‘beat.’
If he were to walk with me while I was working, I wanted him on my left side; leaving my right side clear in case my weapon
had to be drawn.
Working as a cop for the city of Bangor, I found myself working alone much
of the time. Bangor, a small town, didn’t have the budget for a large police force. There was only the Chief of police,
a lieutenant, a part-time officer and I. The department had unpaid reserve officers’, but each one had their favorites
to whom they liked to work with; I usually was the last choice. I guess I wasn’t dynamic enough. I dedicated most of
my time, when not taking complaints, to providing an aggressive foot and mobile patrol. Except for of the Chief, who had too
many administrative duties to get out on the street much, the other officers’ liked to work traffic enforcement. This
of course was what the reserves’ craved. Anyway, this worked out well for Bear and me.
After he matured enough, I felt comfortable in bringing him to work with me.
I wouldn’t usually take Bear with me as I did my mobile patrol. I did take him on foot patrols.
It was during one of these foot patrols one summer night that Bear met some
of the ‘low life’ his master had to deal with. I was working with a fellow full-time officer, Bill Gant. As Bear,
Gant and me walked down the sidewalk we came to the entrance to a restaurant. It was about 11:00 P.M. and the business was
closed. Bear, as usual, was to my left and I was to Gant’s left, near the street: Farthest from the business entrance.
As we approached, I noticed two young men, in their late teens, early twenties,
in the recessed doorway. I recognized both men: ‘Scooter-bags.’ That’s my terminology for lowlife people
that have no purpose in life, nor want one.
As Bear, Gant and I passed by, one of the thugs remarked, "That dog bites me
and I’ll sue you."
That enraged me. Bear had done nothing to either man.
"Don’t worry about the dog, it’s his owner that bites," I replied.
A few weeks later I sat behind my desk at the police department, typing a report.
It was not uncommon for me to check out of service with the county dispatcher after 3:00 A.M. and then, on my own time, catch
up on reports.
Bear lie on the carpeted floor nearby, his head on his extended paws, his eyes
closed. I knew he wasn’t asleep; every minute or so he’d open his eyes, sometimes raise his head, look around
and then lay his head down again. The office I worked in was to the rear of the building. A nearby door led to the alleyway
outside. I’d parked my truck just off the alley, to the rear of the department.
As the keys to the type writer (yes, in the ‘old days’ we used
typewriters) clicked with each touch of my fingers I heard a low rumble coming from Bear’s throat. The rumble turned
to a growl.
"What’s the matter Bear, someone out there?"
Bear kept his eyes on the door leading to the alley, his head now up; his ears
reminded me of radar antennae: Both were standing straight, but would rotate slightly every few seconds.
Bear didn’t give false alarms so I knew someone, or something, was outside
the door. Bear stood up, his head cocked to one side, a short bark escaping his lips. I went for the door, unlocked it and
slowly turned the knob: Wanting to only open the door slightly. Suddenly, Bear launched himself at the small opening, forcing
it open further: Escaping into the darkness. Bear’s shrill barks echoed in the alley as the sound of leather striking
the pavement came to my ears.
"Get away! Get away!" Came a man’s voice, somewhere down the alley.
"Bear!" I yelled, trying to get him to return.
I looked at my truck, seeing my radio antennae bent at a 45-degree angle.
"Son-of-a-bitch! I hope Bear tears you a new ass hole," I yelled down the alley.
I stepped from the semi-darkness of where my truck was parked, to the street-lit
alleyway. I saw Bear returning, at a slow trot.
The night air was humid, its currents bringing smells of decaying foodstuffs
and stale beer from earlier activities at the nearby bar.
"Did you get him, Bear?" I asked, as I lowered myself on my haunches.
Bear came to me, his tail wagging. I found a dot of red on the end of his snout.
I checked him over for injuries. None.
"Yep, you nailed him. Good boy," I said, reaching into my uniform shirt pocket
for a doggy treat.
A couple of days later I stopped for gas, in my personal car. Frank Enders,
the ‘scooter-bag’ who’d said, "That dog bites me and I’ll sue you," was inside the store when I went
Frank grabbed his pop from the counter and brushed past me, his eyes avoiding
mine. Frank held the pop in his left hand: A bandage on his right.
Bear and I were real buds.’ If I were late getting home, which I was
many times, he was still glad to see me. If I were too busy to play with him some days he never growled at me. By the same
token, if he had an ‘accident’ on the floor, I’d clean it up and never scold him. When he chewed up my favorite
baseball hat, I bought another and never berated him. Bear was good with people who approached me, never growling or nipping
Having said that, heaven forbid anyone would ever raise their voice to me;
or worse yet act as if they were to attack me. Bear made it plain, on more than one occasion, that he would not tolerate any
hostile moves on his master. In each case, and there were only two I can recall, a hefty growl and the showing sharp canines
convinced the ‘scooter-bags’ it was in their best interest to cease and desist.
After several years with the Bangor police department I took a job with the
Covert Township police. Unfortunately I had to move closer to my new job. In so doing I went from a home in the countryside
to an apartment in the city. The apartment owners’ would not allow pets so I ask a friend of mine to take Bear. It broke
my heart to give him up, but I knew I’d still be able to see him.
Every chance I got I’d stop in and see Bear. He’d see me coming
and he’d go into a frenzy, jumping about and wagging his tail. I’d pet and hug him as he licked my face. We’d
share precious moments and then I’d have to leave. Bear would watch me go, and if he’d had tear glands his eyes
would have overflowed; mine did.
One day, about two years after I’d let my friend take Bear, I went to
see him. When I pulled into the drive, I looked to where Bear usually stayed, near the garage. I didn’t see Bear so
I walked to the garage and then to its rear: No Bear. My friend, seeing me out his kitchen window, came out.
"Hey Al, where’s Bear?" I asked.
"He nipped at my son, so I shot him," Al said, coldly.
"I shot him. He bit my son."
Al’s son, A.J., was about three-years-old at the time.
"Bear would never bite your son," I said, my voice breaking. My eyes filled
with tears and I felt my face flush.
"Well, he bit A.J. so I had to get rid of him," Al said, as if he’d just
crushed a bug.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: My Bear, dead?
"Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you just give him to animal
control? Something! You didn’t have to kill him!"
I thought back to when Al and I had worked together. I recalled once when he
and another cop had found an injured dog on the side of the street. A citizen had called them about the animal. Al and his
partner had taken the animal to a secluded wooded area and shot it. I thought, when I’d heard what they’d done,
that it wasn’t right but maybe they’d just wanted to put the dog out of its misery. Maybe I was wrong, I thought.
Maybe Al enjoyed doing that stuff.
I was devastated. I was so mad I couldn’t stay near where Al stood, so
I left without saying another word.
I’m retired now. I still miss Bear so much. I’m a firm believer
in life after death, for animals too. I know that Bear now runs through fields of green, never to be hurt again. When I pass
over, I look forward to seeing and being with Bear again.
About the Author
Richard Neal Huffman was born the son of a sharecropper. At the age of two his parents migrated to southwest Michigan. At 20, Richard was drafted into the United States Army where he served as a medic. After discharge, he joined the National Guard and later the Army Reserves.
Richard joined the Bangor Police Department and throughout his career he would serve as a patrol officer, training officer, sergeant, detective and assistant chief of
police. Richard’s first book, “Dreams in Blue: The Real Police,”
is an autobiographical journey that takes the reader inside the world of the small town cop. He introduces the reader to people,
situations, and a culture that is both interesting and unique. Richard’s second book, “Rubal,” is a fictional
account of a Union soldier during the Civil War.
Click here for more information Richard Neal Huffman’s books.