Creative Journeyat Tonglen Lake Lodge

GRIZZLY: The Rest of the Story- Part 2

The bear staring at Q.
You can see my hand in the right side of this photo.
Taken just before the bear sniffed Q and Q decided to exit the scene.
Our Hero.

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Now, Q was the only one of our party who had engaged the creature at all.  Q was also the only one of us who had an obvious reaction to our furry new friend.  I believe that is why the bear showed any interest at all.  Otherwise, his demeanor was so “chill” as to be rudely ignorant of our presence; your worst social nightmare.  I had yelled at him twice at this point and my words had fallen on fluffy, deaf ears.

Through these passing minutes of the encounter, I was truly on sensory overdrive.  I focused on the bear, his movements, his demeanor, his body language, everything.  I had to react to my best guess strategy for survival.  My best guess was that if Tessa, Clint and I showed any movement down the trail at all, my dogs would take off.  They would read our movement as a release from their sit/stay (Yes, I know my Agility Trainers/Teachers are now saying “I told you so!”).  I didn’t think that I could keep the dogs in a stay as we exited the area, not with the bear present.  If we had moved slowly away and the dogs sprinted off, the quick movement of the dogs would trigger the chase instinct of the bear.  The bear would chase the dogs, the dogs would freak out and come running back to us with the now excited bear on their heals.  Not choice #1 in my impromptu play book.  Keeping all six of us quiet and still seemed the best option.  However, our grizzly buddy was becoming increasingly more comfortable with us hanging around thus making our departure more challenging.  It was like getting caught in a social situation that is quite uncomfortable but near impossible to extract yourself from (like Old Aunt Edith feeding you tea and cookies on a beautiful summer day while the rest of your cousins are playing freeze-tag outside the window but you are her “favorite” and your mom told you that you HAD to and Aunt Edith talks incessantly and can’t take a hint so you sit in agony hearing the gleeful voices of your cousins drowning out her dissertation about the old days….).


Up until now, everything seemed edgy but mostly under control.  It was when our buddy looked up from his browsing and fixed his gaze on Q that there was a change in the air.  He strode meaningfully toward Q with his head high and ears turned forward in a very attentive way with his eyes directed at my now wimpified dog.  We humans had stepped off onto the edge of the trail to have a few spindly tree branches, void of leaves, for protection.  I had my hand on the small branch of a spruce tree.  As the bear stepped purposefully toward Q, Q slinked in my direction ending in front of my feet as the bear got close enough to get a good sniff of him, about 4-5 feet from me.  I shook the weenie little branch and threatened the monster to “GET OUT OF HERE”, but he never even glanced up.  As Mr. Grizz was about to make nose contact with my now very small border collie, Q had had enough and took off down the trail away from us, barking.  The bear turned and lumbered off after him. 


My first step was in their direction even though home was the other way.  I had to loudly verbalize to the kids, but mostly to myself, “Forget about the dogs!  Run!  Get out of here!”  We were presented with the opportunity to escape.  So, we ran up the hill toward home with Peg and Arrow leading the way, still seemingly unaware of the urgency of our mission.  There was a split-second moment in my thoughts when I realized that I had lost Q.  We could hear him continuing to bark as we ran.  But I knew I had to get all the rest of us to safety.  I would have to grieve for Q later.


About half way up the hill, with all of us diligently looking back as we ran, we saw Q running up behind us.  YIKES!!!  I have to admit that I wasn’t all that thrilled to see him at this point.  It could easily be assumed that he had the grizzly in hot pursuit.  We slowed and nearly stopped expecting a now energized bear to appear and we did not want him to see us running. 




We continued to jog up the hill, watching behind us…. We were almost back to The Big Rock. Tessa and Clint were beginning to make comments such as “That was close!” and “I didn’t think we were going to get out of there!” but I still had this foreboding and was diligently focused on getting ALL the way home.  “Don’t say that yet!”, I warned, not wanting to tempt fate.


Every step seemed as in a dream as we approached Tonglen Lake.  We spotted the lake through the trees and it felt like a beacon of safety.  It was at that point that I started to relax.  We began talking about what we were going to tell everyone.  Nervous laughter.


The entire encounter with our bear was less than ten minutes but of course, seemed like an eternity.  I was left with several observations.  The most significant being that the bear was so amazingly relaxed.  He certainly wasn’t hungry… at least not for any of us.  His interest in Q was lackadaisical at best.  Within hours he encountered another human with dogs and one of the dogs went nose to nose with him.  Again his demeanor was nearly one of disinterest and the encounter was merely incidental, though certainly not from the human’s standpoint. 


And I wonder if Q actually knew what he was doing when he ran off luring the bear away from us, giving us the means of escape.  Usually, when he is fearful of something on our walks, he runs back home.  This time he ran away from home and away from us, giving us the open trail to head home.  He certainly didn’t act terribly frightened when he caught back up to us on the trail.  He just joined back into the group as if nothing had happened.  He did get extra rations of treats that night.  He definitely deserved it no matter what his intentions were.  We humans had a glass of wine or two.


As a community, we are steering clear of the trails for a while, until the moose calves have grown enough to be too big of a challenge for capture.  The bear (or bears) should clear out at that point…. Unless, of course, our new friend decides to settle in.  I can understand why he might be inclined to stick around.  This neighborhood is a pretty wonderful place to live.



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