It is with a very heavy heart that we announce that our beloved permanent resident Bear has passed. Bear came to us three years ago with no other options. He had lived with his family since he was adopted at just a few weeks old and his life was filled with nothing but love. Sadly, as he grew older he began to become more and more aggressive until he had a severe bite incident with his owner. It became clear that he could no longer safely live in his home, especially with a young child, and they reached out to us for help. We were not yet set up to accept dogs into our permanent resident program, so his family went above and beyond, keeping him in a boarding facility, visiting him often to keep his spirits up, for three months until he could come to us.
Bear was just a few weeks old when his original family saved his life
When Bear arrived it was clear he was a dog with very serious aggression. Often his aggression towards his family had seemed unpredictable, but as we got to know him better we began to see that his aggression had abnormal but predictable triggers, such as eye contact under specific circumstances. We studied him, learned these triggers, and created a behavioral program that allowed us to safely manage him and give him a wonderful quality of life. A major part of that, as many of you likely remember, was using a basket muzzle for him whenever he would interact directly with people. With his triggers being abnormal and at times caused by very minor and common human behavior, the muzzle allowed us to safely give him wonderful experiences (hiking, running alongside the atv, cuddling, going on adventures) without the risk of human error potentially causing a bite incident. We are so proud of how far Bear came with his training and how bonded he was able to become to his foster family in the last three years. We are especially proud that during his entire stay with us, he never once had an additional bite incident.
Bear's first day at the Ranch
During his time in our care we also noticed that Bear would have episodes that appeared to be minor seizures. These would happen under times of stress or change in routine, and would present as him shaking, drooling excessively, and growling at the wall. We continued to monitor these episodes and kept our veterinarian informed. They were infrequent, and we found that medication and simply keeping his daily routine consistent seemed to help him. Unfortunately a few weeks ago, things changed. Bear had a very serious incident that luckily did not lead to a bite because of the use of the basket muzzle, but this incident was different from any aggression we had seen from him previously. It appeared to be completely out of his control and was coupled with him drooling excessively and shaking uncontrollably. This did not seem to be a behavioral problem, but rather a medical one, and likely an epileptic episode.
Bear loved rolling in the grass more than anything
Over the last few years we had found Bear’s behavioral special needs to be completely manageable with the use of the basket muzzle and other training techniques, but sadly his medical special needs were now posing a very serious threat to safety. He had already been on medication that helped to manage seizure activity, but the severity and frequency of these episodes continued to escalate and we consulted with our veterinarian and met as a board to make the difficult and painful decision that our only responsible course of action was to humanely euthanize him.
Bear loved having his own room in his foster home with his big, comfy bed
When we accept an aggressive dog into our program we make them a promise to care for them as long as we can do so safely. We will do whatever we can to find management protocols for our animals, whether that involves medication, partnering with other trainers, sending dogs for board and train programs, basket muzzle training, etc, and if Bear’s incidents were simply behavior based or in response to new triggers, we would have continued to try to change our management program to accommodate them and keep him safe, as we had done successfully for three years. However, with the seizure activity becoming a clear contributor, we were forced to face the fact that further incidents were impossible to predict and should one happen while Bear was putting his muzzle on, the result could be devastating and severely unsafe for his handler, him, and potentially the public.
This was the responsible decision, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for his foster family, our organization, and especially his original family, who have understandably struggled with the decision our organization made for Bear. Throughout his time with our rescue, they continued to love him, sending him treats regularly and visiting him as often as they could, never forgetting their love for him. His last moments with us were filled with love, including a FaceTime with his favorite people, his original family, where they told him what a wonderful dog he was and that they would always love him. He was surrounded by her foster family from our rescue at the end who had fought to find safe ways to give him a great life, loved him, and understood him the way all dogs deserve to be understood. He is sorely missed every day, which is why it has taken some time to make this post as his foster needed to take time to grieve his loss privately. We understand that Bear has always been a divisive issue on social media, whether people believed he should be euthanized sooner due to his behavior or that his wearing the muzzle was an unfair choice we made for him. In sharing this post we understand if anyone would like to comment with questions, we just ask for kindness and understanding in this painful situation.
Bear always loved the days that his chews from his original family would arrive
To our beloved Bear, we are so sorry that we only had three years, rather than being able to give you ten years or more of the love you deserved. We hope you know we loved you with all our hearts and that you were a good boy. We miss you terribly, and having your room empty in the house is a painful daily reminder of your absence, but we also will always remember the happy moments, the adventures, and most of all the sweet and gentle kisses you would give. Your life mattered to so many people; you left a lasting impact on all of us. You educated so many people about the reasons behind basket muzzle usage, and we know of several dogs who are alive today because their families saw the posts about you and decided to try a basket muzzle instead of euthanasia for their own dogs. Until we meet again, thank you for being a part of our wayward family.
Founding Board Member,
Executive Director, and
Bear's Foster Mom.