the fall of 2002, about dusk, I realized there was only one bear in the cage. My
heart sank. How was I going to get Yogi, an oversized, 800 pound, black bear,
back into his cage before he climbed the ten foot perimeter fence?
Yogi shared the pen with Molly, a circus bear and "meaner than a junk-yard dog".
Molly, a pissed-off show bear from
state, had the bad habit of biting off fingers of those who put them through the
cage. This had already happened twice. Yogi came to us as a baby since the
owners were embarrassed with him because he kept licking his genitals. They
thought he was a queer bear and asked us to take him. I then treated him for a
rash and he healed up and quit licking himself. Yogi became a bouncy, loveable
bear who could not do enough for me.
I found the cage open, Yogi was on the outside a Molly was on the inside. I
quickly ran and locked the gate to keep Molly in. On turning around, Yogi was
towering over me, standing on his two hind legs. Now I opened the cage door
inward, endeavoring to coach Yogi inside. That effort lasted three seconds.
Molly rushed the gate with all the fury of a female who has been scorned. She
hit the gate on full run and shook everything.
Now the gate opens both inward and outward. However, there is a bolt, or pipe,
that goes in and out of the door which works as a lock. I let the bolt all the
way out, so that when Molly hit the gate, the bolt would hit the door frame and
not open out and let Molly out. Now for the next half hour, I tried to bribe
Yogi with steak. But since he had eaten recently, food was not an incentive.
The stress was getting to me and my mouth was dry. I decided to take a break.
But when drinking out of the hose, I could not swallow, as my guts were
beginning to spasm. At that point I realized I needed help!
Pete and I returned in fifteen minutes. Pete went to the far side of the bear
cage and got Mollyís attention. Now I could hold the door open for 30 seconds
before Molly spied the open door and rushed me.
this time it was dark and we were using flash lights. Yogi took my flashlight,
bit it in half and handed it back to me. Still standing upright, he then broke a
2 x 4 off the cougarsí cage which protruded about 9 feet from the ground. Iím
convinced Yogi was smiling at me. He was so proud of himself. I felt safe
because I had raised him from a baby. However, I also felt uneasy with this huge
bear towering over me as we bumped into each other in an effort to get him
inside the cage. I found that when I held the gate, I would stand in the way of
Yogi, so I tied my belt onto the gate. Now I am out of the way and can still
pull it shut when Molly rushes the gate. The concentration level got heavy.
Keeping an eye on Molly and trying to entice Yogi simultaneously is where I made
a mistake. Somehow, I let the bolt on the door get pushed in. It like chess. One
cannot afford to make one mistake, and I had just made it.
Molly rushed the gate just like she had dozens of times before. I pulled the
gate shut just when she hit it with full force. The gate flew open and somehow I
landed on my tush some 9 feet from the gate. I knew I was a goner. Molly had all
her teeth and claws coming at me. I yelled to Pete to get up on top of the cage,
and at the same time I knew I could not get to my feet before Molly got to me. I
resigned myself to my doom. Just when Molly was about out the cage door and
coming straight at me, when Yogi stepped in. Like a professional bowler, still
standing upright, he hit this 400 pound bear Molly and knocked her backwards
into the cage. By this time I was on my feet. I locked the gate with Molly on
the inside and Yogi on the outside. Still. This is where truth was more strange
and unbelievable than fiction. I know. It happened to me. I thanked Yogi
profusely, and within a half-hour Yogi walked back into his cage. I think he
realized I was wearing out and out of courtesy, he went back into his cage.
I realize now, that was a sacrifice for Yogi. It was probably purgatory being
with Molly. A few months later, I found Yogi laying sick in his house. He looked
at me with such love in his eyes as he lay there. I decided to wait until
tomorrow to see how he was doing. If he was still sick, I was going to give him
8 cc of penicillin and maybe try to pull some blood and take it to the
to be analyzed. The Hospital gave us a special rate of $25.00 to test blood.
Then I would call some of my friends and give them the test results. What
happened to Yogi the next day? I found him dead. It had to be one of the most
heart-breaking moments Iíve experienced. I felt remorse and guilt as I saw my
friend laying there on the ground. So this is what itís like when you see a war
buddy who saved your life lying dead on the battle field. I will always wonder
who proved to be more in touch with God in our relationship, man or beast.