Monday, July 5, 2010

Big brave Bear

Bear only climbed the boxy, awkward stairs to the bedroom of our new house once more after the first attempt that ended in her suffering the indignity of being half-carried back to the safety of the living room when she realized she couldn’t climb down on her own.

The flight of stairs, designed to take up as small a space as possible, is closer to a ladder in some ways than an actual set of stairs. We really didn’t think Bear would even attempt to go up, but it turned out going up wasn’t a problem.

The first time Bear climbed to the bedroom she marched up the strange, offset stairs with confidence, her feet automatically choosing the correct steps as she followed eagerly along on a tour we were giving our friends the day we moved in. Going down was much more challenging. Bear couldn’t understand that the stairs were designed so each foot had its own small step, taking up half the space of a standard flight of stairs. As she looked down, processing only one side of the stairs, what she saw was each step was twice the height of a regular one and extra steep. The only way for her to get down was for Morgan and I to awkwardly lift her between us.

After that embarrassing fiasco Bear contented herself with standing forlornly at the bottom of the stairs as we ascended and waved back over our shoulders and told her everything was fine. We didn’t expect her to ever venture up the stairs again.

She climbed them the second time because she was scared.

It’s kind of funny to look at Bear, who has been mistaken for an actual bear in the past, and realize she’s scared of stuff. Her intimidating charge down the driveway at any newcomers or alarmist barking at a knock on the door and refusal to stop when we tell her in increasingly louder and angrier voices “THAT’S ENOUGH!” makes it even harder to believe. Bear fancies herself a protector, and there have been times when I was grateful for her intimidating presence.

The thing that completely undoes Bear isn’t something she can see, it’s what she hears. Maybe it is fear of the unknown. I have had the same conversation with her repeatedly during the seven years I’ve known her, “Thunder won’t hurt you.” Anything that grumbles or rumbles or pops in a menacing sort of way, like the distant crack of fireworks, turns Bear inside out.

It was during some firework-laden holiday that Bear once again braved the bedroom stairs.

It was late and I was reading in bed. The cats had been particularly annoying the past couple of nights, deciding it was time to wrestle and thunder across the bedroom floor at 3:00 in the morning so, with no door to close as our bedroom is much like an attic room that is entered through a hole in the floor, we positioned a large cardboard box over the hole to keep the cats out.

In the distance we could hear the odd hollow pop of fireworks exploding. There was a pause in which I swear I could feel Bear losing complete grasp on her cool and then I heard the click of her nails as she pushed herself off the couch and paced in the living room below us.

It wasn’t long before the sound changed to a deeper clack of her nails on a different type of wood and I knew Bear was climbing the stairs. She crept slowly up to the bedroom as if in hopes of sneaking in unnoticed.

I sat up in bed and looked to where the box covered the entryway. I could see Bear’s brown eye peering back from the space where the box didn’t quite cover the entire hole.

“Oh, Bear,” I said, trying not to laugh too hard. “Are you scared?”

We slid the box aside and Bear bounded eagerly into the room, panting, probably from stress but also I believe from a sense of relief at not having to face those scary fireworks alone, as in, “Whew, thank goodness. Did you guys hear that?”

I put some blankets on the floor up against my side of the bed, and patted them to show Bear that was her spot. She sat down as I climbed back into bed, then stuck her head under the covers, trying to crawl in beside me.

Our mattress sits on a box spring directly on the floor, so once I got Bear to reluctantly lie down on her blankets, we were just about face-to-face as she craned her neck around and rested her chin on the bed to give me her best heart-melting look.

She tried a few more times to weasel her way into the bed before finally settling down for what would be the one and only night she slept with us in that bedroom. As the sun came up the next day and the fireworks were but a vague memory, Bear was her old, happy, confident self. She seemed quite pleased to have spent the night in our room, where she belonged, and probably wondered why she didn't do that every night. Then, turning to follow us out of the room, her face fell as she experienced what I’m sure was one of those stomach-plummeting “oh yeah” moments.

Being carried down the stairs for a second time was plenty I suppose. Bear has never attempted the bedroom again.


  1. Ah, Bear is, after all is said and done, only human. I like that idea. Bear/dog protector with her loud and deeply-voiced growl has real fears: the roar of cascading thunder, the noisy pop of firecrackers. To escape such terrors, big Bear/Wolf timidly tiptoes her shaky way up those steep "stairs" to you and your safe arms. I bet she knew the price she would have to pay come morning, when, in disgrace, you and Morgan "carry" her down to flat ground.
    This Bear entry was an enjoyable read. I do wonder, though, if spicy Murdoch has even hinted at being afraid of anything.

  2. Just yesterday fearless Murdoch wouldn't come near me because I was holding a feather!

  3. I really would prefer to believe that sharp-toothed Murdoch has no fears. Purity is so hard to come by.