CASTLE ROCK — Bear Dog has a new fishing pole and treats galore.And when the time comes, the 18-year-old black Lab mix is ensured a peaceful end.
Since The Daily News published an article Sunday about Bear Dog, the popular Castle Rock canine known for frequenting the North County Recreation Sports Complex had received a slew of visitors, gifts and phone calls, owner Don Caulfield said Monday.
"Every time I turn around, there's something," said Caulfield, 62, a retired trucker.
The ink on Bear Dog's article was barely dry when well-wishers began showing up Sunday morning at Caulfield's mobile home on Mosier Road. A woman told Caulfield she'd already arranged with her veterinarian to "adopt" Bear Dog. She would pay for Bear's medical treatment -- and, if necessary, the cost of putting the old boy to sleep, Caulfield said, calling her a "wonderful, wonderful lady."
"He'll be well taken care of," Caulfield promised. "I really appreciate everybody offering."
When Caulfield got home from church, people were parked in front of his mobile home, and Bear Dog was looking out the window. A man had a new fishing pole for him. Bear, who loved joining fishermen at the Cowlitz River in his younger days, had his own pole until it was stolen a year ago.
Another man brought over a top sirloin steak, a roast and a big tub of dog bones for Bear and Bear's sidekick Tommy, a Dachshund/ yellow Lab mix. Someone else brought over real bear-meat sausage.
Caulfield is thrilled and deeply touched by the attention to his loyal friend. A couple of months ago, he thought it was over for Bear, and Caulfield even started digging a grave. Bear's back legs suddenly stopped working, and he had to crawl. Because Caulfield couldn't afford the vet's $150 euthanasia fee, he considered shooting Bear Dog to put him out of his misery. But neither Caulfield nor his friends or children had the stomach to pull the trigger.
Then Bear Dog fell down the porch steps, tweaked his back — and miraculously regained his ability to walk.
Monday, Bear Dog sat under a cedar tree and groomed himself "all pretty," as if he was preparing for visitors, Caulfield said.
"If you see him right now, he's all soft, furry and clean," he said.
Bear Dog had a big day. A KATU 2 news team from Portland came up to film a segment on him. He greeted kids who were walking by. When Caulfield returned home from Longview, more people were waiting to see Bear Dog, who barreled onto the porch to meet them.
By late Monday afternoon, a tuckered out Bear Dog was snoring away in front of a heater in Caulfield's living room.
"He's soaking this stuff right up," Caulfield said. "It's like he's making a liar out of me — 'I'm not ready to go yet."'