A Bear in My House!

Jul 19, 2010 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I grabbed the phone, locked myself in a closet and dialed 911. When the officer answered and asked for my address, I screamed, "There's a bear inside my house! And I'm alone!"

It began with forgetfulness. I put some eggs on the stove to boil, went downstairs to my office to answer emails, which led me to look up a website which gave me an idea and I started making notes. I smelled something peculiar, like burning plastic, and wondered if it was the computer overheating. A half hour later, I got up to get some water and remembered, the eggs! I raced up the stairs and found the rooms filled with smoke so thick it was hard to see. The eggs had exploded and the pot was a lump of hard black tar.

Cleaning up the mess, I opened all the doors and windows, hoping that cross drafts would carry away the smoke. I opened the garage and the door that led from the garage to the kitchen.

I walked back downstairs, brushed my teeth, sat in the hot tub (outside in the dark!), then started turning out lights and closing windows and doors.

I was heading upstairs when I heard a shuffling noise. One of the neighbors' dogs must have wandered into the house. Then I froze. That was no dog! It was a bear, dark brown, with his rump to me as he padded down the hall between the living room and kitchen. He was at least four feet high on all fours.

"Get out of here!" I screamed, raced down the stairs and into my bedroom. What should I do? Call a neighbor? It's one in the morning. Then I thought of 911, grabbed the phone and called it for the first time in my life.

Officer Donovan answered, sent out an alert and said he'd stay on the phone with me until police arrived. I was hyperventilating. "How long will that take?"

"Not long, they're rolling now," he said. My cat! I realized she was outside the closet, but each time I opened it and tried to coax her in, she scampered away.

Donovan said, "I have one arrival." One officer was now outside my house but he couldn't come in alone, he had to wait for backup. Hurry! I thought.

"Can you hear the bear?" Donovan asked.

"No. Maybe he's gone," I said.

"The officers will assume he's in there. Don't move from the closet. They'll come in with guns drawn."

I was starting to calm down; the cavalry had arrived. I could even laugh when Donovan made a funny statement.

"Second arrival," he said. "Stay where you are, Sara."

I heard the officers moving around overhead. Then they were outside my bedroom door. I hung up with Donovan and practically fell into their arms. "The bear's not here," they said. They had pistols, long rifles strapped to them and enough ammo to flush out a Taliban nest.

The youngest officer said to me, "I don't do bears. Criminals, bad guys, no problem. But we don't expect to find bears in residences." He shook his head and kept repeating, "I don't do bears."

For a second I imagined what might have happened if the bear had dallied. Gun shots, blood, ursine diarrhea and the brown behemoth splayed on my hardwood floor. We went back upstairs and saw that the bear had knocked over the garbage cans in the kitchen and garage and rummaged through them.

"He didn't stay long," the young officer said, "or he would have clawed opened the refrigerator. You probably scared him off."

By now there were four squad cards with lights flashing outside my house. I couldn't sleep after they all left. Adrenaline was pounding through me. As it happens, the next morning was my day to spend with Reb Zalman, a rabbi with whom I'm working on a book, The December Work.

We'd been talking about the need to reset one's course in life at key times. When I told him a bear had entered my house the night before, he gave a playful smile. "The bear is a symbol."

Of what? I asked. Brute strength? Resurrection or reinvention, because it hibernates?

Reb Zalman said his wife was told by Native American women that if you run into a bear, you should expose your breasts and the bear will flee. As if I would stand there and try that!

Later in the day I had a call from a ranger with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who suggested I buy bear pepper spray called "Counter Assault" that was developed for grizzlies in Alaska.

Or I could get a small boat horn, in case the bear returns. The best thing, he said, is to keep your doors and windows closed and don't have attractants around, like garbage outside or bird feeders. He said they could set a trap by my house, but if a bear got caught, he would die. "Think about it," Rick said. Right. People in Colorado don't like to kill bears.

Should I order the boat horn or the bear spray?


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