Life Lessons, Courtesy of Man's Best Friend
You might have thought I was shouting at a movie screen. "Not enough noise, eh?" I thought, and gathered up some pots and pans from the kitchen and went out into the yard. Dino pinwheeled and gyrated like something on an electrified surface trying to get to us, but Karen had him hooked by the collar.
I ventured to within ten feet—how fast could they run, anyway?—and banged my pots and pans together. That he did notice, the way a fat man on a bench notices distant traffic. Poor Dino was now hurling himself at the window, his metal license ringing against the glass. I started bracketing the bear with rocks from the front walkway. One that whizzed by his butt made him drag himself to his feet and then to his hind legs. I was unhappy to discover that he was as tall as I was.
I made cattle drive sounds. He gave me some thought. I bracketed him with more rocks and he lurched into motion, at first toward me, and then he changed his mind and half-loped away with that rolling bear gait, looking back once, like an old man put out by hooligans making too much noise to let him watch TV.
Put out or not, he came back a half hour later. Same thing. Same pots and pans, different rocks. This time after he disappeared back into the woods, at Karen's suggestion I took the emptied bird feeder down—it was grooved with claw marks the thickness of pencils raked down both sides of the clear plastic—and she put it in the cellar.
That next Saturday night, Dino went nuts again and, given the giant featureless plain that is my thoughtlessness, I let him out the back door without fully taking my mind off whatever it was I was doing. When he refused to calm down outside, I followed him, mostly for the purpose of yelling at him, and in the darkness I could hear something that sounded like a washing machine being dragged through the woods. I called him, but he kept barking. Our motion light was out, naturally, so I had to go inside for a flashlight.
When I got back to the driveway, I played its beam around. Dino was invisible at first, his bark noticeably more hoarse. But there was the bear, lugging our full garbage can, its lid still on, up the hillside and through the woods, his arms around the widest part, the frat boy humping a keg. Apparently he hadn't been able to tear the bungee cord from the top and had opted for just walking off with the entire thing. I yelled for him to drop the can, and he did. Which disconcerted us both. Later when I told the story, people said, "Wait: the bear understood English?" To which I answered, "Hey: What can I tell you? I told him to drop it, and he dropped it."
I caught his face with the flashlight beam, and he looked at me like he was suffering from a headache. He gave me his second memorable look: this one more along the lines of You are one pain in the ass, boy. Then he left again. I could hear the crashing through the undergrowth for a few minutes, even over Dino's noise.
It looked like someone had dragged a boat through the woods. The next morning, I was able to follow his trail all the way down to a stream that runs off our property.
Soon after that he came back again and pulled the bag of birdseed out of the garage and tore it open and spread it around. Lucy's babysitter surprised him and apparently lopped a few years off her own life expectancy doing so.