- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

SITKA, Alaska (AP) - An elderly pit bull is recovering after he nearly died following an encounter with a bear last week.

The 12-year-old dog, Monkey, was bitten several times by a brown bear in Port Alexander last week and flown to Sitka, where he was treated by veterinarian Burgess Bauder, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/1NnY9MN).

Monkey’s owner, Joe “Otto” Smith, says he was visiting his parents when things went awry.

“My parents’ dogs are pretty savvy to bears and they bark when they’re around and sometimes go tearing off to the beach to do what, we don’t know, I guess chase bears,” Smith said.

“And my dog is kind of a city dog. He spends his summers in Alaska and he’s not a chaser. He’s never done it once in 12 years.”

But this time, Monkey followed the other dogs to the beach.

Smith went running after the dog, but by the time he arrived a yearling bear had Monkey in its jaws.

“I heard horrible dog screaming and knew right away what was happening,” said Smith. “It had my dog in its mouth and it was carrying it to the woods.”

While he watched, the bear dropped Monkey and started gnawing on the dog. All Smith could see was Monkey’s paws sticking up from the grass.

Smith keeps a harness on the aging pit bull to lift him on and off his fishing boat. He believes the bear was confused by Monkey’s harness.

“I think when the bear was carrying the dog away from me he had a big chunk of the harness in his mouth,” said Smith. “And when I thought he was eating my dog he was actually trying to figure out what was happening with this thing on my dog.”

Smith started throwing rocks at the bear to get him to leave the dog alone.

“I probably shouldn’t have in hindsight,” he said. “But I threw some little rocks at it and it was just ignoring me, which kind of emboldened me because at least it wasn’t charging me. So I picked up a bigger rock with two hands, took a few running steps and threw it over my head at the bear.”

That caused the animal to run back into the forest and Smith began inspecting Monkey, who had a dozen puncture wounds.

“He looked horrible. He was covered in blood and bear slobber,” Smith said.

After Monkey made it through the night, another Port Alexander resident offered to fly Smith and the dog to Sitka.

“This poor animal came in on a stretcher. Oh, he hurt so damn bad he couldn’t even stand,” said Bauder, the veterinarian.

Bauder says Monkey was bitten on the chest, around the neck and on the hind end. The vet worried about internal injuries, but only found a partially collapsed lung, so the dog was relatively easy to treat.

“All you do is sew up the hole on the outside and load him up,” Bauder said, who gave Monkey a cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics to ward off infections.

Monkey was back on his feet in about a day and is slowly recovering at Port Alexander.

“He’s still really stiff,” said Smith. “He doesn’t bounce quite as much as before but I’m optimistic that he’ll be close to normal in the next couple of days.”

In over 40 years of being a vet, Bauder said most bear encounters end with the dog either being too quick for the bear to grab, or the bear killing the animal.

“Encounters where they’re bitten and escape? Few and far between.”

Smith said during the night before they flew to Sitka he made a promise that if Monkey lived he would spoil the dog for the rest of its life.

“That’s a promise I intend to keep,” he said.

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Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, http://www.sitkasentinel.com/

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