Friday, March 25, 2011

"SHASH: PART ONE" by The Bearman

This story comes to the blog from an Investigatior friend, Dan Bekins.  He's called The Bearman for reasons you are about to learn. Dan sent me this story after I wrote about Bubba, my beloved rescue pup.

I was deeply moved by Dan's unconditional love of the bear cub he and his family "adopted". And then the story of Shash's growth and eventual departure from the nest. I asked Dan if I coud publish it here in the blog. It's a two part series.  He generously agreed. All the words from this point on are Dan's. You can find... and friend... Dan Bekins, A.K.A. The Bearman, on Facebook.


Shash.  Even the mention of his name brings to me treasured memories of my favorite Black Bear.  Whether it is his antics with his ball, swimming in his pool, or playing with a gunnysack, we all have our special memory.  Shash is part of my life, we are buddies and playmates.  I am lucky enough to be the Bearman.

Shash was born on the San Carlos Apache Reservation near Globe, Arizona.  His name means “Little Bear” in Apache.  On May 7th of 1994 a hunter killed his mother and he became an orphan.  The hunter, who was hunting legally, discovered his mistake and since it was cub season, looked for cubs.  He found one cub and turned him over to Arizona Game and Fish.  There is a heavy fine for shooting a she-bear but in spite of this, he chose to take responsibility for his actions, and did the right thing.  Something that does not happen all that often in today’s society.

Shash was lucky to find a home.  A certified wildlife rehabilitator in the Globe area was the next human touched by Shash.  For two weeks the family kept the cub at their home.  This family went the extra mile to provide love and care to Shash until we at Heritage Park Zoo in Prescott, Arizona could take responsibility for him.

The usual ending for bear cubs is euthanization because there are so few places that can provide a home.  Once animals have become imprinted, they will return to where humans live.  This is dangerous for both Bears and humans.  

My wife Phyllis has a soft spot for animals and we have our share around the house.  I had become a whiner because Phyllis would keep bringing home animals.  I whined to our veterinarian who suggested that she volunteer at the local zoo.  I was overjoyed because this could be the solution to keeping a steady population here at home.  All the animals that she could ever want, but she couldn’t bring any of them home.  Phyllis happened to start the day a 13-pound Black Bear cub named Shash came to live at the zoo.

Phyllis would come home with stories about the little bear. Phyllis and others took turns bottle-feeding him every three hours.  After two weeks of stories I went to see the bear.  I helped feed him, played with him, and I was hooked.  This is when my memories of Shash began.

Little larger than a teddy bear, Shash was fearless and charged with energy.  I still can see him sitting is his many wading pools.  I remember removing the shredded pieces of those pools.  I see him standing on his first den and when Phyllis least expected it, and bent over, he would jump on her back.  “What shall I do, what shall I do” she’d cry.  “Stand up” I’d say.  As he would roll to the ground, we would both laugh.  I remember removing the shredded pieces of the first den.  Bears in general are destructive animals; I think Shash is just mischievous.

How Shash loves water.  He had a stock trough for a pool after he started destroying the plastic ones after only a day.  I can truly state that the makers of those troughs can be proud of their product, they are bear proof!  He would run across his enclosure and could skillfully land on the rim.  Shash would then lower himself into the “pool” in such a way that he would look like anyone of us at home in the tub.  He also loves to get sprayed with the hose in the summer.

Shash now has a deluxe pool with a waterfall provided from donations and a local Scout Troop provided the much-needed muscle for this project.

I remember getting a panicky call from one of the Zoo Keepers that Shash had gotten out and was on top of his enclosure.  On the ride to the zoo my heart seemed as if it was tearing its self lose from my chest.  I had visions of King Kong on top of the Empire State Building.  Those horrible what if’s.... were running through my mind.

I arrived at the zoo to find Shash bouncing on the wire that covered the enclosure thoroughly enjoying himself.  He was having a good old time.  I spoke to him sternly and told him to come down.  He had a look like Pooh getting caught with his paw in the honey jar and proceeded to come down.  He went left, he went right, and after a minute or so, several of us guided him back inside his enclosure.  Oh you little Shasher!

I still go in the enclosure and play with my “little buddy”; I try to do so as often as I can.  There is nothing like a Bear hug to set the day right.  He stands at over seven feet now and weighs over four hundred fifty pounds.  Shasher is a large part of my life.  Even the dogs at home realize this and don’t think twice about me coming home smelling like a Bear.  I have many more memories than I can get down in this space.  Shash has touched many people’s lives and we all have those special moments when that cuddly Bear comes to mind. 

It was through volunteering my time I got this opportunity for which I am truly grateful.  I find my time donated to the zoo very fulfilling.  There may be a project in your area that could use your help and support.


  1. as always a wonderful I am the ex-wife, I have a few other antidotes to share...Shash new the sound of Bman's jeep and his voice. I remember a specific time that he could be heard crying from the entrance to the park as he could hear his best buddy Dan, and he was on his way. Another being the two of them sitting at sunset sharing a bottle of apple cider, just two ole' bears having a good laugh :)

  2. you brought them together you know.what an amazing gift.

  3. Thank you Dan and Phyl for taking me to visit your adorable Sash. It is something that I will cherish and treasure forever! What an amazing story, what an amazing Bear! We love you Sash!!