Saturday, March 26, 2011

"SHASH: PART TWO" by The Bearman

This story below is Part Two of the the saga of Shash and The Bearman. 
Scroll down, you'll find part one below.
It was written by Investigatior friend, Dan Bekins, who sent me his story after I wrote about Bubba, my beloved rescue pup.
All the words from this point on are Dan's. You can find -and friend.-Dan Bekins, A.K.A. The Bearman, on Facebook. I've also added a link to his website at the end of this post.

The Transition

Here we are in the year 2000.  Shash and I have been the best of friends for almost six years now.  Though we don’t know Shash’s actual birth date, we use the first of February.  Shash just turned six.

We have been playmates since he was 13 lbs.  In five and a half years we have grown together.  Many people at the Zoo have helped to bring up Shash to be the wonderful, playful adult Bear that he is today.  Many people have helped when I went in and played with him.  To all of you please accept my gratitude for your concerns and caring.

The hardest thing about moving to the Phoenix metro area for me has been the distance between Shash and I.  He is only too ready to show me in his displeasure with the arrangement.  After a few minutes that is over and we have overcome all distance and time since our last visit.

Because of one thing or another, it had been nine months since I had actually hugged my little buddy. In February everything was perfect to go in and play with Shash.  We spent about 40 wonderful minutes together.  I held him.  I scratched him.  I buried my face in his fur and smelled that fabulous Bear musk of his.  Many people long to do, and to have, what Shash and I share.

Some say that I place too many human traits to what they consider a “wild animal”.  Well, all I can say is that they don’t share the bond that Shash and I do.  Before we play, Shash grabs one of his arms and bites himself.  I had wondered about this for sometime before I understood just what he was doing.  He was testing how hard he could mouth me so that he would not hurt me.  The bond that we share is a bond of love and mutual respect. 

There will be those that think that this is a story of fear based on “wild animal” instinct, or based on what Shash might sometime do.  Some will say, “you never can tell what a wild animal will do, he could turn on you.”  They are wrong.  This is a story of love; the love that Shash and I share for each other.  It is because of my love for Shash that I have made a decision that I do not like making.  I have made the decision not to go in with Shash again.

I went and played with Shash again after that time in February.  Phyllis, my wife, was in Florida.  She came back with a story that helped me with my decision.  Phyllis talked with a couple that is professional animal rehabilitators in Georgia. The man, named Chippewa, went in with a four-year-old, 250 lb Black Bear that he raised and had daily personal contact.  Everything seemed normal and the Bear gave no indications otherwise.  Suddenly the Bear went off on him.  It mauled and attacked him.  The man is crippled for life because of the incident.  This is still not the reason that I based my decision on.  While lying in the enclosure, bleeding and broken, Chippewa pleaded for those present not to harm the animal.  He told the horrified onlookers “ Tell my wife and children that I love them.  Please don’t harm the Bear.”  They shot the Bear once with a tranquilizer dart and it had no effect.  They hit him again with another dart.  The Bear was too pumped on adrenalin and this did not slow the Bear down.  They had to kill the animal while the crippled trainer protested.  He loved that animal enough that he placed his life secondary to the life of the Bear.  This is why I made my decision.

I have more than a little bit of pride and an ego being able to play with such a magnificent animal as Shash.  I think that Shash knows this because he allows me to have had such great photos of us taken.  Of course Shash is a bit of a ham himself.  When I heard the story that Phyllis told I made a decision in less that a minute.  I would play with Shash one more time and our time together would transition to visits with a wire mesh between us.    This is not about fear for myself, because I have never feared playing with “the Shasher.”  I know that the Keepers had such fears and sometimes watched anxiously while we played.  The decision is about my fear for what might happen to Shash.  I could not live with myself if he was harmed in anyway because of me.  This is a truly painful decision for me to make, but the right one.

We played one last time.  I scratched his belly one last time.  He mouthed my hand and arm.  I buried my face in the fur on his back while we were sitting together and cried.  I told him that this would be the last time we would be playing like this.  I told him that I loved him and why I could no longer be with him in this way.  I left the enclosure.  Shash sat there for a moment and left to sit in a corner by himself.  He had a strange look about him.  Shash knew what I said and was grieving in his own way.  Yeah, you can say that I put to many human feelings to that Bear.  Anyone that was there to see our parting moment can tell you about how we both felt.

I will continue to see my little buddy as often as possible.  Our relationship is in transition.  The wire may separate us but barriers cannot separate the love we share.  My Creator allows Shash and I to share a connection that others can only dream of.  He allows us all to be a part of something greater than ourselves.

I want to thank the Creator for allowing Shash and I to have such a bond.  I also want to thank my family, and the staff and volunteers at Heritage Park Zoo for their understanding and support in the development of the relationship that Shash and I share.

Though your individual experiences with the animals at Heritage Park Zoo may be different than mine, I hope that you can find a special relationship with an animal here.  Many people have done so and have decided to adopt their favorite beasts.  My experience with Shash began with volunteering my time.  It is in giving that we receive so much more in return.

Dan Bekins aka Bearman                                                          

        Shash stands 7'2 tall and weighs 550 lbs. I am 6'4.
Link to the Bearman's Website:

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