A Nevada County dog owner made headlines after he tackled a bear to save his beloved pit bull, Buddy.
“Honestly,” the man told CBS, “the only thing I could think of was ‘save my baby.’”
Kaleb Benham’s 2020 Thanksgiving was turned upside down when he heard growling outside his home the night before the holiday. His pit bull, Buddy, was playing outside in the yard.
The Grass Valley, California, resident said that when he heard a commotion, he knew something was wrong.
“I heard a growl, looked about 75–100 feet down, and the bear was dragging him by his head, had his head in his mouth,” he said.
Horrified, Kaleb sprang into action. Though he was weaponless at the time, he didn’t hesitate to attack the bear, and he managed to single-handedly fend off the 350-pound (approx. 160-kilogram) animal.
“I just ran down there, plowed into the bear, tackled it and grabbed it by the throat and started hitting it in the face and the eye until it let go,” he recounted.
His quick thinking and determination deterred the bear, and it left them alone.
But when they arrived at the veterinary clinic closest to home, the frantic dog owner discovered the facility was closed due to a positive case of the CCP virus, according to CBS.
He was devastated, and desperate to get Buddy help.
“My first thought was that I was going to lose him,” he said.
Fortunately, Kaleb’s second try came with more success. When he reached Mother Lode Veterinary Hospital, they admitted Buddy to surgery right away.
The 90-pound (approx. 40-kilogram) pit bull needed staples and stitches. Veterinary surgeons even had to insert tubes into his head to drain fluid from his skull. The poor dog’s ears had to be reattached to his head.
“I just stood there and watched through the window for 3.5 hours,” Kaleb recalled.
Luckily, the brave pup made it through the surgery. He spent Thanksgiving healing in bed, but is expected to make a full recovery.
Though the bear attacked Kaleb’s pet right outside their home, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife says they won’t relocate the animal. They added, according to CBS, that the incident doesn’t qualify the bear to be put down by a game warden, either.
According to the department, Kaleb did the right thing.
They recommend: “If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise, and try to appear as large as possible. If attacked, fight back. Do not ‘play dead.’”
The department adds that “nuisance bears,” or bears which repeatedly tip over garbage cans and cause annoyance, but do not damage private property, are the responsibility of the resident or landowner.
It’s advisable to remove trash and implement bear-proof storage to deter foraging.
However, despite Kaleb taking the right steps, the bear has not been permanently deterred from visiting their home. The animal, perhaps in search of food, has returned several times since the attack.
“It made an attack and had its food and its food got taken from it,” Kaleb said, referring to Buddy, who almost became the bear’s dinner. “It wants [him] back, I feel like.”
But Buddy is dear to Kaleb, and he’ll be keeping his beloved companion closer from now on.
He added that he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing again if it became necessary.
“If it was your kid, what would you do?” he asked. “That’s my kid, I would die for my dog.”