Bear kills pet dog — Brown bear sow, 2 cubs, roam Soldotna-area neighborhood

Photos courtesy of Ryan Kapp. A brown bear sow and two cubs roam through Ryan and Lauri Kapp’s yard Saturday. The family’s French bulldog, Gretzky, dies after attempting to defend his turf from the intruders.

Photos courtesy of Ryan Kapp. A brown bear sow and two cubs roam through Ryan and Lauri Kapp’s yard Saturday. The family’s French bulldog, Gretzky, died after attempting to defend his turf from the intruders.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

French bulldogs are known to be more than just cute, flat-faced lapdogs. Their muscular, compact builds and loyalty to their owners also make them devoted companions, willing to defend their human family should the need arise.

One little Frenchie lost his life doing so this weekend in Soldotna.

“He thought he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. He fought right to the end,” said Ryan Kapp of his family’s 6-year-old, tan-colored French bulldog named Gretzky.

The death of their beloved bulldog came after a fun-filled family weekend. At the latter part of last week the dog had accompanied the family on a float in the Fourth of July parade through the city of Kenai. Then the family went camping together. The first sign of danger at home arose while they were away.

“Our neighbor sent us a photo of three brown bears that came by our house while we were gone,” Kapp said. “The next day (late Saturday) when we got home and were unpacking from the trip, we saw a sow and two large cubs coming up the driveway again.”

Bears are not uncommon in this area — a woody subdivision across from Solid Rock Bible Camp along the Sterling Highway on the eastern outskirts of Soldotna, but they’re usually not as bold as these three were, given that Kapp said there were no attractants of any kind sitting out around the property — not dog food, birdseed or anything else. And the family’s garbage was in a bear-resistant container that the bruins put to the test.

“They knocked it over and were fumbling with it, trying to get inside. When they couldn’t they started circling all around the house. They came up on the back deck and right up to the sliding glass door,” he said.

The ever-vigilant Gretzky was not taking kindly to the bears. With a pet door to come and go as he pleased, the family attempted to enclose him in a room for his own safety. But he escaped his attempted confinement and bolted outside to run off the intruders.

“He got loose and shot out the door. It all happened so fast. He was defending us and the house. He ran right in the middle of the bears barking,” Kapp said.

Gretzky was a loyal and beloved member of the Kapp family.

Gretzky was a loyal and beloved member of the Kapp family.

While the 22-pound dog was tiny in comparison, the several-hundred-pound mama bruin went into defense mode of her cubs. As she started toward the bulldog Kapp said that Gretzky had sense enough to try and elude her, but wasn’t fast enough.

“She swatted him and knocked him down, then picked him up in her jaws. Then she stood on her hind legs and snapped her head back and forth,” he said.

It happened so fast the family didn’t have time to do anything but shriek “No!” Kapp said. Though he has a gun, he didn’t have time to get it, he said.

When he saw the family dog in the bear’s mouth, though, Kapp couldn’t just watch from the safety of his home. He took a few steps out the door, yelling and waving his arms, and it was enough to distract the bear into releasing Gretzky.

“She dropped him and took a step away. I kept calling Gretzky and he was able to clamber into the house while I distracted her. The whole thing took place in a split second,” he said.

The bears left the house, and initially the family thought the dog might not have sustained life-ending injuries. There was no blood or puncture wounds visible, so they thought perhaps — like a few years ago when a tree fell on him and cracked a few vertebrae but didn’t kill the dog — that Gretzky would pull through. But he wasn’t as lucky this time.

“His breathing was really labored so we wrapped him up in a towel and, despite being midnight, we called our vet and took off for Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic,” Kapp said.

Gretzky’s breathing got worse on the trip and he died just before Kapp could get him into the clinic. The veterinarians did what they could, but determined he had too many internal injuries to survive.

The loss is devastating, Kapp said, not just because it’s their beloved pet, but in having watched it happen. Kapp said the difficult part is teaching coping skills to his two children, Emerson and Spencer, 5 and 10 years old.

“We’ve tried to tell them that the bears were just doing what was natural. The mom was defending her young,” he said. “But the kids have always known Gretzky. He’s been by Emerson’s side since four days after coming home from the hospital. So we’re trying to get them to focus on the good memories.”

Kapp said that he and his wife, Lauri, are also trying to focus on getting the kids to feel safe in the yard and neighborhood again. He said he wants them to understand being cautious without being constantly afraid.

Kapp has alerted Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game of the incident, but he said he is hoping they do not kill the bears as a result of this incident.

As the family grieves for their dog, they said they also are taking solace in their good memories — Gretsky winning over nearly everyone he met, him scratching at the bed to snuggle with someone at night, running ahead to be the first one to the truck when going for a ride, and, most importantly, his loyalty to “his” humans.

“He died doing his best to protect the family,” Kapp said.

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17 Comments

Filed under bears, pets

17 responses to “Bear kills pet dog — Brown bear sow, 2 cubs, roam Soldotna-area neighborhood

  1. If a dog has to die, that’s exactly what it should die doing. Defending it’s family. Given the choice between that and old age with it’s family around them – I’d gladly choose the latter.

    I understand this dog had both. It did it’s duty and passed away surrounded by family. Rest in piece little bugger <3 Good job.

  2. RIP Gretsky!! <3 heartbreaking story. My condolences to the family.

  3. Pingback: AK Beat: Shot by .22, suburban Anchorage cow moose’s killer at large | Alaska News Feed

  4. Janet

    Sorry Kapp family! :( She was in my yard with her two cubs the other night, hoping she tries to take a grab at my chickens so I can send her to bear heaven.

  5. Pingback: AK Beat: Shot by .22, suburban Anchorage cow moose's killer at large | ALASKA NEWS

  6. Dorey Harman

    I will give all four of my little bullies extra hugs tonight in honor of Gretsky. He had the heart of his name sake. My sincerest sympathies to his family and all his friends.

  7. Amy Christiansen

    awwww, much love to GRETSKY– REST IN PEACE you valiant soul, and Thank you FAMILY for not wanting the bears harmed, loving your dog, and sharing your story. Peace to all. He was a GOOD DOG> sad.

  8. Rhonda

    So sad that the children witnessed, however, their family dog did what he thought was best- save his family. My thought and prayers are sent to the family

  9. Leslie Batchelder

    Oh little Gretzky, you were to brave, we will miss you at Tarma’s…

  10. my heart is sad for you, your family, and brave gretsky. sending lots of peace to you all.

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

    Author unknown…

  11. Michael

    I’m a dog lover and I would miss mine terribly if this happened to them. I also respect Ryan and his family a great deal….

    But…why is Gretzky described as “defending” the Kapp family? They weren’t being attacked…the bears were wandering around looking for food…which is what bears do. Janet actually wants this sow to be attracted to her chickens so she can shoot her (and destroy 3 bears in the process). Do you have the proper electric fencing around your coop?

    In all objectivity…the article should be titled…”Dog harasses wildlife and is killed by sow protecting her cubs.”

    Legally…the only soul that should/could have been killed…was the poor dog. It is legal to shoot an animal that is harassing wildlife. I wouldn’t want to do it…but that is the law….

    Again…hopefully my pups will see Gretz in puppy heaven some day….

  12. Dianna Hawn

    This story was such a heart wrenching story. The fact the children saw their dog attacked and then they lost little family hero. I feel for this family so much because of losing pets in the past but never in such a horrible way. The fact that most people wouldn’t fight off something so much bigger than them, without pausing this dog didn’t hesitate to protect his family. Be proud of Gretsky and condolences to your family.

  13. Judy

    I agree with Michael. We have a dog, and we have the bears in our neighborhood from time to time. We are bear aware, and make sure that if they are out there, our animals and grandchildren aren’t. A mother bear or moose with babies is trying to protect them, even if it is a little dog. I see these moose come through our yard that have been hit by cars and survived leaving them with broken legs, or fur torn off, one had it’s nose hanging from its face. I feel sorry for the family, but as Michael said, the dog was chasing the bears. No reason to protect the family if they are all safely in the hoyuse. I am tired of hearing people want to kill everything. The bears, the moose, fish, whatever. Are we really that huyngry and harassed by animals? I see big dogs runing loose through our neighborhood all the time, pottying on our lawn and shrubs, flowers, whatever. I’d like to shoot a few of thenm!!

  14. karri klopp davidson

    I’M SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS BUT HAVE TO AGREE. IF THE DOG WAS CONFINED BETTER WHEN THE BEARS WERE SPOTTED IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED

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