So I usually see three or four bears every summer, and it's been slightly bothering me that thus far I haven't seen a single one. Especially since the Favorite Husband has apparently seen, like, a GAZILLION so far. His latest being last week when he was out trying to hike just before a bad thunderstorm. He stopped on the trail and was looking up at the ominous sky and a rumble of thunder--in a rare instance of insight he was actually thinking of GOING BACK TO THE CAR, which would have been an astonishment of nations--when a bear came out of the woods onto the trail about fifty feet away. And this bear, likewise, had stopped and was looking up at the dark clouds and the thunder and was heartily wishing he was somewhere else at the moment, and temporarily unaware of the puny human creature just down the trail from where he stopped.

I should point out, before people get all dramatical and whatnot, that we live on the east coast, in rural New England, and hence we only have black bears around. And while yes, it is necessary to treat bears with respect and not run up and try to pet them or anything stupid like that, being the smallest bears on the school bus has made black bears kinda evolutionary cowards. At least that is what I once read, and their behavior as wild animals tends to bear this out. Most of the time they do not hang around if people are there. Sure, occasionally you will have STUPID PEOPLE who will FEED THE BEAR and get them expecting food from people. That is a BAD THING. BAAAAAAD. They're not "cute", they're WILD ANIMALS who could SWAT YOUR FOOL HEAD OFF if you displease him--like, say, by not having any food on you when they're used to being fed.

But the majority of bears out here are wild (except for the occasional Problem Bear that requires re-training), and as such if you yell at them they tend to run away, or at least avoid people. Which is what you want, trust me. (One of our most striking impressions on our trip to Yellowstone last summer is that the wildlife tend to be fairly large and they do not RUN AWAY as we expected them to. No, they stand their ground and give you the ol' Hairy Eyeball until it dawns on the puny human that they are much lower on the food chain than the internet would lead them to believe. But I digress.)

Anyway, the Favorite Husband is standing there quietly on the path, watching the sky, and this bear comes out of the woods about fifty feet away, doing the same thing. Just two guys, checking out the weather and not thinking too fondly of the upcoming lightning. And then the bear, after the thunder stops thundering, sorta looks around, sees the Favorite Husband standing there, and screams and runs away. Because that is what a healthy black bear DOES when they see people. Luckily for them they have no shame, because I have seen them scream and run in SUCH a cowardly fashion you kinda feel sorry for them.

Anyway, despite the Favorite Husband shooing off the bears at every turn in the road, *I* have not seen one all summer, so I was pleased yesterday when we were driving aimlessly down one of the many dirt roads in our neck of the woods (okay, okay, I was making the Favorite Husband take me to a local dairy for ICE CREAM), when there was something black on the side of the road. Always with bear sightings there's a good five or ten seconds where your brain says "There's a large black animal in the road. Gosh, that's a big dog. Wait a minute! THAT'S NO DOG!" Well, maybe other people are quicker on the uptake, but I can guarantee myself a good long moment of confusion before I decide it's a bear.

The bear was fooling around in the drainage ditch on my side of the car, so as we approached the Favorite Husband lowered my window (he says so we can see better; I maintain he was baiting the animal using me as a Human Shield, but again I digress) while I fumbled for my iPhone so I could maybe take pictures. Because the bear was slow-moving, and kinda paralleling the road along the top of the bank, so he was still only about twenty feet away. (My theory is, when you're in a car Mister Bear doesn't always recognize you as human, so they don't run as fast. Though some do. You never know, with bears.)

To stall him while I still fumbled with turning on the phone and getting the camera app ready, the Favorite Husband called out "Hello, bear! How are you this afternoon?" in a friendly and ingratiating tone. To which the bear, utterly confused, stopped retreating and stood on the opposite bank of the drainage ditch, maybe five feet above us and twenty feet away, and just POSED MAJESTICALLY. (Actually he was trying to smell us, to determine what the hell we were. Sniffity-sniff sniff. Because their eyesight really isn't all that hot, so they say.) It was just the GREATEST SHOT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Nature magazines would be CLAMORING for this photo for YEARS AFTERWARD. But the stupid phone camera still wasn't ready.

And then it was, and the bear was still standing there, sniffing, trying to figure out the car. I raise the camera to take the picture, and the dog, who is in the back seat, gets horribly jealous that the Favorite Husband is speaking to the bear instead of her. Plus, in case you are not aware of this little factoid, dogs and bears... they don't like each other. AT ALL.

So just as I am raising my camera to capture this award-winning shot of a good-sized black bear majestically sniffing toward our car, Rosie, who usually NEVER BARKS, starts raising the dead with her once-I-get-out-of-this-car-I'm-going-to-KILL-you act. Which she only does if there is a safe barrier between her and said bear. Trust me, she runs away from bears just as cowardly as bears run from people, but once inside the house she informs the trespasser that if she had her druthers she'd be ripping him apart.

So she starts clamoring and slavering away in the back seat, and the bear then decides the car is NOT the sort of thing he would be interested in, and he turns on a dime and plunges into the woods. And here is my award-winning nature shot, all thanks to my LOVELY DOG:


It might as well be a freakin' BIGFOOT sighting, huh? Damned dog. Here's a blowup of the picture above, showing the relevant DARK SPOT which, I assure you, was the back end of a bear:

Bear again

Well, at least I saw him. And I still got ice cream, so there's that. And Rosie was certain she saved us once more from CERTAIN DEATH, and the poor bear managed to avoid CERTAIN DEATH, so all parties ended up satisfied in the end.