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Southeast residents gather to mark the passing of beloved neighborhood dog

Early on Wednesday, June 2, a dog known as "Mr. Bear" died in Southeast Portland. Mr. Bear was a much-loved resident of the neighborhood, where he was seen on a daily basis with his devoted companion, a human named "Bill". Many were the times when customers of local businesses such as People's Food Co-op or the Red & Black Cafe would have to step around Mr. Bear, as he sat in the doorway, awaiting Bill, who was inside. Mr. Bear was arguably the canine mascot of the neighborhood and news of his death -- at 13 years, from a blood clot -- stirred sadness in many residents. Tonight, the Red & Black Cafe was packed to standing room only for a wake for Mr. Bear, and his life and passing were marked with music, photography, video, testimony, and sacred drumming.
Mr. Bear lived a better life than most dogs in the city, where the space, exercise & the positive attention that canines require are not always given to them. Bill & Mr. Bear walked the streets and avenues of the area unleashed, in harmony with their surroundings, pausing and moving along at their own pace. So gentle was Mr. Bear's demeanor (and aware of the danger of roads) that no collar or restriction was necessary. He gave cats and children a respectful berth, choosing to let them approach him on their own terms. i never heard him bark. Not even once. With other dogs, he was also sensibly cautious, though a female in heat would definitely pique his interest. (Mr. Bear remained un-"fixed" but without progeny until his last day.)

For these reasons, and others, Mr. Bear was simply not your average dog, so the response to his passing also sent out ripples that were extra-ordinary. The part of Southeast that were his stomping grounds are also the center of something that's quite rare in the United States these days: legitimate community. People did not mourn his passing because they have empty lives and needed an emotional distraction; rather the outpouring was the product of the comfortable sense of place that folks feel around here, and of the special, positive role that Mr. Bear played in that place.

i spoke briefly at the wake. i talked about how, while working the register at People's, i would watch as people had to pause and work their way carefully around Mr. Bear as he was laying in the doorway, partially blocking the way. i realized that perhaps, according to the expectations of society, i should make him "get out of the way", but i always let him stay there. i figured it was good for people to be forced (if one can use that word with an action so passive) to alter their pace and arrange their life around this other living being who was not where he was "supposed" to be. As in, "slow down... you move too fast..." Now that he's gone, i'm especially glad i made the choice to let the sleeping dog lie.

i probably would have said you were crazy if you'd told me five years ago if i'd be living someplace where it would make perfect sense that the community would gather respectfully for a wake for a dog. But five years ago, i didn't know that a place as cool as inner Southeast Portland existed. i'm blessed to have found it, and to have had the opportunity to meet such delightful residents as Bill and Mr. Bear. As higher end businesses move in and rents go up, the neighborhood is changing, and the sense of cohesiveness is beginning to fade; for that reason, another Mr. Bear is not likely to emerge. It seems this is the story all over the United States -- what few frayed bits of community remain are steadily being overwhelmed by money and corporate 'culture'. These aren't sustainable changes and who knows how it will all turn out.

So long, Mr. Bear. You've moved on from your body, but your spirit -- of gentleness and love -- remains. i'm grateful to have known you.
let the good memories roll 15.Jun.2005 03:30

cydizen kane CommunityOrganizer@gmail.com

mr. bear will be missed, as will the attentive and conscious being which inhabited his hairy body. so long, and thanks for all the licks.


Mr. Bear 15.Jun.2005 15:42

--

Mr. Bear was a unique spirit. He was devotion and patience and still his own dog. His eyes and presence always seem to say "I undertand you, and still won't forsake you." He was a furry expression of some universal. He will be missed by all who knew him.

4 legged buddah, furry heart, soulful wag 15.Jun.2005 18:42

frances

spArkle, thanks for posting this!

i also felt honoured to know Mr Bear, and share my thoughts at the Memorial. there was such an outpouring of love from people who'd known Mr Bear over the years, from different parts of town--as well as SE.

Mr Bear is a reflection of Bill, and vice versa: open, compassionate, inquisitive, generous in spirit, a bit sly (who could ever resist sharing food once Mr Bear started gazing at you...!), and always quick to bring strangers together and turn them into community.

while we mourn Mr Bear and celebrate his life, let's also remember Bill--who brought Mr Bear into our lives and sharing his love through that 4 legged Buddah, furry hearted, soulful wagging Friend.

(here's a photo from a walk Bill and Mr Bear and i took back in April....)

All Dogs are Good dogs... 18.Jun.2005 20:34

Duncan

I have to say while I met ( and liked immensly) Mr. Bear, I have to disagree with the responder that Mr. Bear was a "rare spirit"- I thnk all dogs have the potential to be gentle and loving. My last Dog (Annie) was completely wild (living in a den, eating things off the freeway) when I found her in Oklahoma, and she was also a no leash required kind of dog after a year of training. I think that too many people treat dogs as lawn-ornamnets or appliances, and thats why they have to be leashed all the time.

A Dog's Life is short- give them lots of love.

The Last To Ber Picked 21.Jun.2005 11:47

Carolyn

Three years ago I chose to take a "mean" chow that had been in a no kill shelter for 7 years (yes-7). I took him sight unseen and he is now the constant companion to my 93 year old aunt. They have ice cream together every night before bed. He is so sociable that each year in Jan. I invite all his human friends to his birthday. Being a very responsible dog he always requests that instead of gifts for him, they bring checks for their favorite animal welfare group. He is the star of the day and he just loves a party. I guess he is making up for all that time alone in a cage.A little love can make such a difference in an animals life and obviously Mr. Bear made a difference in the lives of alot of humans. God bless the animals and their loving human care givers.