A woman in Black Mountain, North Carolina, is crediting her family’s tiny dog with saving her life and the lives of her two children from a bear.
Pickles, a toy poodle with curly black fur, died in what Tiffany Merrill believes was an attempt to protect his human family, she told local news outlet WLOS.
Early Friday morning, Merrill opened the door of her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to let Pickles out. Not long afterward, a bear walked right in.
“I would say he was about 150 to 200 pounds ― very aggressive [and] not scared at all,” she told CBS 17.
She said she didn’t want to run to her children because she feared the bear would follow her to them. So she jumped behind the couch and started shouting to her kids to shut their bedroom doors. She said the bear was “charging after her” ― until Pickles showed up.
“My dog came out, started barking and got the bear’s attention, and got the bear outside and he saved my life,” she told WLOS.
Merrill was able to get her dog back inside and take him to the vet after his tangle with the bear, but he ultimately died because of his injuries.
In a Facebook post, she called her dog her hero. “We lost a big part of our family,” she wrote. “Heartbroken.”
In the wake of Pickles’ death, local experts have shared tips on safely co-existing with bears, including never approaching a bear and making sure never to leave food or unsecured trash outside in an area where bears are known to live. Lauren Pyle of the Western North Carolina Nature Center told WLOS that bears are typically afraid of people. Usually, she added, incidents like the one involving Pickles occur when bears become too accustomed to human beings.