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Laughlintown dachshund defends himself against black bear

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Max enjoys a drink and some food after being treated for puncture wounds received when a bear attacked him outside the front door of his owners' house in Laughlintown.
Max, an 8-year-old dachshund, receives treatment at AVETS emergency and specialty hospital in Monroeville, after a bear attack at the home of his owners, Gil and Marlene Flint.

When Marlene Flint opened her door to let her dog outside on the night of Feb. 21, she was not expecting to be met face to face with a black bear.

The quick response by the Laughlintown woman and her dog, Max, an 8-year-old dachshund, prevented a more tragic accident that night.

“That bear came out of nowhere and grabbed Max,” said Flint, who was initially reserved about telling Max's story. “We feel if it saves one dog from being attacked, we want people to know about it.”

Flint said the bear grabbed Max in it's mouth and was shaking him violently as Max was trying to defend himself.

Flint said she began screaming at the bear. The bear let go of the dog but grabbed him again by the hind legs.

At this point, Flint grabbed a snow shovel that was near the front door, hitting the bear until he dropped the dog. When her husband, Gil, tried to grab the badly injured dog, Max bit him and he required treatment.

“My husband stuck that shovel in a snow bank right by the front door. That's what saved the dog,” said Flint. “It never occurred to me I was in danger. We know bears roam in this area. Bears are not just simple animals that run away, especially at this time of year.”

Max was rushed to Loyalhanna Veterinary Clinic, where he was given pain medications to make his ride to AVETS, an animal emergency and critical care facility in Monroeville, more comfortable.

“Dr. (Hank) Croft was instrumental in saving Max,” said Flint about the Stahlstown veterinarian.

The dog's injuries included several puncture wounds and lacerations over his body; three rib fractures; and two wounds that penetrated into his chest cavity.

“When he came in that night, I knew right away he was going to make it,” said Croft. “Max has the right spirit to fight something like this and make it through.”

The dog required several days of hospitalization for wound care, pain medications and antibiotics, and his chest needed to be flushed with fluid to prevent an infection from developing.

“Max's survival was really a team effort,” said Zach Goodrich a surgeon at AVETS. “I credit the owners for getting him away from the bear and Dr. Croft for assessing the extent of injuries and stabilizing Max after the attack so he could be transported to us.”

Goodrich also commends the AVETS emergency doctors, Jennifer Ball and Melissa Edwards and all the emergency technicians for treating and stabilizing Max when he first came in and in the days he was hospitalized.

“Max was attacked at night. Owners should be warned that if they're in an area where bears are known to reside that it may be best to either walk their dog on a leash at night or closely watch them when they let them out,” said Goodrich. “It may have been the time of year as the reason why Max was attacked. Spring is just around the corner and bears are coming out of hibernation. They're hungry and looking for a meal. Another reason why bears may attack is if cubs are involved and the mother bear sees the dog as a threat to her cubs.”

Goodrich said AVETS treats only a few bear attacks each year. How happy the ending is depends on a few factors including the extent of injuries, location of injuries and size of dog. Smaller dogs obviously have a higher potential for more extensive injuries, he said.

Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission Southwest Region, agrees.

“Occasionally bears will sometimes attack livestock. They usually shy away from dogs,” said Fazi. “We tell everyone to eliminate food source that may attract bear to your property. Don't leave dog food outside. Remember bird feeders attract bears too. Anything that smells like food is an enticement to bears.”

Fazi said most likely the bear was startled and reacted by attacking the dog.

”No one can say for certain why that bear did what it did. Generally most bears are hibernating this time of year,” he said. “In the next month or so lots of bears will be coming out of hibernation and they will be hungry.”

Fazi said the game commission has set a relocation trap near the Flint home to attempt to capture the bear.

“We haven't seen it yet,” said Brian Singer, a wildlife conservation officer for eastern Westmoreland County. “We will try to catch a bear that is being a problem and alleviate bear/human contact. Sometimes the problem alleviates itself, when you hit it on the head with a shovel.”

For the most part, Singer said they have received only a few bear reports, but expects to hear of more sightings as warmer weather returns. He credits residents who live in and around bear habitats for doing their part to not provide a food source to attract the bear population.

“People have more of an influence that they think. Those who live among bears are doing whatever they can do to resolve the conflict. People understand what they need to do to prevent bears from coming around their house,” said Singer.

Max visited the Loyalhanna Veterinary Clinic recently for a checkup and received a good report about his healing progress.

“Max is 16 pounds of TNT and muscle who acts like a 160-pound type of dog,” said Croft. “He has great owners and he's a fighter. He will have some fine scars to remind him of that bear.”

Flint said the wounds are healing and the staples will be removed Saturday.

“He is a very lucky dog,” said Flint.

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