At 3 p.m. on Monday, March 1, 2010, Manfried, our giant Kodiak bear, laid down in his favorite tepee den and quietly drew his last breath, freeing a spirit as enormous as his 1,400 pound body.
Approximately age 25, and born in captivity, most of his youth was spent living on table scraps in filthy transport cages too small for his growing body as his owner, a movie animal trainer
, dragged him around the country as an entertainment attraction. Ed and I first saw him in Las Vegas
where he was crammed inside a metal horse trailer with a grizzly bear named Tuffy, in the scorching 115 degree heat of the desert summer. (To learn more about the rescue of Manfried & Tuffy, CLICK HERE
built a habitat for the two brown bears
that was a true labor of love, far exceeding in size and amenities any zoo enclosure in this country. We planted 25 trees which the bears destroyed in two weeks with a fervor and delight that kept us all in a good humor for months. Ed built a large swimming pool and filled the huge habitat with pine logs, boulders, berry bushes and pine cones
. After the two bears destroyed the trees, we planted more along the fence line. Today, those willow, mulberry, pine, oak and sycamore trees
have grown as tall and strong as Manfried, providing shady areas for digging giant den holes and grubbing for insects in the rich earth.
We lost Tuffy after a few years, but Manfried, the older of the two bears, clung to life with a tenacity and appreciation of simple pleasures that entertained and inspired all of us who were privileged to care for him. Our joy in watching Manfried splash in his pool, dig giant craters in the grass and lie sprawled among the thick, yellow mustard as he daintily snared a tasty bloom with his enormous claws, was always tempered with the sobering knowledge that his early years must have done some physical damage to the lumbering goliath. Captivity at its best is a terrible sentence for these mammoth marvels who should be roaming across vast areas, fulfilling the destiny that is nature's plan.
Manfried thrived in his custom-built enclosure, his inherent understanding of who he was and where he should be never made him aggressive or angry. He taught us how to live with dignity, grace and boundless good humor. He became a gardener of sorts, growing a beautiful peach tree from the discarded pits of his favorite fruit. The tree is in full bloom inside his habitat, a sad reminder of our loss.
Last year, Manfried began to show symptoms of a weakening immune system. Although good veterinary care restored his apparent good health, we became watchful for any indication of recurring problems.
At PAWS, we maintain a two-person keeping staff around the clock, and night keepers make rounds every hour recording data on the activities of the animals in a special log. The last week of February, the keepers noticed a change in Manfried, and we were alerted to symptoms of a decrease in appetite and lethargic movements that often occur during winter months.
Although captive bears seldom hibernate, they do eat less and sleep more in cold weather, but Manfried's behavior was not normal. He began to bleed from a small wound on his left hip, and a nosebleed developed which made us suspect that we might be dealing with cancer. The necropsy results have confirmed our fears, Manfried's huge body was riddled with tumors, and, like all wild animals, he concealed his malady until the last days.
For the past week, a team of veterinarians have consulted on Manfried's condition and plans were formulated to tranquilize him so a thorough examination could be performed. Ed and I stayed near him, and we all, literally, counted every breath he took and monitored every move he made.
He did not appear to be in pain or discomfort, and he accepted our offerings of canned peaches, fig newtons and clementines, eating each bite with quiet deliberation. He was alert and appreciative of our concern, watching us with his small, golden eyes as we pushed his favorite treats near his mouth until they were within reach of his massive paws. He would move about, sit in his large water dish waiting for a shower and carefully arrange his logs and pine branches before lying down to rest.
Manfried passed away quietly, peacefully and with great dignity. We were grateful that his passing did not entail the often-necessary discomfort of needle pricks and strangers milling about. I am certain that his beautiful spirit is floating somewhere filled with peach trees and wild mustard, flowing streams and cool rain with salmon jumping around him as he moves into a better place.
For Sandra, Larry, Hillary, Matt, Adrian, Stephanie, Michelle, Karen, Renae, Brian and Chasity who made his meals, cleaned his home and watched him every day; and Janice, Elena, Vickie and Susan in the office, all who loved him dearly, we are truly grateful to have such a dedicated and caring staff.
Thank you to Dr. Clay and Dr. Dan, PAWS' veterinarians, and to Dr. Jenny Conrad who offered expertise and support as we struggled to save our gentle giant.
To our devoted donors and Manfried's many friends, thank you for helping us give him peace and a tranquil home for 10 years.
Manfried, we will always have wonderful memories.