Sam - the Staffordshire Terrier
Stood Between the Bear and His Owner
Story from July 2006.
A Waterloo man and his dog made a harrowing escape from the clutches of a vicious black bear Thursday while portaging near Wawa, Ontario.
Tom Tilley, 55, killed the nearly 200-pound bear by jumping on its back and stabbing the aggressive animal with a six-inch hunting knife after his dog alerted him and distracted the bear.
"Love is a very powerful emotion and my thought right away was, 'You're not going to kill my dog,' " Tilley said yesterday.
"I really consider my dog a hero. Without that first warning I would have had the bear clamping down on my neck."
Tilley had planned on spending 12 days portaging through the area near Wawa with his American Staffordshire, Sam.
Four days into the trip, as he was making his third trip back to the water near Abbey Lake to retrieve his gear, he heard his dog growl and noticed the bear closing in on him. He said he did what he's been taught to do when a bear is close -- he starting waving his arms and slowing started backing away from the animal.
The bear moved off the trail, but a few seconds later reappeared, cutting off Tilley's escape route.
"That's when I knew I had a serious problem . . . I was lunch," he said.
Sam, who was behind Tilley before the bear moved up the trail, was now between the bear and his owner. Instead of taking an aggressive stance, the dog stood sideways blocking the bear's route.
"The bear took a few steps down the trail and clamped its mouth on the back of my dog," Tilley said. "By attracting the bear's attention like that and distracting the bear from me it gave me the quick opportunity I needed to run around to the back of the bear, get on its back and with my knife start stabbing it."
After making sure the animal was dead, Tilley realized he had suffered a wound to his hand and Sam had two puncture marks on his back. He needed to get help, but was a two-day portage away from civilization.
Dragging his canoe across the short portage, Tilley paddled for about an hour before he came across a pair of Americans who happened to have a satellite phone.
They called for help and two hours later, a cargo plane arrived to take Tilley back to Wawa for medical attention. He was treated and released from hospital.
News of his feat passed quickly through the small community, with a population of just over 3,000.
"He had a lot of cojones to do what he did," said Brenda Grundt, who operates the local news site Wawa-news.com and drove Tilley two hours back to where he'd left his van after the incident.
LUCKY TO HAVE KNIFE
"It's pretty amazing. Here's a guy that wouldn't be here if he hadn't happened to have a knife on him."
As for Tilley, it wasn't until he was back in his van alone with Sam that he took in the gravity of the situation.
"I just thanked God I was alive and that my dog was alive and cried a bit, but they were tears of thanks and relief," he said.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has sent the bear's body to Guelph and Ottawa for testing.
"It's very unusual for a bear to attack a person (and) pretty amazing this gentleman was able to kill it just with a knife," said Jolanta Kowalski, spokes-person for the ministry.
Because Wawa doesn't have a veterinarian's office and a specialist wasn't available to treat his hand, Tilley decided to push through and make the long journey home that night.
Back in Waterloo, news of his experience trickled back to amazed friends and family. Despite the danger, Tilley said the incident hasn't erased his love of the outdoors.
"My daughter says I'm not allowed to go up there anymore," he said with a laugh. " But I left my canoe there knowing I'll have to go back to get it."