An unusual urban tale of two bears and a dog door

Twin Lakes family victim of animal break-in at home

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Suzanne Maxson and her daughter Annie had a series of shocks Saturday afternoon when a black bear snacked in their dining area and at least one other wanted to join in.

Maxson has lived in Mountainside Estates, on Abbey Way, above Twin Lakes for 10 years, but this is the first time her dog door has been used by creatures other than her own canines, a miniature Schnauzer and a smaller mixed breed.

"We have had bears disturb garbage cans off and on through the years, but this summer's real different," Maxson said Monday. "Last Tuesday (Aug. 14), my neighbor Diana said that a bear and a cub were walking down the street on garbage collection day, snuffling around." But Maxson didn't expect events to escalate as they did on Saturday.

Annie, 11, and about to enter sixth grade at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, wanted to go shopping for school clothes, but mom had a few things to do at work. Maxson is an adoption coordinator for the state Division of Family and Youth Services.

"While Annie was waiting for me to get home, a bear stuck its head through the dog door. She was very frightened. But she was calm enough to go upstairs and call me and call our neighbor, Chris. And he came over and scared the bear away with his dog," Maxson said.

After the call from her daughter, Maxson drove home right away to find a yearling in the yard about 10 feet away.

"So I popped into the house very quickly," she said. "I found my daughter upstairs very upset. We waited a while until she was over the shakes. Then we walked down the stairs, and there was a cub in the dining area. There happened to be potato chips and dog treats there, and he got them."

During this brief encounter, Maxson said, her Schnauzer stuck close to her, and the smaller dog was outside.

"So we went back upstairs and called 911. Two policemen came right away. You could see where the bear had torn out the dog door," she added. The bear departed while they were on the second floor.

After the police left, a very large bear arrived - perhaps the mother of the snacker - and stuck its head through the dog door, Maxson said. She and her daughter retreated upstairs again, and called 911 again. The arrival of the police was delayed this time by another bear call in the Mendenhall Valley.

Meanwhile, Chris the neighbor returned with a rifle just in case, and proceeded to board up both the dog door and the entry door in which it was set.

"The mother bear had scratched on the (entry) door, which was a little creepy. By now we thought the door was pretty frail - and we were, too," Maxson added.

A police officer arrived while Chris was working on the door, and hung around while he did his nailing.

"There was no bear activity Sunday," Maxson said.

She breathed a sigh of relief as she added, "Annie was cool and did the appropriate things."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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