It wasn’t Bear’s fault.
Tim Garrison, co-owner of Eagle Hill Poodles in New Haven, is known for his miniature poodles and his garden, which sprawls far enough for his seven poodles to play and run.
The problem was one of the dogs Garrison bred came back to him too many times. His name was Bear, a black miniature poodle.
Bred at Eagle Hill from a pair of champion show dogs, Bear was beautiful and strong, but he had been rejected five times. Five times people felt that Bear was not the dog for them. For a 5-year-old dog, that is quite a history. Hardly ever does anyone return one of Garrison’s dogs, he said.
It started when a family came to Eagle Hill to see about a puppy.
“I interview everyone in a family at least twice when they want one of my puppies, ” Garrison said. “If the husband shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘Well, the kids and my wife want a puppy, ‘ I tell him, ‘You can go now, because I won’t give you a dog.’ ”
The first family who wanted to adopt Bear would have been wonderful owners, Garrison said. But after Bear had been spoken for, the family’s father was diagnose with prostate cancer, and they had to renege. So Bear would never see the first home selected for him.
It would be a long time before Ken Berenson, Bear’s current owner, would eventually adopt the dog. But first Berenson was involved with the puppy in a different way.
A dog trainer at Round Hill Community House in Greenwich, Berenson had always like poodles, with their intelligence and character. When he found out that one of his relatives, Michael Gershfeld, had a 10-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with epilepsy, Berenson wanted to get a dog for the family that would bond with the girl, Jayne, enough to know when her seizures came. He thought of a small dog, perhaps one of Tim Garrison’s miniature poodles.
So Berenson called Garrison to find out if he had a puppy. He was in luck, because someone else had purchased Bear and sent him back after a month. It was something about problems with house breaking. Home No 2.
Gershfeld purchased Bear from Garrison and his partner, Dave Williams. When Berenson saw Bear, he found a lovely puppy, just the size for a young girl, he said. Jayne called him Sugar.
“It was a project for me to see if I could help this little girl, ” Berenson said. “I loved him and wanted him to be a good dog for Jayne.”
Berenson went full tilt with helping Jayne, building Bear a kennel where he would be comfortable. But it only lasted a year. As much as Berenson tried, Jayne didn’t bond with Bear the way he hoped she would. Making this worse, her mother never really committed to the project, he said. And so Bear was rejected for the third time.
Gershfeld then suggested that Berenson take Bear. But Berenson said he didn’t need a poodle when he already had a boxer and bull mastiff. No. 4.
So Gershfeld sold Bear to a family in West Haven. They had two adolescent children, a lovely, quiet family, Berenson thought. But after two years, the end came.
This time the problem was biting.
“I learned that Bear had three bites against him, ” Berenson said. “But they were all level one bites, which never broke the skin.”
That is when Garrison called Berenson.
“Well, Bear is back, ” he said. “And I can’t handle him.”
Garrison was overwhelmed. His partner had brain cancer, and meanwhile he was caring for an elderly dog, had two young female dogs to breed and no place for Bear.
“The owner had even taken him to trainers and a behaviorist, but she was concerned about the safety of her children and their friends, ” Garrison said, telling Berenson about Bear’s last home. “The owner’s veterinarian’s suggestion was to euthanize him!”
“Oh no!” whispered Berenson.
“Out of the question, ” said Garrison.
Berenson went home to think. When he heard the situation, he regretted not making Bear his own earlier.
“I was lamenting to myself then, ‘I should have taken Bear when Mike offered almost two years ago, ‘ ” he said.
Later Garrison sat thinking about Berenson and Bear.
“I have a philosophy that any dog of mine will find the right place, ” Garrison said. “I believe that special pets return to us over and over during our lifetime as if we are animal lovers. I knew that Bear would end up with Ken, even though he didn’t see that all the time.”
The next day, Berenson called Garrison back.
“I’m taking Bear home!” he said.
Berenson was glad that he did. His wife, Judy, was very happy knowing that finally she had a dog that was non-allergic and she could cuddle. Bear wagged his tail now that he had complete run of the house. He sleeps on his own bed in the Berensons’ bedroom and Judy even placed a cover on a couch just for him in the living room.
So when Berenson’s dog training classes in Round Hill Community House are in session, Bear and Berenson show the dogs and their owners what a wonderfully good dog Bear really is.
And at last Bear finally found his home.