HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. -- Dogs and their owners often have a strong, special bond. That rings true for one Henderson County man who went toe-to-paw with a bear to protect his best friend.
For more than 30 years, John Koerber, along with his wife and mother-in-law, has called Henderson County home.
His home sits on the outskirts of Hendersonville, and coyotes and bears are often around the property. But, they tend to keep their distance he said.
Last week, however, Koerber and his 6-year-old Yorkie ChewB had an encounter with a bear they'll never forget.
"We came out here," Koerber said, showing News 13 the area. "He (ChewB) peed on the flowers here, and I stood here."
The 4 a.m. potty break took place a little earlier than usual, but what happened next was a first.
"I just hear a deep guttural (growl), thumping and running and cracking branches," Koerber said.
Before Koerber and ChewB knew it, they were face-to-face with a black bear.
"It happened so quickly. I did what I had to do," Koerber said. "He (the bear) was lunging for the dog. I didn't feel like he was lunging for me."
Koerber said that's when he kicked into papa bear mode, hitting the bear with a walking stick.
"That thing just came out of nowhere, unprovoked," Koerber said. He (ChewB) wasn't doing anything but looking for a place to poop. So, I whack his leg, head and nose."
At one point, the bear blocked the pair's path to the door. That's when little ChewB mustered the courage to try and help his owner fend off the bear.
"The bear made one more lunge to him, and I let out the deeps howl of, 'Noo,' and smacked him on his head one more time. And he backed up enough, so I went in the door and shut it," Koerber said.
While shaken, the duo luckily made it back inside unharmed.
"It was a hair-raising experience, trust me," Koerber said. "Little Chewbster, he means the world to us. He's a good little guy.
Bear encounters in Western North Carolina happen frequently -- from the animals getting into vehicles to walking through carports and yards.
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Despite the scary moment, Koerber said he has nothing but love for the bear population.
"I would say to a bear, 'Hey, keep your distance please'," Koerber said. "We are friends and don't intend to hurt anyone. Leave us alone."
Koerber said he has since purchased an airhorn and bear spray at the advice of Help Asheville Bears, a local organization dedicated to protecting WNC's bear population.
As for ChewB, he's back to making his morning perimeter checks.
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