Greg Groeneweg and his wife, Teresa, were enjoying an evening walk with their dog, Ace, near their Sterling cabin last week like they always do in the summertime. Only this time, they heard a snapping noise in the alder foliage near the road they were on.
“It happened extremely, extremely fast,” he said. “From the moment of ‘It’s there,’ to ‘It’s going to be on you.’”
It took only seconds to register that they were in danger, Groeneweg said. He froze, his wife fled. A brown bear had emerged from the woods and started charging the couple.
“I mean, I was just like ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” he said. “I’ve never even seen a brown bear run here, let alone had one close to me ever in my life.”
Both Groeneweg and his wife are lifetime Alaskans. In fact, Groeneweg was born on the cusp of statehood in 1958.
The two have been married for 40 years, and have owned their vacation cabin in Sterling for around seven. Groeneweg said he and his parents used to vacation on the Kenai Peninsula all the time as a child — they’re from Anchorage — and he’s never once had a run-in with a bear. He’s also relatively accustomed to high-stress situations, as he worked for the Anchorage Fire Department for 40 years.
But in this situation, he stood there flat-footed.
“The face is burned in my mind, that bear and me looking at each other,” Groeneweg said.
Once the bear started to charge, he said he never could have expected what happened next. Ace, the pair’s 7-year-old pit bull and American bulldog mix, lunged toward the bear, body-slamming its right side. He watched as Ace continued to fend off the attack, trying to get at the bear’s back and neck.
“Ace is not barking, he’s like full-out fighting,” Groeneweg said.
He didn’t have time to react, and he wasn’t packing a horn, spray or a firearm. By that point, he said he remembered feeling most scared for his pup.
“Ace is going to die,” Groeneweg remembered thinking. “He’s got the bear … and now he’s going to get killed.”
But surprisingly, Ace came away from the altercation basically unscathed. Groeneweg said there’s no doubt the pup saved the couple that day, but still, it was unexpected — Ace is a sweetheart, a pacifist even.
Groeneweg said Ace always wags his tail, and goes out of his way to meet new people. The dog rarely ever even barks. He wants people to remember that pit bull mixes aren’t innately aggressive or violent.
These days, Ace has been given more pets and treats than usual.
“I’m so proud of him, I just couldn’t believe he did that,” Groeneweg said. “I mean, I just didn’t know he had it in him.”
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.