Ashley Toole knew that finding Bear would not be easy, but she also knew she would never give up trying. Like many people who work in the animal care and rescue industry, Ashley has a special bond with pets. This love of animals is what brought Ashley and Bear together, even when the odds were against them. This story is proof that the human-animal bond, love and hope are worth everything.
Ashley’s Dedication to Animals
From a young age, Ashley was always drawn to animals. This love of creatures large and small had Ashley begging her parents not for video games, dolls, or bikes, but for books about dogs and cats. This desire to learn and help also opened Ashley’s eyes to the needs of stray dogs and cats. With over 7.6 million pets entering the shelter systems in the U.S. each year, she knew she had to help. Ashley decided to begin fostering animals as soon as she was able and began doing so in 2013 for the Carroll County Humane Society. She didn’t stop there however, she also works at VCA Carrollton Animal Hospital as a Veterinary Assistant.
When Bear was born he belonged to a family that loved him, but knew they could not provide for him. They made the difficult choice of taking him to the county animal shelter in the hopes he would find a home and loving family to care for him. On the way, he jumped out of the bed of the truck bed he was in and severely damaged his right front leg. When he arrived at the animal shelter, the immediately called the Carroll County Humane Society to help him medically. Bear had to have his leg amputated and needed a foster to care for him after the procedure. This is when he met his best friend Ashley.
Ashley took Bear in after his amputation without hesitation. She cared for him, helped him to learn to socialize with her dogs and even removed his stitches for him. As with her other fosters, Ashley also began to work with him and potential adopters to find him a forever home once he was done healing. Ashley introduced Bear to a prospective new owner and thought it would be great for them to spend some time together to continue bonding while she was away for Thanksgiving. While Ashley was away, Bear and his potential adopter were out for a stroll and something spooked Bear enough for him to slip his leash. Bear ran off scared, leaving the potential new owner frantic and scared for him. She immediately called Ashley to tell her the news and for help.
Ashley came back on Thanksgiving Day and immediately went out to look for Bear with her boyfriend Drew and both of their families. She looked everywhere beginning with the area where he first slipped his leash, made posters to put up, and even created a Facebook Page called “Bring Bear Home”. Ashley knew she had to do everything in her power to find Bear. Although she received calls, all led to dead ends.
“After that,” Ashley said, “we would still drive by the area and just search. I was so scared I would find him on the side of the road or something.”
There was one thing that Ashley would not do, and that was give up hope. At 10 p.m. on January 7th, after 48 days, Ashley got a call from a college friend. He was at a fast food restaurant and told Toole he had seen a stray dog, which he was almost positive was Bear. Although it was 2.5 miles away from where he went missing, Ashley knew it was possible. Ashley and her boyfriend went the very next day and spotted Bear. However, since Bear is timid, he once again got spooked and ran.
Getting Bear Home
Another awesome volunteer from the Humane Society, Michelle Reno, offered to help find Bear with her tracking dog. It was not long before the dog led them to Bear’s hiding place, a hollow log he used for shelter and stashing food. After no success with a small cat trap, a client at VCA Carrollton provided two coyote traps to help catch Bear. Ashley put the traps near Bear’s hideout with lots of yummy food and hoped for the best. Reno went the next day to check on the traps and immediately called Ashley.
Reno told her, “Ashley, I’m at the second trap – and we have Bear!”
This is the fallen tree that we believe Bear has taken shelter in. It's where he was spotted near it and Ellie pointed his scent here. Let's keep praying we can get our boy home!!
Ashley and one of the doctors at the hospital went out to help and to ease Bear’s fears and ensure he didn’t get away again. After getting him back to the hospital and into an exam room, Ashley went in alone to let him out of the trap. She was initially concerned that he would not remember her or be frightened of her. She was wrong.
“So, I opened the trap and he ran straight into my arms. And he just melted like butter. It was… perfect.”
We have Bear! We have Bear!!!!! He remembers me!
A Bright Future for Bear
Bear is back at home with Ashley as she is determined to find him a perfect forever home. Although she would keep him in a heartbeat, she knows he needs a quieter home to call his own.
“I love him to death, and I wish that I could keep him, but for me to be fair to him, for him to get what he wants out of life, I need to let him go to someone who can be there for him. What Bear needs is somebody that’s going to be there with him throughout the day, someone to just love on him – and definitely someone with a fenced in backyard.”
No matter what happens or how long it takes Bear to find his forever home, he knows he has people who love him. “He has an amazing story, ” says Ashley. “I guess the message I want to give people is: just don’t give up home. There’s always hope.”
If you are interested in helping or adopting Bear, you can donate or submit an adoption application with the Carroll County Humane Society.