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He just ambled into the woods at the end of our street, oblivious to all the eyes following his every move

Our neighborhood chat group is the go-to source for those looking to borrow a particular food item, suggestions for a repairman, help finding rides to out-of-town hosts for Shabbos, or (my personal favorite) to share the brand-new mazel tovs in our families.

Yet the information posted takes a decisively 180-degree turn during the spring and summer months when we monitor the comings and goings of DovDov, our neighborhood bear.

Yes, you got that right.  Our neighborhood boasts a local bear, whose moniker is DovDov.

Every year DovDov comes out of hibernation and always finds his way to our neighborhood. We know spring has definitely come with the first DovDov sighting.

The first time I saw him was late on a Shabbos afternoon. Coming back from a visit with our kids, my husband and I observed a large gathering of neighbors in front of our house. When we got closer, we saw what the excitement was all about. There was DovDov — around 100 feet away — going through our neighbor’s trash cans and tossing them aside like they weighed nothing. After he finished, he just ambled into the woods at the end of our street, oblivious to all the eyes following his every move.

Our chat is filled with DovDov videos. One of my favorites is DovDov watching my neighbors eating dinner on their back porch. Another features DovDov walking down the white line in the middle of our street at high noon without a care in the world. And who can forget DovDov dragging our neighbor’s garbage can to some unknown destination in the woods.

One of the women in our chat group is Basya. Her husband is an amateur photographer, and she’s asked us to alert her anytime DovDov has been spotted, night or day, so her husband can run outside and try to take a picture. Basya’s mother-in-law (who lives a few miles away) has a picture someone took of a bear walking across the front lawn of their house, and her husband is determined to get a similar picture of DovDov in front of their house.

Just last Shabbos my neighbor and I were outside having a friendly chat. All of a sudden, DovDov came bounding across her backyard.  We both burst out laughing and looked at each other wonderingly. Did that really just happen?

It isn’t all fun and games, though; there are times I get really angry with Dov Dov. Once we bought a new bird feeder. We filled it to the brim and attached it to the branch of a tree in the front yard. The next morning, I opened our dining room shades and the birdfeeder was gone. After a little investigating, my husband found it smashed to pieces across the street. I guess DovDov had birdseed for breakfast that morning.

Then there was the day I came downstairs one Chol Hamoed morning and saw my sons and sons-in-law all heading outside with plastic gloves and large, black garbage bags. Peeking out the window, I saw all of our garbage cans overturned, and trash strewn all over the driveway, backyard, and street. My wonderful male crew was dealing with the mess. (I decided that I’d done enough work making Pesach and did the honorable thing by sneaking back upstairs and hiding under my covers until I was sure everything had been cleaned up.)

After that last DovDov incident, we bought bear-proof garbage cans. For those of you wondering why we didn’t just try putting a big rock on the cans, or spraying them with a foul-smelling spray, or tying them down somehow… well, we did all that. DovDov proved way too smart for those obstructions to deter him. I could never have imagined spending $300 per can (I kid you not) but DovDov was very persistent when it came to getting into our trash, and he won this round.

One Shabbos afternoon, my next-door neighbor’s daughter-in-law fell asleep in the hammock and when she awoke, she sensed a presence near her. She opened her eyes and saw DovDov, standing just a few feet away, looking at her. How she had the presence of mind to v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y get out of the hammock and walk to the door of the house I will never know, but she is definitely my new heroine.

DovDov is a part of life for our grandkids, too. Some excitedly look for him whenever they come, while others are quite hesitant to play on our swing set. We were very proud of our granddaughter who returned from camp in the Catskills and proudly proclaimed that she saw five bears. This is a girl who doesn’t even like animals, but living in Monsey, she’s a pro at bear sightings. She couldn’t imagine why the other girls in her cabin were totally freaking out.

Winter will be coming soon and that means no more bear sightings. Our chat will be filled with the regular stuff that makes up our lives. We wish DovDov a restful hibernation and can’t wait to see what his antics bring to our neighborhood next year.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 819)

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