Meet the Man Who Fought a 350-Pound Black Bear to Save His Dog

He would do anything to save his pup—even square up with one of nature's biggest beasts

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and Kaleb Benham was puttering around outside his home in Northern California. His 90-pound pit bull, Buddy, was romping around nearby, doing what dogs do: getting into trouble. Only this time, Buddy was getting into a whole lot of trouble.

The unmistakable sound that no one wants to hear alone in the woods caught Benham’s attention. It was the deep, guttural, otherworldly roar of a black bear. Benham wheeled around to see the beast, which Benham figures weighed around 350 pounds, some 100 feet away. In an instant, the bear latched on to Buddy’s head and started dragging him away.

Benham, a lean, fit 24-year-old, took off after them. “Honestly,” he told CBS13 in Sacramento, “the only thing I could think of was ‘save my baby.’ ”

Sprinting, he lowered his shoulder and plowed into the bear. But it only tightened its grip on Buddy. Benham grabbed the bear by the throat. Nothing. He tried prying open its mouth, but the jaw was locked tight. Benham resorted to street fighting—pummeling the bear over and over around its snout and eye. It worked. The bear dropped the dog and ran off into the woods.

Buddy was in bad shape. His face was bloodied and ripped up. His ears were dangling. He had a bite mark clear through his lip and one that barely missed an eye.
“My first thought was that I was going to lose him,” Benham said. He scooped up Buddy, put him in his car and sped off to a nearby veterinarian.

Buddy’s surgery took nearly four hours. Benham watched the procedure through a window. “I just stood there,” he said, watching as Buddy’s ears were stapled back on, skin flaps were stitched and tubes were inserted into his head to drain fluid.

This was the second time Benham had rescued Buddy, says CBS13. The first was from a shelter a few years ago. “If it was your kid, what would you do?” he asked. Nodding toward Buddy, he added, “That’s my kid.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.