• Kati Samson

Sammy the Bear




It has come to our attention after posting a "throwback" Thursday photo last week that many of you don't know the story behind our business name and that our family in fact raised a pet bear named Sammy. The photo to the left is Ed Samson Sr with Sammy when he was approximately 18 years old... yes Sammy is drinking a beer and we will talk more about that later on!





Lets start from the beginning, Ed came across a way to rescue/ adopt a bear from Sharron's Animal Ranch in Wisconsin (currently known as the Valley Of the Kings) This is a sanctuary that is dedicated to rescuing abused or abandoned animals. Ed was able to obtain a propagating license in order to own Sammy.



The spring of 1970 at 8 weeks old Sammy was placed in an orange crate and put on an airplane. He was flown to Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT where Ed and his daughter Shirley (Samson Laflame) picked him up. Sammy is pictured, to the left, with the families toy poodle. Sammy lived in the house for the first year he was here where he had a play pen in the kitchen that acted as his den. He would come out to play with the dog and the rest of the family. People from around the community were allowed to come and visit him so he was socialized much like your family dog would be. Sammy had his canine teeth pulled, which eventually grew back. (Who new bears had baby and grown up teeth.) Sammy was also neutered by the local vet.

He quickly became a big part of the family and we became known "as the family with the bear". Sammy was family, we would do anything for him. He never once messed on the floor while he was living in the house. He new that the play pen was his space so he would always climb back in the pen and do his business and he also slept there. (side note, it was always in the same place, which made for easy clean) Below are a few photos of his time in the house. When he first came he was still young enough to be bottled fed. The photo is of Dorothy Samson feeding him. There is a picture of him being loved on by Shirley, also being held by Mema, rocked much like you would an infant that needed a little extra time. We tried to make Sammy feel as much of his natural elements as he would if he were living outside. There were times he would make a mess eating his bottle and require a bath, and other times he just wanted to play in the water, so you will see a photo of him in the kitchen sink!



Ernie and Sammy were best buddies. Ernie was 8 years old when Sammy became part of the family. When Sammy was a year old he was moved outside into a pen that was made of chain link fencing and a cinderblock cave filled with hay was built. Sammy was so close to Ernie that the first night he spent outside he was given Ernie's childhood lovie to sleep with for comfort. Needless to say Ernie never got his lovie back! Ernie and Sammy spent hours playing and wrestling together. The photo to the right is of Ed Samson Jr (Eddie) outside Sammy's pen not long after he transitioned into it. Sammy loved to play, we tried to give him balls to play with but he would pop them the first time he put them in his mouth. So he was upgraded to a bowling ball. He would palm it much like we would a basketball and throw it around his cage. He was strong enough he could flip over a full cast iron bath tub that was in his cage for bathing and playing in. He had a tree for climbing and a tire swing from one of the branches he would swing on.


Ed and Dorothy used to go fishing and catch shiners to bring home for Sammy. They would put them in his bathtub, which Sammy would proceed to put his whole head under underwater and suck them into his mouth as they swam past. Sammy loved watermelon, he would bite the end off of one and proceed to lick and bite the entire inside out without disturbing the rest of the watermelon skin. What else did Sammy like to eat or was he fed you might ask? Well he was fed horse grain on a regular basis. As things went into season much as if he were searching for food in the wild he was fed, acorns and apples. He loved honey.. but then again what bear doesn't? Once in awhile he would share an orange crush soda or a beer with Ed after he got out of work! During the winter Sammy would sleep in his den, a lot of the time he would have his head poking out. On a warm day he might wonder out to check his food dish to see if there was anything in it. When he found it empty he would turn around and walk back to his cave in the exact same foot prints he came out in. Smart guy, he wasn't going to get his feet any colder or wetter than he had to.

Sammy had many visitors, from people around town to children from school. When you own an autobody shop in the next town over and have 5 children it doesn't take much to get visitors. Sammy was never feeling lonely. When people would come to visit they were allowed to feed him through a tube that went directly into his cage. As he got older the only people who went in with him were immediate family, but most often it was Ernie or his father Ed.

Sammy lived to be 26 years old. His legacy still loves on and we are still known as the family that owned the pet bear! This is why our business is named Big Bear Woodworking & Plasma Art.

We love to talk about Sammy, so please comment below if you have any questions or have a comment! Also if you new Sammy and want to share a story about him please do so... He was loved by many and missed by all who new him..

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