Ethel Lindsay and Bear. photo Jodi Schneider McNamee
Ethel Lindsay and Bear. photo Jodi Schneider McNamee

When Jacque Fleming first found Bear, a 7-month-old Australian shepherd, he had a cracked skull; he was a victim of abuse. That was two years ago. Now Bear brings comfort and earns smiles as a therapy dog for elderly hospice patients in Sisters.

Fleming was somewhat skeptical when she answered what sounded like a desperate plea - a "Dog needs a home" ad on the Bend-area Craigslist nearly two years ago. Fleming was not new to animal rescue, yet when she arrived at the house to see the dog in the ad, she was deeply saddened.

"It was a bad situation, too many dogs in dirty cages, too many people in a filthy household," said Fleming. She gently lifted the thin, matted dog named Bear out of his cage as he trembled in fear. "I noticed there was a big knot on top of his head," said Fleming. The entire way home in my car, he shook." Fleming's fears were confirmed by her veterinarian. Bear had a cracked skull. The dog's physical injury would heal with time, but would his emotional ones?

Because Fleming is an old-fashioned farm girl, Bear was welcomed to a new home of over 150 acres, with four horses, chickens, two rescue dogs and a cat.

"That first year, Bear would run and hide when friends would visit. He was especially fearful of men," recalled Fleming. "I decided the best therapy for Bear would be to bring him everywhere with me, including work."

Fleming is a hospice caregiver for the frail and elderly in Sisters. Time does heal emotional wounds; Bear has become a healing tool for her elderly clients.

One such client is Ethel Lindsay of Sisters.

"She is 95 years old and appreciates Bear, since pets had always been part of her life; he sits by her every day we come by," said Fleming. "I take Ethel to get a hamburger every Friday; she always makes sure that Bear gets one, too.

"The patients respond to his gentle touch; he seems to understand their needs," said Fleming. "Hospice patients have asked for Bear to be with them at the end."

Fleming has a huge heart for all animals, especially those that need that extra care.

"I once rescued a baby buffalo; she was born premature and had lost her mom," said Fleming. "They weren't going to give her a chance, so I did."

The buffalo lived and has had calves of her own. She also rescued a blind llama.

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