CASTLE ROCK, Wash. -- An 18-year-old black Lab named Bear Dog is well known around Castle Rock, where he was often seen at the North County Recreation Sports Complex or joining fishermen along the Cowlitz River.
"Somebody's going by with a fishing pole, he's going fishing," said Bear Dog's owner Don Caulfield. "He just looks at me and I say 'okay', and he's gone. He'll go fishing with those guys all day."
Bear Dog is even friends with the local wildlife.
"One guy said 'hey that dog's chasing deer,' but I said 'hang on a minute,'" said Caulfield. "they'd jump in the water, they played. It was a daily ritual for a couple of years."
Caulfield thought it was all over for Bear Dog a couple of months ago when his back legs stopped working. Caulfield couldn't afford the vet's $150 euthanasia fee. He considered shooting Bear Dog, but couldn't pull the trigger.
"I couldn't do it," said Caulfield. "I didn't have the guts to. I got all choked up about it. Went in the house and prayed about it, and prayed over him, and put my gun away."
Then Bear Dog fell down the porch steps and miraculously regained the ability to walk.
A story about Bear Dog in The Daily News brought an outpouring of visitors and gifts of steak and dog bones. One woman says she'll cover his vet bills in his final days, including the cost of putting Bear Dog to sleep.
KATU's Joe English contributed to this story.