This Mother Thought She Adopted a Dog — She Was Wrong

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:40:29 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Macdeedle/Pixabay

Few things in life are more exciting than welcoming a new puppy into your home. Puppies are cute, lovable and hardwired to become lifelong companions. That's exactly what this Chinese family thought when they adopted a new pet, but things didn't turn out quite the way they expected.

They didn’t change their minds about wanting a dog. The problem was something else entirely. It didn't take long for them to realize that the animal growing up in their home wasn’t a pet dog at all.

The Expectant Family

Su Yun and her family were like any other in Kunming City, China. They had busy lives that they tried to balance with quality time. With two kids, Su Yun and her husband were focused on creating positive family memories.

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Photo Courtesy: Woudloper/Wikimedia Commons

That's why they were so excited to welcome a new member into their home. They thought a new pet would be a golden opportunity for the family to have exciting times and fun adventures that revolved around the new addition to their already happy family. They never imagined the surprise that awaited them.

The Trip That Started It All

The daily chaos that comes with having kids was starting to take its toll on Su Yun. She arranged for the whole family to take a little vacation and get away from the hustle of everyday life. They were all excited as they packed their bags and counted down the hours.

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Photo Courtesy: WordRidden/Flickr

Despite Su Yun's careful planning, the family learned that unexpected things can happen anywhere — specifically in the form of an adorable litter of puppies. These puppies ultimately changed the family's lives forever. No one could have seen what was coming.

Then the Moment Came

Su Yun had always rejected her children's pleas for a pet. They wanted a dog so desperately and begged her to agree on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be long before an opportunity would arise, and she would give in to her kids’ wishes.

Photo Courtesy: Fading Sage Photography/Flickr

One day during their vacation, the family came upon some adorable puppies that were being offered for adoption. Was this fate stepping in? How could Su Yun say no to something her children wanted so badly? Little did she know the family would soon be in over their heads.

What They Thought They Were Doing

When Su Yun arranged the adoption of their new pet puppy, the owner told her what they should expect. The puppies were a breed called Tibetan Mastiff, and they grow to be huge animals — weighing 180 pounds and standing 2 feet tall. They could eat as much as three normal-size dogs combined!

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Photo Courtesy: Tibetan Paradise/Wikimedia Commons

Nonetheless, Su Yun went through with the adoption. After all, it was still an adorable little puppy with cuddly black fur. They decided to name him something fitting: Little Black. As time passed, of course, Little Black was not so little.

A Dreamlike Beginning

Things couldn't have been better in the beginning. They finished their vacation and took their new pup home, falling more in love with him every day. At home, they decided to keep him as an indoor dog, even though families often kept their pets outside in fenced backyards.

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Photo Courtesy: Cancan Chu/Getty Images

They wanted Little Black to be close to their kids and live in the same space they lived in. He was eating healthy and growing like a robust puppy should, but eventually, they started to notice that something was off.

Something Strange

It didn't take very long for the family to notice that something was off with their beloved pet. They didn't quite understand what it was, however. Su Yun had never had a pet dog before, so she wasn't sure if Little Black's behavior was simply how Tibetan Mastiffs normally behaved.

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Photo Courtesy: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr

Little Black was eating whole boxes of mixed fruits and multiple buckets of noodles every day. These foods wouldn't be very healthy for a normal dog, but Little Black was unphased — and he never stopped! Su Yun spent tons of money on his food.

Continuous Growing

Little Black's appetite didn't settle down as he got older. On the contrary, it only continued to increase. He also kept growing, far more than the previous owner had warned he would grow. At just two years old, Little Black was 250 pounds and stood three feet tall.

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Photo Courtesy: China Photos/Getty Images

It was getting harder for the family to deny that something was seriously wrong with Little Black. He should have stopped growing 80 pounds ago, and he never should have reached the height he did. Even so, they hoped they were wrong about a problem.

A Worrying Incident

Little Black's size wasn't the only cause for concern. Su Yun began spotting other signs that her dog wasn't like other dogs. One day, she looked in the kitchen and saw Little Black doing something particularly frightening for a pet.

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Photo Courtesy: China Photos/Getty Images

He was propped up on his hind legs. Sure, dogs can stand on their hind legs, but only for a few seconds. Little Black, on the other hand, stayed standing on two legs, almost like a human. It was a sight that made the hair on Su Yun's neck stand on end.

More Signs of Trouble

Little Black began to stand on his hind legs frequently. It was no longer a rare occurrence for Su Yun to walk by and find him on two legs. She could no longer deny that her pet was odd, but she continued to observe him without taking action. The family loved their pup, after all.

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Photo Courtesy: China Photos/Getty Images

She took note of his teeth that grew to an immense size, and his snout was becoming more pronounced. Could these really be traits of a Tibetan Mastiff? The family wasn't sure what to think.

Outgrowing Their House

As Little Black continued to grow, he became somewhat of a sensation in the neighborhood. People would stop to stare when the family took him for a walk, and word was getting around about the impressive pet that Su Yun owned. Her kids were delighted.

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Photo Courtesy: Pets Adviser/Wikimedia Commons

Little Black was getting too big for their house, however. They had to move him to a doghouse outside, where he could walk around without bumping into things. Although this was a temporary solution, it wouldn't ultimately solve the problem.

A Turn for the Worse

Little Black began exhibiting a new behavior: aggression. There were more and more instances where he would lash out at the family or make threatening movements. While no one was ever seriously hurt, it was still a scary issue for Su Yun.

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Photo Courtesy: China Photos/Getty Images

The fact that she had two children made Little Black's behavior all the more frightening. The fact that he was growing even bigger meant that he could do considerable damage if he wanted to. Su Yun didn't want to wait for that day to come.

More Suspicion

The doubts were stacking up against Little Black when Su Yun realized another important fact: In all the time they had owned him, Little Black had never barked. It had been two years, and he had never made the typical sounds you would expect to hear from dogs.

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Photo Courtesy: Pleple2000/Wikimedia Commons

Instead, Little Black would growl sometimes. They were deep growls, and occasionally they were accompanied by something that Su Yun could only describe as a roar. What was this animal that was living in her backyard?

Seeking the Truth

Su Yun eventually reached a breaking point. When Little Black was a little over two years old, he no longer fit inside the house at all. It was a daily ordeal to get him on a leash for a walk. She was terrified of her own pet.

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Photo Courtesy: Petful/Flickr

She decided to search for answers on the internet. She looked up more information about Little Black’s alleged dog breed, and she learned very quickly that he couldn't be that animal. His real identity was something totally unexpected.

The Truth About Little Black

After Su Yun researched the unique behaviors her pet was displaying, the truth was clear. Little Black was no Tibetan Mastiff — he was a 2-year-old black bear! She could scarcely believe what she was reading, but there was no denying it.

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Photo Courtesy: Nat Geo Wild/YouTube

His big teeth, long snout and ability to stand on his back legs were all prominent indicators of his true identity. The family wasn't sure how to move forward. They knew they had to do something about the potentially dangerous animal living in their backyard, but what?

Gathering Information

Su Yun learned all she could about Little Black, reading every article she could find. As it turned out, his specific species was Asiatic Black Bear, an animal that's also called the Tibetan Bear or Himalayan Bear. They are known for being on the smaller side for bears, but they can still reach surprising sizes.

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Photo Courtesy: Shiv's fotografia/Wikimedia Commons

The Asiatic bear can grow to be 6 feet in height and weigh more than 440 pounds. Compared to a dog — even a large Tibetan Mastiff — that's simply gargantuan. Su Yun was certainly right to be concerned.

His Behavior Explained

Asiatic Bears are normally herbivores, and that generally means they're less violent and aggressive than other bears. Grizzlies, for example, eat more meat like fish and deer. As a result, they are much more territorial. Regardless, a wild animal is a wild animal.

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Photo Courtesy: Shiv's fotografia/Wikimedia Commons

Asiatic bears are known for becoming aggressive toward humans if bothered, so Little Black's behavior wasn't outside the norm for his species. It was frightening, but Su Yun was also relieved to finally understand this animal she had been living with for two years.

A Hard Decision

Even though the family now feared Little Black, they had still grown to love him. He had been their pet for more than two years at that point, and coming to terms with the truth wasn't easy. At the end of the day, however, they knew they couldn't keep him any longer.

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Photo Courtesy: CGTN/YouTube

The first option was to take Little Black to a nearby zoo. Su Yun hoped they would take him in, and they wanted to — at first. It turned out to be a problem that Little Black didn't have a birth certificate. (Wait! Bears have birth certificates?) Without it, they couldn't give him a home.

The Last Resort

After things didn't work out at the zoo, Su Yun knew she had to face the music and talk to the police. The mother of two wasn't too keen on this idea, given that owning a bear was illegal. It was possible she would suffer legal consequences.

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Photo Courtesy: Beijing Patrol/Wikimedia Commons

Even so, she had no choice at that point. Experts from the Forest Public Security Bureau arrived in no time to check things out. They were finally getting close to resolving the problem, but they wanted to hear Su Yun's story.

The Story

Slowly but surely, Su Yun started telling them the entire story. She answered all the questions they had for her and cooperated to the fullest extent. As she told them, "the more he grew, the more like a bear he looked."

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Photo Courtesy: Oisharya Banerjee/Wikimedia Commons

She also said that she was "a little scared of bears." Who isn't, really? She saw up close and personal the power a black bear could have — and this was a baby bear. Even after hearing the story, authorities had a hard time believing their eyes when they stepped into Su Yun's backyard.

They Were Astonished

Sure enough, when authorities went around to the backyard, they saw Little Black sitting in his cage. To them, there was no mistaking things — this was a large black bear! They wanted to know every detail about Little Black's adoption.

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Photo Courtesy: Nat Geo Wild/YouTube

Su Yun told them everything she could remember. She also spoke about what it was like raising him and where the family had picked him up. She hoped this was enough to spare her any legal consequences, but she wasn't sure. Could they still decide to put her in jail?

Inspecting Little Black

Wildlife experts quickly stepped in to evaluate Little Black's health — a routine precaution when dealing with a wild animal under the care of humans. They confirmed that he was, without a doubt, a Tibetan Bear, and that his health was good. Little Black had been well fed, and he didn't show signs of being overly stressed.

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Photo Courtesy: h080/Flickr

This made it clear that Su Yun and her family had taken care of Little Black like any family would take care of a pet. They still had to make a decision, though. Where would Little Black live?

Saying Goodbye

A decision was made to take Little Black to the nearest wildlife sanctuary. There, he would receive the food he needed as well as the space he needed to roam. After all, bears were not meant to spend their lives in a small backyard.

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Photo Courtesy: Shiv's fotografia/Wikimedia Commons

In order to transport Little Black, they had to tranquilize him. The family was sad to see him go, but they were also relieved. Things would be better for their family and better for their pet. It was a hard decision that had to be made.

A Media Frenzy

While Little Black got acclimated to his new surroundings, word spread about the Chinese family that raised a black bear by accident. Everyone wanted to know how such a thing could happen, and they came knocking with questions. The story broke in National Geographic.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul White/Wikimedia Commons

Surprisingly, Su Yun's story inspired others to share their own. Many other people out there had adopted pet believing they were one animal, only to find out later they were something else. It was a small consolation for the family, but it didn't erase their fear of the law.

The Final Decision

The police finally came to a decision regarding Su Yun's unwittingly illegal activity. Because she was so cooperative throughout the process, they decided she didn't deserve to be punished for raising a black bear. They believed her story, and they could see that she genuinely wanted to help Little Black find a suitable home.

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Photo Courtesy: SandeepHanda/Needpix

Not only that, but Little Black was in good health when she turned him in. Everyone knew the family hadn’t mistreated him, so it didn't make sense to send the mom to jail. It was Su Yun's lucky day.

A Bittersweet Ending

Even though the family went through a stressful experience raising Little Black, they didn't harbor any resentment toward him. In fact, they missed having the lumbering animal around. He may have been huge and aggressive, but in their hearts, he was still the little baby that grew up with them.

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Photo Courtesy: Shankar S./Flickr

The good news was that Little Black moved to a sanctuary not too far from their home. It was possible the family would see him again. Everyone involved agreed, however, that he was living somewhere much more suitable for his needs.

Where Did He Come From?

The story of Su Yun and Little Black left several burning questions: How was it possible for a woman to mistakenly adopt a baby bear? How did Little Black end up in a litter of puppies? The answer isn't simple, and it may never be 100% clear.

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Photo Courtesy: Alexsuttcliffe/Pixabay

Surprisingly, it may not be as outlandish as you think. There are almost 70 "bear farms" in China that are raising more than 17,000 bears just like Little Black. The man who sold Su Yun her pet may have been involved in one of those farms.

Why So Many Farms?

The reason for bear farms is somewhat disturbing to many people. For one thing, the Asiatic bear isn't only popular in China. It's admired in Japan, Korea and Singapore as well. In those countries, many hold the traditional belief that the internal organs of the Asiatic Bear work wonders in the realm of medicine.

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Photo Courtesy: Art G./Flickr

That's right, bear farms are there so that people can harvest the internal organs of the Asiatic bear. It's a sad prospect, and it might mean that Little Black escaped a dark fate by ending up with Su Yun.

About the Asiatic Bear

Asiatic bears are unique in several ways. They are smaller than other bears, they tend to sit on their hind legs and they have many biological similarities to bears that lived during prehistoric times. They can be found in many areas, including Taiwan, Japan, China, Russia, Korea and northern India.

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Photo Courtesy: Guérin Nicolas/Wikipedia

Arguably, the most distinctive feature on the Asiatic bear is the white "v" that arches across the chest. This vibrant stripe on a sea of black fur is hard to miss, and it's why these bears are often called "moon bears."

In Danger

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies this bear as "vulnerable." That means the species will most likely become endangered unless steps are taken to improve their circumstances. The Asiatic bear suffers from a shrinking habitat, not to mention the dangers posed by deadly humans.

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Photo Courtesy: Shiv's fotografia/Wikimedia Commons

This is why the law is so strict about owning an Asiatic bear — they are trying to protect them from harm. Without more precautions like these, bears like Little Black may find themselves dwindling into extinction in the near future. So be wary about buying puppies in China!

She's Not the Only One

While Su Yun's story received more publicity than most, she is not the only person who has mistakenly adopted a bear thinking it was a dog. In fact, it's relatively common in China, given the prevalence of bear farms. And judging by this photo, a baby black bear looks a lot more like a puppy than most people imagine.

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Photo Courtesy: Abu 0804/Wikimedia Commons

In 2015, a Chinese farmer slept in the same bed as his baby black bear until he eventually realized his mistake. It looks like Su Yun shouldn't be too embarrassed — at least she did the right thing in the end.