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  • Humble Bumble is a “differently abled” or “specially abled” grizzly bear. We brought him home as an infant from a roadside zoo that was closing. No one wanted him. It was clear that something was wrong with him. When we tried to feed him, he would lie on his back, absolutely rigid in our arms, his eyes staring up at the ceiling, his mouth sucking ineffectually at his bottle for twenty to thirty minutes at a time as he tried to sooth himself with a panicked burbling sound. Any movement frightened him. Perhaps he had been dropped. We don’t know what happened.

    As Humble Bumble grew, we saw that he wasn’t coordinated and that one eye sort of wandered, as a host of unique characteristics continued to show themselves. When we give the other bears hay for their winter den, they gather up every single piece and spend days carefully arranging the hay into a neat, snug bed. Humble’s hay is scattered everywhere in random, chaotic confusion. It took us years to ease him into the world, to help him try new experiences. It was a momentous day when he finally dared to go into a pool to swim. He had spent months slapping the water and leaping back in fear before we finally heard that great splash of entry. When Humble feels overstimulated or nervous, which happens easily, he goes to a corner of his enclosure and faces the wall while he repeatedly bounces up and down, much like a child rocking to and fro.

    Earthfire visitors who have relatives with Down’s syndrome tell us that Humble’s innocent, sweet, trusting, and joyful nature reminds them of those relatives. To see the care with which he plays clumsily but sweetly with his friend Boychuk, a German shepherd who is one-tenth his size, adds a new dimension to our perception of bears. Although all the other bears go into hibernation during the winter, Humble remains quite social, often coming out to greet visitors. Every living creature has a gift to give, and Humble is a unique “spokesbear” for his kind. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him—quite a feat for a grizzly bear. Over the years, he has led me to wonder if the potential for such inexpressible sweetness in a grizzly bear might mean that the same underlying potential exists in all of us.

    Click here to see Humble Bumble in action!

    Click here to learn more about Earthfire Insitute.
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