Early early in the morning, when the sun’s rays are just beginning to shine through the branches of the trees, Simon uses his big black nose to push open Kayla’s bedroom door. Kayla is still fast asleep, holding the little stuffed bear she’s had since she was born tightly in her arms. Simon pushes the door open enough to wiggle his body through and sniffs his way to Kayla’s bed, then sits patiently at the edge and waits. Not a minute later, Kayla opens her eyes. Simon jumps up on Kayla’s bed and wishes her a good morning with his big, wet, sloppy dog kisses. Kayla giggles and scratches Simon behind his ears. Kayla’s mom comes to her door. “Happy birthday, Kayla!”
“It’s still pretty early. Do you want me to get Simon out of here so you can sleep a little longer?”
“No, that’s okay. And besides, Simon and I have big plans today.”
“Oh really? And what’s that?”
“We’re going on a bear hunt!”
“Sounds exciting! And what are you going to do if you spot a bear?”
“Simon will tackle it! Right Simon?” Simon lays his head on Kayla’s lap and covers his eyes with his paws.
Later that morning, after finishing off a stack of yummy birthday pancakes, Kayla gets dressed and packs a bag for her big bear hunt with Simon. She takes a magnifying glass to identify the bear tracks, a compass to make sure they don’t get lost, a jar in case they want to catch any insects along the way, a flashlight because some parts of the woods are always dark, a water bottle to stay hydrated, and some yummy doggy treats for Simon. Simon loves his treats!
Kayla straps on Simon’s leash and together they head out the door. “Don’t be out all day! We still need to pick out your cake!” says Kayla’s mom.
“Okay, Mom!” Kayla calls out as she shuts the door behind her. Kayla and Simon walk down the street with Simon leading the way. When they reach the small bridge at the end of their street, Kayla turns to Simon and says, “Okay, Simon, we’re going on a bear hunt. That means we have to be extra, extra quiet, walk on our tippy tippy toes, and when we see the bear, I want you to give it your best “grrr!”
Simon growls, showing all his teeth, and then let’s out a loud, “woof!”
“Perfect, Simon! We’re really going to get him this time!” Kayla and Simon walk along the path of tall trees with Kayla keeping the magnifying glass pointed toward the ground. Each time they hear a noise, they stop, look left, look right, look up, and look down. When they see no bear, they keep walking through the tall trees. “Don’t worry Simon,” Kayla says, “we’ll find one!”
Just then, Kayla and Simon hear a noise. They stop, look left, look right, look up…”Woof!” Simon calls out.“Do you see something, Simon?”
Simon barks again, puts his nose to the ground, and pulls Kayla. “Simon, Simon!” Kayla yells, nearly out of breath. “Where are we going? Do you see a bear?!”
Finally, Simon comes to a stop. Kayla bends over to catch her breath and when she looks up, she freezes, because right in front of her, is a giant bear den! “Simon, you did it!”
Kayla gives Simon a treat and a good scratching behind his ears. She circles around the den and when she reaches the back, she sees a door. She looks at Simon and Simon looks back at Kayla. Kayla takes a deep breath. “You’ll protect me, right Simon?”
Simon nudges the back of Kayla’s leg. Kayla steps up to the door and knocks three times. Knock. Knock. Knock. She hears strange noises coming from inside and prepares herself for a quick escape. The door finally opens and standing there is a bear with an apron on! “Well, hello there.” the bear says, “What brings you to these parts of the woods?”
Kayla is stunned. She can hardly believe her eyes. Did this bear just talk to her? “I…uhh…I mean we, me and my dog, Simon, here, were, uh…well…we were just going on a…a…a bear hunt.”
Kayla feels a little embarrassed for saying this to an actual bear.
“A bear hunt?! Well, dear, looks like you caught us. We were just sitting down to some tea and cookies. Would you like to come inside?”
Kayla looks at Simon, not sure what to do. She had never really met a bear before, but this is definitely not what she had imagined. Should she trust this bear? It did seem pretty friendly, not at all like the ones in her science book from school, with the sharp claws and big teeth. “I do love cookies” says Kayla.
Inside the den are two other smaller bears sitting at the table in their kitchen. “Look my children, we have guests!”
The small bears wave to Kayla and Simon. “Mama,” says one of the little bears, “is that a real dog?”
This question surprises Kayla because of course her dog is real, but she still isn’t sure if these bears are real bears. “Can I pet it?”
The little bear who asked gets up from its seat and puts its paw out to touch Simon. Simon doesn’t like this very much and starts barking and growling at the bear. Kayla has to explain to Simon that even though these are bears, she and Simon aren’t hunting them anymore. (Although, if they had been, Simon did a very good job with his “grrr.”) The whole thing is a little confusing to Kayla, and the big bear can see this. “You’re probably wondering what a family of bears is doing have tea and cookies.”
Kayla nods. “Well sit on down, sugar, and I will explain everything.”
So Kayla sits down at the table with the other two little bears and Simon lies right down on the floor next to Kayla. The bigger bear brings over a cup of tea and two homemade chocolate chip cookies for Kayla and a bowl of water for Simon and takes a seat at the table. “Well, darling, let me start by introducing myself. You can call me Mama and this here is Goldie and Junior. You see, most people don’t realize this, but we bears have quite the sweet tooth. Granny Bear always made the best chocolate chip cookies and well, as for the tea, we just use it as a place to put our honey. We love honey! Adds just the right amount of sweetness to anything you put it on.”
The two little bears nod in agreement, mouths stuffed with cookies.
“Really? I though that was just in the fairy tales.”
“Ahh yes well, fairy tales are much more accurate than people say. You just have to believe them.” Mama gives Kayla a little wink. Suddenly, a grumbling noise comes from outside the den. Simon perks his ears up. Mama checks the clock on the wall. “Oh goodness! I completely lost track of time. Finish up, kids!”
The door bursts open. Simon jumps up, barking as loud as he can, ready to attack, but when he sees who’s standing in the door, Simon quickly hides behind Kayla’s legs. It’s a giant bear!The bear holds up two big fish, one in each of his paws. “Well, who do we have here?”
“Hey, honey,” says Mama, “This is Kayla and her dog, Simon.”
Kayla waves, still a bit frightened by the gigantic bear.“I didn’t know we were having company. I would’ve caught more fish!”
Mama turns to Kayla. “Would you and Simon like to stay for dinner?”
“Oh, no thank you,” replies Kayla, “I have to get home. It’s my birthday and Mom and I still need to buy my cake!”
“You’re birthday! Why didn’t you tell us! Children, go get this girl some special birthday honey.”
Goldie and Junior quickly jump up and take a jar of honey from the shelf and hand it to Kayla. “That’s so kind of you” says Kayla. “You know, I always thought bears were mean and scary, but you bears aren’t mean and scary at all.”
Mama laughs. “You can never really know about someone until you meet them, right?”
“Hm,” Kayla thinks for a moment, “yes, I suppose you’re right. Well, I better get home. Thank you for everything!”
“Come back anytime, dear. We welcome all bear hunters. It’s those people from the science books that make us so angry.”
Mama gives Kayla another little wink and closes the door. Kayla and Simon quickly make their way back through the woods. Kayla can’t wait to get home and show her mom the big jar of honey, but even more than that, Kayla can’t wait for the next time she and Simon go on a bear hunt.